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The Pentangle - Basket Of Light CD (album) cover


The Pentangle


Prog Folk

4.15 | 121 ratings

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5 stars The Pentangle's Basket of Light album from 1969 is adorned by great PA reviews and that's for many good reasons.

First off, it's leadoff track Light Flight is a prog lover's dream with it's incredible time changes (7/8, 5/8 and 6/4) with electrifying playing from all involved, which includes incendiary acoustic guitar playing from the vaunted duo of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. What is often overlooked in reviews is the incredible range of lead vocalist Jacqui McShee, that was only hinted at in The Pentangle's two subsequent albums . Indeed, Basket of Light contains some of McShee's best vocal work be it in counter vocals, jazz like scat accompaniment or atmospheric vocalize that seems to predate Annie Haslam's many vocalise stylings on both Renaissance live and recorded songs.

Light Flight was indeed even a minor hit in the UK and propelled the group to commercial stardom with some ugly results, such as some members of the group questioning their musical authenticity, and would result in the band going into a more straight forward folk rock sound devoid of jazz elements on future albums. But that's a story for the next album review.

After the stunning Light Flight, the band present the traditional English folk song Once I Had A Sweetheart that's enchantingly melodic, before lauching in to one of the album's highlights Springtome Promises, that features Jansch doing one of his best recorded vocals on this group penned tune.

Lyke-Wake Dirge is just what the name implys and is a true medieval English Dirge song by all except double bass player Danny Thmpson and features some trick overdubbing by McShee in a layered sound that predates Enya's new age recordings by decades.

The album's second highlight Train Song is up next and again showcases McShee doing ultra melodic scat vocals to accompany Jansch's second lead vocal on the record. This song also features a wonderful mid song time change that sees McShee doing an ethereal vocalise while Jansch and Renbourn trade guitar licks and Thompson add great bass runs.

Producer Shel Talmy (Kinks, Who, Roy Harper) has to be given credit for not only his clear spacious recording of all instruments but also for his great skills as a music editor and arranger. It's hard to imagine anyone else making this album sound as good, given it's bargain label production costs.

The haunting English traditional The Hunting Song is next, again featuring impressive guitar work and is followed by a cover of a sixties' girl group song Sally Go Round the Roses that was originally recorded by the Jaynettes. Renbourn does some wonderful call and response type vocals with McShee as she is the glue that hold this newly transformed into a bluesy sounding rocker together. The song again features some incendiary guitar playing primarily by Jansch as his signature percussive string pops are quite evident. There are also two alternate takes on the 2001 Castle CD reissue of this album that showcases some different but equally good leads by Jansch. It must have been difficult for the band and producer to pick the best take as they're all stellar. The original album ends with the traditional tunes The Cookoo Bird and House Carpenter. House Carpenter features a duet with Jansch and McShee and bogs the album down a bit. However, the Castle reissue also includes two wonderful tracks that were easily good enough to make the album and I'm surprised that the second song I Saw An Angel, which features a fantastic siren call from McShee in the song's chorus, was not.

Five stars for this truly progressive folk rock milestone, as it's an album that simply should be every prog fan's collection

SteveG | 5/5 |


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