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The Pentangle - Basket Of Light CD (album) cover

BASKET OF LIGHT

The Pentangle

 

Prog Folk

4.09 | 83 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Take one talented girl. and four talented guys

Having released 2 albums in 1968 which were critically acclaimed but commercially less successful, the Pentangle returned in 1969 with what would prove to be their best selling album. While it would be great to say that this success was down to the wonderful music throughout the album, the popularity of the album can be attributed to just one song.

"Light flight" was used as the theme song for a BBC drama series called "Take three girls". The series was the first of that type the BBC had broadcast in colour, although most people saw it at the time in black and white of course. The band also contributed incidental music for that series, raising their profile further. "Light flight" became a big selling single, leading to raised interest in the band. Fortunately, this attention coincided with the Pentangle finding their true calling, and recording a succession of great songs for the album.

In reality, while "Light flight" is an alluringly melodic piece, it is not that representative of Pentangle's style. The vocalising and the jaunty rhythm make for the sort of pop a late 60's teenager would have approved of. The song though is quite different to the rest of the album.

With "Light flight" in pole position, the real Pentangle come to the fore on the charming "Once I had a sweet heart". This version of the traditional song reclaims it by giving the American adaptation of "A maid sat a-weeping" a very British feel. Jackie McShee gives what for me is her finest vocal performance ever, the song is a pure delight.

Elsewhere the intriguingly named "Lyke-wake dirge", a traditional Yorkshire piece based on a poem, contains some fine multi-part harmonised singing, the life (of the soul) after death sentiments being delivered in an admirably practical (as opposed to emotive) way. A "lyke", by the way, is a dead body. "Hunting song" also features some fine harmony singing set against the pleasant sound of the glockenspiel played by Terry Cox. In an interesting but highly effective twist, Phil Spector's "Sally go round the roses" is given a fine folk treatment, McShee having a sung conversation with John Renbourn.

The closing "House carpenter", which is a variation on the traditional "The Daemon Lover", is very much in the mould of Pentangle's peers Steeleye Span. The song features a backing duet of banjo and sitar (it does actually work!) while telling a warming tale of a young maiden being lured by the devil.

There is no doubt that, even without the fine "Light flight", "Basket of light" would have been Pentangle's finest hour. It is fortunate though that it did also spurn a hit single, as the album it gained the popularity which might otherwise have passed it by. The sleeve bears the proud boast that the album is entirely acoustic, but the clever use of vocals and guitars results in something every bit as captivating as the most electric of albums.

The Castle CD release has four additional tracks. Two of these are largely superfluous alternative versions of "Sally go round the roses". The two other songs are single B-sides which did not appear on Pentangle albums at the time. Of these, "Cold mountain" has an American folk (Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins) feel, while "I saw an angel" heads south to gather a more rootsy, blues mood.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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