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The Pentangle

Prog Folk

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The Pentangle The Pentangle album cover
3.88 | 66 ratings | 8 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1968

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (2:37)
2. Bells (3:52)
3. Hear My Call (3:01)
4. Pentangling (7:02)
5. Mirage (2:00)
6. Way Behind The Sun (3:01)
7. Bruton Town (5:05)
8. Waltz (4:54)

Total Time: 31:32

Bonus track on 1996 CD release:
9. Travelling Song

Bonus tracks on 2001 CD reissue:
9. Koan (Alternate Version) (2:10)
10. The Wheel (Alternate Version) (2:00)
11. The Cashbah (Alternate Version) (2:17)
12. Bruton Town (Edit 1/5/3) (5:15)
13. Hear My Call (Alternate Version) (3:18)
14. Way Behind the Sun (Alternate Version) (2:49)
15. Way Behind the Sun (Instrumental) (2:37)

Bonus tracks on 2010 remaster:
9. Poison
10. Travelling Song
11. Koan
12. The Wheel
13. The Casbah
14. Hear My Call (Alternate Version)
15. Bruton Town (Edit 1/5/3)
16. Koan (Alternate Take)
17. Way Behind The Sun (Alternate Version)
18. Way Behind The Sun (Instrumental Version)

Line-up / Musicians

- Jacqui McShee / vocals
- Bert Jansch / acoustic guitar, vocals
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar, sitar, vocals
- Danny Thomson / double bass
- Terry Cox / drums, percussion, vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Peter Blake (design) & Robert Dowling (photo) with Osiris (Visions) Ltd.

LP Transatlantic - TRA 162 (1968, UK)
LP Reprise - RS 6315 (1968, US)

CD Transatlantic - TACD 9.00549 (1988, Germany)
CD Wooden Hill Recordings ‎- HILLCD 7 (1996, UK) With 1 bonus track
CD Castle Music - CMRCD 131 (2001, UK) Remastered (?) with 7 bonus tracks
CD Transatlantic ‎- UICY-94640 (2010, Japan) Remastered by Manabu Matsumura with 10 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE PENTANGLE The Pentangle ratings distribution

(66 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(53%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THE PENTANGLE The Pentangle reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Pentangle's debut album is an outstanding and groundbreaking release for the times , as this was 68 . Folk had just experienced a revival in the early part of the decade and Dylan had launched folk-rock with his groundbreaking Highway 61 Revisited just a few years after. In Europe a Scotsman Donovan Leitch had become UK's answer to Dylan and had tremendous success. At the time of that Dylan H61R album, two Scotsman John Renbourn and Bert Jansch were both renowned folk artist a bit in the Raconteur-Troubadours tradition and had released a few albums each. Three other Scotsmen had also formed the Incredible String Band who had an outstanding series of three albums developing more than just Folk rock but mixing some psychedelic twist, other traces of medieval folk and Indian classical music. Somehow, one could not really say that they fitted well with other folk rock artist from The Byrds to Fairport Convention.

Then the two Raconteur-Troubadours decided to join forces (they had already collaborated in an album to both their names) and created The Pentangle with another Scots Jaqui McShee, with a superb voice as well Danny Thompson (who would become one of the best Contrabass player in the world) and solid drummer Cox. With this debut album, they struck right on the button and the opening track is a real statement of what is to come next; Although only a cover of a standard trad folk, you just know you are in for a real trip right from the bowed bass drones to the glistening McShee vocals and subtle twin electric guitars that will highlight the rest of the album. The music is a delightful mix of Jazz, Blues and Folk, a real fusion of the three, so much so that the end result instantly pleased a rock crowd. The average progheads must not look too hard at finding the usual traits the he expects from progressive music, but really know that the Pentangle was truly a groundbreaking act, much more so than say Fairport Convention and they deserve to be called progressive folk. But the intense chemistry that bound those five musicians is so awesome that the communicative interplaying is so complete that you would never swear this was a debut album. The lengthiest track on the record Pentangling is the perfect example to illustrating this with some excellent improvisation from the two guitarists.

One of the strength of Pentangle is that they have three justified lead singers but both Jansch and Renbourn have fairly similar voice timbre that it is rather hard to know which one of the two is signing), but none want to take the spotlight alone and the many songs where they share vocals duties (as if such a trio would call those gorgeous harmonies a duty - they would certainly say it was a pleasure) with such ease and perfect sense of collaboration that you'd swear they were doing this from the crib. The classic Bruton Town is a real gem to show you this point. Among the other highlights is Waltz, which sounds like it should've been played with a banjo (the instrument is present on Pentangle album), but we are so content with that great acoustic guitar interrupted by a bass solo, that signals up that Thompson may just be the backbone of the band.

The debut album is certainly a real stunner for the times but hardly their only worthy album: they will have no less than six outstanding albums in a row, before stopping the studio recordings, but Pentangle will record many live albums after that under different line-ups. All of those six albums are of such quality that they all rank between 3,5 stars to 4,5 stars.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Outstading, if only a bit short, release from this folk ´supergroup´. It was the reunion of some of the best players in the field plus a new, promising singer, called Jacqui McShee. Although it seemed their manager wanted someone better known in the folk scene (rumours of Sandy Denny and Maddy Pryor being checked flew around at the time), you just had to hear the first notes of her voice on the opener Let No Man Steal Your Thyme to realise they had chosen the right vocalist.

I can only imagine the impact this album might have had at the time. It was so groundbreaking in 1968! I wonder if their mix of folk, jazz, blues, gospel and eastern sounds could ever be matched! Prog folk indeed! Those intricated arrangements, the virtuosity of all the musicians and the brilliant perfomances were very unique in the folk scene. The Pentangle members played almost only acoustic instruments all the way thru the record (a sole electric guitar was sometimes used) and they proved they need little more than that to prove they were amazing.

the production was very good for the time and the record had no fillers. If the Cd is a bit short in time (31:32), it is not in quality. This is a must have for any prog folk fan. Or music lovers in general.

I still think this debut was not as varied as their second, Sweet Child, or as brilliant as their third (and best) Basket Of Light. But it was outstandig nevertheless. A good starting point if you want to know this legendary band that had, unfortunatly, a short career in their original form. But they left quite a discography behind. Highly recommended

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the most amazing albums to be released in that fateful year of 1968, Pentangle's debut - in spite of its short length, which nowadays would make it little more than an EP - still sounds fresh and exciting, brimming with stunning musicianship, brilliant ideas, and Jacqui McShee's pure, soaring soprano. It is a pity that, to this day, the band are mainly known to a restricted élite of devotees of traditional folk music from the British Isles, and to very few other people besides.

Often compared to their contemporaries Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, both in terms of inspiration and because of the presence of a female vocalist, I have always found them to be a cut above those two otherwise excellent bands. Definitely more sophisticated and less 'hey nonny nonny' than either, Pentangle were, to all intents and purposes, a supergroup which, besides McShee's magical voice, could boast of a team of formidable guitarists in John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, and the extraordinary skills of Danny Thompson (still very much in demand as a session man at the ripe old age of 70) on double bass. Their music, acoustic for the most part, blended jazz, blues, country, psychedelic and even world music elements with their British folk sources, producing an end result of surpassing warmth and elegance, almost unique even in those exciting years.

The Pentangle opens with Thompson's droning double bass, played with a bow, then McShee's crystal-clear voice intones the three verses of the aptly called Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. This traditional folk tune, with its beautiful yet stark imagery taken from nature, warns young girls not to surrender their virtue, lest men tire of them soon afterwards. Only slightly over two minutes long, the song is one of Jacqui's best vocal performances, passionate and restrained at the same time. The three instrumentals on the album provide a perfect showcase for Renbourn's and Jansch's duelling acoustic guitars, backed by Terry Cox's subtle drumming and Thompson's astonishing bass lines. McShee, undoubtedly one of the very best female singers of any generation, and as gifted as the much-celebrated Annie Haslam, is however devoid of the latter's often saccharine-sweet tones.

The closing track, Waltz, and the longest song on the album, the seven-minute-plus Pentangling (which also features some vocals), sum up the band's approach to music quite perfectly, with an understated complexity that would put many so-called 'prog' bands to shame. Another highlight is the ballad Bruton Town, a tragic tale of two lovers separated by male oppression and class prejudice, which shares its subject matter with a well-known tale from Boccaccio's Decameron (the tale of Lisabetta and the pot of basil). Besides the intricate interplay between the various instruments, the song sees all three of the band's vocalists (Jansch, Renbourn and McShee) alternate in the telling of the story, with a lovely dramatic effect. Way Behind the Sun is instead reminiscent of traditional American folk, and sees McShee's adopt a somewhat more earthy (as well as lower in range) approach in her singing.

If you enjoy flawlessly-played acoustic music, and beautiful, expressive vocals, you will thoroughly enjoy this album from a band that has been very unfairly forgotten by far too many music fans. A very well-deserved four stars from this reviewer.

As a post-scriptum, with this review I have reached the same number (164) as someone who will sadly never be able to overtake me again.... I dedicate this review to my friend Antoine, someone whom I did not get to meet in person, but for whom I felt a deep affection and regard. We miss you, Antoine, and will never forget you.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars PENTANGLE's debut was a cagey mixture of traditional English fare, American blues, jazz, and psychedelia, impressive and hitherto unimagined in its day. While it was most easily compared to FAIRPORT CONVENTION, they were more eclectic and less bound to the American styles of the day, which was a good thing.

The album begins strongly with "Let no Man Steal your Time", a thinly veiled trad number about the usual fears of a maiden back in the day. "The Bells" is an unadorned expose of the group's considerable tightness as an ensemble, somewhat marred by a drum solo, which I assure you works even worse in the studio setting than live. In fact, in 2010 it's hard not to view this as anachronistic grandstanding, and leaves me wondering about the fairness of rating something this old based on its appeal today as opposed to its import. This problem sprouts fully on the longer and more doodling "Pentangling". But I have no such ambivalence about "Way Behind the Sun", which could have been any American blues rock group of the time, and simply doesn't work in the PENTANGLE context. Luckily, there is an appealing Celtic Gothic quality to "Bruton Town" that effortlessly surpasses their contemporaries.

As with most of PENTANGLE's discography, I can't count this brief but significant disk among those rare folk rock albums to which I return time and again. For this reason, though its pent up highlights angle for 4 stars by several significant criteria, it falls short on the "hear and now" meter.

Review by Negoba
5 stars Superb Jazz-Folk Debut

When I listen to the Pentangle's debut album, I am consistently impressed that this is just amazing music. My love of acoustic Led Zeppelin led me to the band, and though I've searched through quite a few hippy bands both new and old, no other band produced music of this quality and depth. Every single member of the band has master-level skills, and their styles compliment in a sublime way.

Bert Jansch was the most direct model for Jimmy Page's acoustic work, and lovers of "Black Mountain Side" and "White Summer" will find that sound in a much more mature and well-realized form in Jansch's work. And yet in the Pentangle, he has found an equal foil in John Renbourne. The two had already put out an album as duo, with intertwining parts as their signature. This already rich sound got added to the jazzy rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox to create easily the most musically proficient group ever to be labeled "folk-rock." In fact there is little "rock" about this music. Instead, the double bass instantly evokes jazz, and the drums follow the internal (often odd) rhythms of the songs rather than a back beat. Jacqui McShee's vocals were perhaps the most typical of the era, but her interactions with the two male vocalists again brought the music to a higher level. Interestingly, I hear vocal inflections that Robert Plant almost certainly "borrowed" just as his partner did from Jansch.

The Pentangle's sound was already fully realized on their debut album. Initially quite short, numerous bonus tracks have been added to the point that my download version has 15 tracks compared to the initial albums 8 songs in half an hour. But the original tracks are the jems, with the bonus simply icing. McShee transforms the Staples Singer's "Hear My Call" into a swinging joy. "Bruton Town" is a textural masterpiece, with great guitar work both in lead and accompaniment. "Way Beyond the Sun" is an upbeat stomper that sees McShee digging into her voice and the rhythm section humming.

While not prog in any traditional sense (no keyboards, not intentionally complex), the Pentangle's extreme musicianship, expert combination of different styles, and general ambition made them certainly progressive. What's more, though the ideas have to be taken in their 1968 context to be considered revolutionary, I would argue that no band has matched the execution of those ideas in the 40+ years sense.

If you like folk with some added spice, Pentangle is Essential. In fact, fans of the classic psychedelic age, fans of jazz, fans of English folk, all should have this band on their shelves in my opinion. Their debut is their prototype. Buy it, love it, learn it.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Its worth noting that the Pentangle's debut album was released the same month as Fairport Convention's first record, on which Judy Dyble sang lead vocals rather than Sandy Denny who debuted on their second album the following winter. I say this is notable because nearly every British (and many American) female folk-rock singers of that era have been compared at some point to Ms. Denny, or have at least cited (or had her name- checked) as one of their influences. The Pentangle of course featured Jacqui McShee, whose vocal style was quite similar and who probably deserves at least some of the same influence nods given that John Renbourn and Bert Jansch (and to a lesser extent McShee, Terry Cox and Danny Thompson) were fairly well-established as folk rockers by 1968 and their collaboration on this Pentangle debut was critically acclaimed and well-known in London-area music circles even while Denny was early on in establishing her reputation.

While Fairport's name recognition has survived the years somewhat better than the Pentangle's, this first album shows the members to be all accomplished musicians and their sound to be quite original and innovative for its time, perhaps even more so than the early Fairport records. Indeed, while Fairport seemed to be much more influenced by their counterparts across the ocean on the U.S. east coast (Dylan, Cohen, Fariña, Joni Mitchell), the Pentangle crafted a folk-rock sound that was both more elaborate and creative, and decidedly more English. The tracks on this album are a mix of original compositions and reworks of traditional English folk tunes, with the exception of "Hear my Call" which was a cover of the Chicago-based R&B icons the Staple Singers, a song which interestingly enough the Staple Singers had never even released as a single.

The band sets the tone for their uniquely modern 'baroque folk' sound with a mildly trippy version of "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" (aka 'Maiden's Lament'), a 17th century British folk tune that has also been covered by Ms. Denny as well as any number of other British and even American folk singers over the years. This version introduces the clear and dulcet timbre of Ms. McShee's voice amid a great example of early acid folk guitar picking/strumming with just a touch of sitar for Eastern flavor. I suppose today that sound has become somewhat dated, but at the time this blend of folksy, alternately-tuned guitars along with sitar and gentle female vocals was quite novel and surely alienated some of the more staid folk traditionalists of that day. Not quite as drastic as Dylan going electric, but certainly not one of your grandmother's folk ditties either.

"Bells" along with "Waltz" are two original instrumentals that showcase the musical and compositional talents of the quartet with both songs offering extended examples of the sort of alternative guitar playing that bridged the gap between conventional folk and rock and characterized so much of contemporary British and American folk of that period (John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Davey Graham and even Fairport's Richard Thompson all built their careers on broadly similar styles). The 'bells' on the former are actually courtesy of a glockenspiel, and I'm pretty sure the stereo mix (most noticeable with Cox's drumming) was added on a later reissue, but I can't say for sure since I've never seen or heard the original Reprise vinyl version.

And speaking of "Hear my Call", this one is an early example of the slightly jazzy sound the band would employ more prominently on later albums. The bassline is fat and funky, while Renbourn and Jansch play off each other with a picking lead guitar style accented by strumming rhythm that provide a subtle yet complex backdrop to McShee's vocals. There are several reissued versions of this album with various bonus tracks, and one of my favorite is the live version of this song that appears on the 2001 CD. McShee's voice radiates there, and the bass is much more subdued which serves to put focus to the guitar interplay and vocals, and the warm applause at the end shows the band's fans appreciated the strength of their live delivery.

Aside from the epic "Jack Orion" off their 'Cruel Sister' album "Pentangling" is one of the longest tracks the band ever recorded, clocking in at more than seven minutes. Much of its length is clearly the result of improvisational jamming between the various musicians after a brief intro that lulls the listener into thinking this is just another nondescript mellow folk- rock tune. Jansch, Renbourn and Thompson get their groove on for nearly five minutes in the middle of the track before the band settles back into a more bucolic English folksy stanza to close the energetic number. I can imagine the band received enthusiastic responses whenever this song made it onto their live setlist.

The only original tune credited to a single member is the brief, poetic ditty "Mirage" which was written and arranged by Bert Jansch. It's a catchy little tune but I can't really discern what the band thought it added to the album beyond acting as a brief interlude.

"Way Behind the Sun" on the other hand is a surprisingly strong blues number from a band much better known for their folk music. This traditional number was also recorded by the Byrds (reportedly after hearing Pentangle's version) and appears as a bonus track on that band's reissue of 'Ballad of Easy Rider' as "Way Beyond the Sun". While the Byrds version is steeped in the American country sound Gram Parsons brought to the band, this one is all R&B with fat guitar and bass riffs, although Cox's drumming comes off more like lounge jazz than blues.

Finally "Bruton Town" is yet another traditional British tune and as with many old English folk tunes is a cautionary tale, this one about courting young maidens who are out of your social league, especially if they happen to have brothers. As with "Pentangling" Jansch and Renbourn indulge in some fine picking and strumming throughout, and McShee's vocals are solid. The storyline is as old as the hills, and can be heard in such varied incarnations as West Side Story and even the Decemberists tune "O Valencia!". Sandy Denny also covered this song, as has much of the modern folk community, and the CD reissue includes an alternate version with extended instrumental passages.

I was never a Pentangle fan back in the day, mostly because I was barely a toddler when this album released and also because British folk-rock was quite difficult to obtain in the late sixties and early seventies in the Midwestern United States. Thankfully today the album is quite easy to find, and while the novelty of rock-infused British folk has waned in recent decades this record still has its charms and is well revered by serious progressive folk fans. For those reasons as well as for the crisp musicianship I have to say it easily rates three out of five stars today and probably deserved a lot more back when it was released. Well recommended, especially to folk music fans.


Review by Warthur
4 stars Pentangle kicked off their career here with this early release which sits alongside early releases by Fairport Convention as a rough blueprint for the British folk-rock scene (as distinct from the folk rock style that would be derived from Dylan, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and other such artists in the States). Pinches of jazz and blues stylings spice things up without allowing them to stray too far from the folk baseline, and the combination of innovative arrangements of traditional fare and group compositions retains the listener's interest all the way through. It isn't essential - I'd listen to Sweet Child as a first port of call for the band - but it's pretty good.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Time Stand Still. While my appreciation of Prog-folk came much later than my baptism into Prog-rock proper, it's artistic merits always seem to be more profound. Perhaps that's is because the artists are doing considerably more with less. More notes, less volume. More style fusions, less in ... (read more)

Report this review (#1185244) | Posted by SteveG | Thursday, June 5, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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