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John Renbourn - The Lady and the Unicorn CD (album) cover


John Renbourn

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4 stars John Renbourn's forth acoustic solo album and first real foray into pre Classical and pre Baroque instrumental music was quite an eye opener when it was first released in 1970 and was credited, either rightly or wrongly, with helping start up the genre known as "Early Music" in the UK. Unlike Renbourn's pseudo Elizabethan album Sir John Alot, The Lady and The Unicorn actually reproduces 13th and 14th century English, Italian and French songs and dances that are collected in stately medleys like "Trotto/Salterello", "Lamento Di Tristan/La Rotta", and "Bransle Gay/Bransle De Bourgogne". These songs also feature Pentangle member Terry Cox on hand percussion and heavenly glockenspiel, as well as Fairport stalwart Dave Swarbrick adding fiddle on the latter song as well as to the medley "Veri Floris/Triple Ballade". Renbourn's acoustic guitar fills the void left by both lute and harpsichords being absent most admirably.

Somber concertina accompanies the last medley "Alman/Melancholy Galliard" before Renbourn goes solo with low level electric guitar (a rarity!) on Bach's "Sarabande". As if all this is too relaxing, Renbourn then finales with a medley of the traditional songs "My Johnny Was A Shoe Maker/Westron Wynde/Scarborough Fair" accompanied by the remarkable Tony Roberts on flute to instill a merry send off.

The Lady And The Unicorn is so outside the realm of rock that the music contained therein makes a group like Renaissance sound almost raucous in comparison, but that's all part of this remarkable album's charm. 4 stars for something that remains truly unique and singular almost 40 years after it conception.

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Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2018 | Review Permalink

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