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The Pentangle - Basket Of Light CD (album) cover


The Pentangle


Prog Folk

4.15 | 121 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Prog Folk for Folkies..and How!!!

I have a long history with folk music dating back to having hippy parents and listening to their LPs from my childhood. As a guitarist, perhaps my greatest and most favorite influence is the acoustic work of Jimmy Page, with his medieval flavorings and alternate tunings. Research led me to learn that Page's major influence in that regard was a guitarist (famous in England, less in the US) by the name of Bert Jansch. Later research revealed that Page actually lifted "Black Mountain Side" directly from the accompaniment that Jansch had composed for a traditional tune called "Black Waterside." (Not exactly sneaky, Mr. Page)

It was through exploring Jansch that I discovered Pentangle, and my oh my what a discovery. To me this band is the best of 60's psychedelic folk, eclipsing any of the bands I grew up with. The band is a supergroup in the truest sense, with Jansch and fellow Davey Graham acolyte Bruce Renbourn playing interlocking guitar lines (they had already been doing this as a duo prior to the formation of the group, and each were solo artists before and after the group). Danny Thompson was and continues to be a legendary session bassist (including work on Porcupine Tree keyboardist Richard Barbieri's 2008 solo album). Percussionist Terry Cox also went on to a lengthy session career, playing on Bowie's Space Oddity, Elton John's self-titled album, among others.

Understandably, the instrumental portion of this folk-jazz fusion is of higher quality than any other band of its kind. The English folk scene in general was more nuanced instrumentally than the American groups (who focused instead on vocal interplay and poetic lyrics), and this is the apex. And in fact, this album is the peak of the peak band. Singer Jacqui McShee combines the tonality of typical 60's folk with Celtic flavors, and percussionist Terry Cox follows melody rather than laying a foundation for the other musicians. The guitarists each have good voices, and the three singers combine for the choral "Lyke-Wake Dirge" in perfect alignment. The band uses complex time signatures, with their biggest single "Light Flight" being based on a 5+5+2 groove that does in fact invoke a feeling of dance and movement (how often does that happen?) Most of all, the guitars are lush, modal, and complex pieces (think of having two Nick Drakes playing composed duos) rather than American campfire strumming.

Every song on this album is high quality, and for the most part, some new element is presented in each song. Its length (without the relatively throwaway bonus tracks added later) is just right, and leaves the listener wanting more. The one weakness compared to American folk is that the lyrics mainly follow traditional medieval themes, and lack the contemporary poetry and social bite of Dylan or Paul Simon.

Many of the artists in this site's prog-folk genre are rock bands with flavors of prog and folk (Tull) or Symphonic Prog bands that followed the medievalisms of Genesis further along (Gryphon). In my opinion, if you are looking for true prog-folk, Pentangle is the best. And this is their best album. Essential for folkies, prog-heads, hippies, lovers of complex acoustic guitar, lovers of solo female voice, lovers of active jazz bass; in a word, masterpiece.

Negoba | 5/5 |


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