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THE PENTANGLE

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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The Pentangle picture
The Pentangle biography
Formed in London, UK in 1967 - Disbanded in 1973 - Reformed from 1981-1995 and again 2008-2011

PENTANGLE was formed in 1967 by John RENBOURN and Bert JANSCH two guitarists who had both already recorded as solo artists since 1965. Both musicians had recorded together 'Bert and John' in 1966 for 'Transatlantic'. Jacqui McShee who joined the band on vocals had already worked with John Renbourn on his first solo record. The rhythm section was formed by Danny Thompson on double bass and Terry Cox on drums and percussion, both former sidemen of Alexis Korner in his band ALEXIS KORNER BLUES INCORPORATED.
PENTANGLE played a mixture of Jazz and Folk with Blues-elements, influences that the band integrated in their debut record 'The Pentangle' which was produced by Shel Talmy. The same year PENTANGLE released their second record 'Sweet child' a double LP consisting of live and studio tracks and containing among others two compositions by Charlie Mingus 'Haitian Fight Song' and 'Goodbye Pork Pie hat'. In 1969 they released their masterpiece 'Basket of Light' , a commercial success including the single 'Light Flight' which served as the theme song to the UK television series 'Take three girls'. PENTANGLE released three other records, 'Cruel sister' in 1970, 'Reflection' in 1971 and 'Solomon's seal' in 1972, before breaking up in 1973. While Bert Jansch and John Renbourn continued as solo artists, the latter with singer Jacqui McShee in the JOHN RENBOURN BAND, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox returned to session work. The original line up reformed in 1982 for a European and Australian tour. John Renbourn left before the release of the 1985 record 'Open the door' and was replaced by Mike Piggott. For the next ten years the band continued to record with changing outfits, 'So Early in the Spring' (1988), 'Think of Tomorrow' (1991), 'One More Road' (1991) and a live record in 1994 'Pentangle Live 1994'. In 1995 Jacqui Mc Shee recorded together with Gerry Conway, Spencer Cozens and guest musicians 'About Thyne. This record was the starting point for JACQUI MCSHEE'S PENTANGLE a refreshed PENTANGLE that released 'Passe Avant' in 1989, the live record 'At the Little Theatre' in 2000 and 'Feoffee's Land' in 2005.

The PENTANGLE records recorded between 1968 and 19...
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THE PENTANGLE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE PENTANGLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.88 | 64 ratings
The Pentangle
1968
3.68 | 55 ratings
Sweet Child
1968
4.12 | 142 ratings
Basket Of Light
1969
3.45 | 67 ratings
Cruel Sister
1970
3.41 | 41 ratings
Reflection
1971
3.31 | 38 ratings
Solomon's Seal
1972
3.92 | 22 ratings
Open The Door
1984
3.55 | 13 ratings
In The Round
1986
2.69 | 11 ratings
So Early In The Spring
1989
2.77 | 12 ratings
Think Of Tomorrow
1991
3.32 | 11 ratings
One More Road
1993
5.00 | 1 ratings
About Thyme (as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle, featuring Gerry Conway And Spencer Cozens)
1995
4.00 | 1 ratings
Passe Avant (as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle)
1998
5.00 | 1 ratings
Feoffees' Lands (as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle)
2005

THE PENTANGLE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.88 | 5 ratings
Live at the BBC [Aka: On Air]
1995
5.00 | 1 ratings
At The Little Theatre (as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle)
2000
2.36 | 5 ratings
The Lost Broadcasts 1968-1972
2005
3.08 | 3 ratings
One More Road & Live 1994
2006
4.87 | 6 ratings
Finale
2016

THE PENTANGLE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.02 | 7 ratings
Captured Live
2003

THE PENTANGLE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.96 | 7 ratings
Pentangling
1973
3.00 | 6 ratings
A Maid Deep In Love
1974
2.96 | 4 ratings
The Collection
1988
3.97 | 10 ratings
The Time Has Come: 1967-1973
2007
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Albums
2017

THE PENTANGLE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Light Flight
1969
0.00 | 0 ratings
Wedding Dress / Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dragonfly / Taste of Love
1984

THE PENTANGLE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.31 | 38 ratings

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Solomon's Seal
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars This final album featuring the original Pentangle lineup of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Jaqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox is not a bad album, and in fact is quite enjoyable taken on it's own merits. Gone forever, however, is the astounding guitar interplay between Jansch and Renbourn and the exciting experimental guitar based instrumentals in which they were performed. Instead, we have mix of traditional British and American folksongs, along with a handful of originals penned by both Jansch ("Jump Bay Jump", "People On The Highway") and double bassist Thompson ("No Love Is Sorrow"), which are excellent. Of The trad. songs "The Snows", "Willy O' Winsbury" and "Lady Of Carlisle" are the best, with the rest more than pleasant. Jacqui McShee's vocal is especially stellar on "Winsbury". The group manage to shake things up a bit by still employing eclectic instrumentation such as banjo and sitar, with Renbourn even playing recorder on three songs. The group's languorous cover of "Sally Free And Easy" is also a standout, with Jansch performing a perfect heartbroken sailor's lament with his made for the song lead vocal while McShee contributes a haunting wordless vocal to cap off the tune.

The down side is that the group has morphed into exactly what they claimed never to be. A British folk rock band. And that's exactly what they are on Solomon's Seal. Not much different from either Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, who perfected the formula of playing traditional folksongs in a rock format just a few short years earlier. This Pentangle lineup was soon to dissolve after this album, so it's a fitting swansong as this lineup would not reunite until 2008! But what I would give to hear just one more experimental jazz/blues instrumental by these amazing musicians. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

 Reflection by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.41 | 41 ratings

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Reflection
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars After the somewhat stiff and stodgy trad. British folk song outing of the band's last album Cruel Sister, the Pentangle loosened up with this follow up album that's chock full of upbeat American folk tunes in songs like "Wedding Dress", "Omie Wise", "Rain And Snow" and "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", where Jacqui McShee's glorious voice was put to go use. Both Bert Jansch and John Renbourn are again top notch in their guitar interplay, with Renbourn forsaking his acoustic guitar for a clear toned electric, so they effect is not earth shattering. The rhythm section of double bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox are still creating interesting beats. But there's not one really outstanding song on this set. Even the mini epic title track seems to drag on. Only Renbourn's reflective and mournful "So Clear" is really noteworthy, but that song is easily upstaged by an alternate take featuring fuzzed electric guitar and a heavy more traditional rock beat, as found on the box set compilation titled "Pentangle: The Albums" released in 2019.

With well documented band tensions, and a new but only partly functional recording studio to further their tensions, I'm afraid that the band is really going through the motions on this outing. It's only due to the group's incredible musicianship and professionalism that this album is as good as it is, but's it's a long way off from the excellence of band's heyday when releasing albums like Sweet Child and Basket Of Light just a few years earlier. 3 stars as this album is for diehard fans only.

 Light Flight by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1969
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Light Flight
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars [The] Pentangle were perhaps the very finest British folk rock group in the late 60's. The London-based group was formed in 1967 by guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn who already had made albums on their own. In addition of having fantastic musicians -- bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox were also brilliant on their instruments -- they had a wonderful female vocalist Jacqui McShee, whose bright, slightly Annie Haslam reminding voice flowed sovereignly like honey over the jazzy acoustic music. The group's best era contains their first three albums; it's the third one Basket of Light (1969) that has become the most beloved classic, and by far the most popular one among our prog community.

This single contains two tracks from that album. 'Light Flight' was a theme song of the television drama series Take Three Girls, about three young women sharing a flat in Swinging London. It was actually the first colour series of BBC1, broadcast between 1969 and 1971. I hadn't heard of the series; probably it was never shown in Finland, but it sounds interesting. Now to the song. It's a perfect example of the fluent and organic nature of Pentangle's music. It is equally folk and jazz, a superb amalgamation of the two genres. McShee's multi-layered vocals sound as marvelous as the acoustic guitars, bass and drums. Everything is virtuotic and yet so warm, elegant and harmonic.

'Cold Mountain' is a little 2-minute song, also in an upbeat tempo like 'Light Flight'. This time the female lead vocals are backed by Jansch and Renbourn. The vocal parts repeat the same country-ish, happy melody, but there are some vocal-free moments to hint that the piece could have worked decently as an instrumental too. A bit too repetitive for the vocals.

For 'Light Flight' alone I would gladly give a full rating. A pity there's just a less impressive album track on the B side.

 Finale by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Live, 2016
4.87 | 6 ratings

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Finale
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

5 stars Saving their best for last?

Finale is a live album that consists of the original folk/jazz/bues rock pioneering Pentangle members, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Terry Cox, Danny Thompson and Jacqui McShee, that was recorded during a summer reunion tour in 2008, but not released until this year. Guitarists Jansch and Renbourn have now both, sadly, passed away. Finale is a fitting memorial to their fine artistry, which seemed to have shone the brightest when the two were in the company of the afore noted drummer, double bassist and lead vocalist, respectively. The group's first six studio albums are equally represented with Finale's nineteen songs.

Having won a Life Achievement Award by BBC Radio 2 in 2007, the original Pentangle members finally put long standing differences, both artistic and personal, aside in order to celebrate their music and their long time fans, with a series of stellar performances that were expertly captured for prosperity. The recordings were aided by state of art mobile digital recording techniques, that were further enhanced by Jansch selecting the best song performances and mixing them, while Renbourn aided in their mastering.

The result is some of the best sounding Pentangle recordings to date, be they live or studio. The low resonances reproduced by Danny Thompson's propulsive bass playing was merely hinted at on any of the group's first six studio albums, while Terry Cox's drums finally sound real and dynamic instead the thin cardboard box bashing that came across on the band's early albums.

Only Jacqui McShee sounds just a bit thin on a couple of songs (a recording glitch perhaps), otherwise, her vocal delivery is still strong, if just a bit measured.

And what of the two guitar heroes? Well, Renbourn plays with an authority that was only suggested at back in the day, and, if it can be believed, plays better then he did forty five years earlier, and that includes some wonderful sitar playing on two tracks. Jansch mostly ceded the guitar honors to Renbourn this time around, as he was too busy singing lead, or alternating lead vocals with McShee, on about a third of this album's songs. Jansch still had a wonderfully strong voice at that time and it doesn't sound as if had aged a single day. But don't fret. He exchanges red hot guitar leads with Renbourn on the instrumentals "In Time", and the Mingus jazz standard "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", just like in the days of yore.

However, to dwell on the individual band members defeats the purpose of this fine album. Its the chemistry that was generated anytime these powerhouse musicians were in earshot of each one another that is to be enjoyed and celebrated. The jazz inflections and solos from Thompson and Cox, the fluid guitar lines of Renbourn, Jansch's percussive finger picking and world weary baritone, and of course, McShee's cooing bluesy siren calls which were often contrasted by her near angelic traditional folk song delivery. Only drummer Tony Cox, who hasn't played in anger (or at all!), for the last 20 years sounds a bit stiff and workmen like, but he was never a focal point of the band's music and no song suffers because of his long absence away from a drum kit.

I could be bemoan the absence of standout songs like "Way Behind The Sun" from the group's eponymous debut album, or "Train Song" form the Basket Of Light album. However, that's only because so much of their early collective output was so outstanding that fifty of their songs seem like essentials. What more can a reviewer say than that?

If you only own one Pentangle album, it should be Finale. If you own most of their output, then this album is icing on a very delicious and rich musical cake. Simpy put, it's an essential album artistically, sonically and, most of all for those who were initiated into Pentangle long ago, emotionally.

 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.31 | 38 ratings

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Solomon's Seal
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The final album of Pentangle's original incarnation gets short shrift, but I actually quite like it. Yes, the band sound weary here - and it's not hard to imagine why if you know about the interpersonal strife within the group and the legal and contractual issues they were having - but I actually think the weariness adds something to the sound of the album, a sort of wistful sadness shot through with the occasional hot dose of bitterness which adds texture to the proceedings. Otherwise, it's business as usual, competently delivered and tastefully accomplished. It wasn't enough to save the band, but it's more than enough to keep me happy.
 The Pentangle by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.88 | 64 ratings

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The Pentangle
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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.
 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.31 | 38 ratings

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Solomon's Seal
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars continues to expose the world to the extraordinary talents of jazz-oriented bass player Danny THOMPSON and his friend Victoria (the name he gave to the Gand stand up double bass that he has used almost exclusively throughout his much lauded career). In fact the presence of that bass playing alone renders this album unique in my listening experience (it is only my second Pentangle album)--I can think of no other folk or prog albums up to this time (1972) that use the double bass in this fashion. Then throw in the wonderful lead vocal work of Bert Jansch and Jacqui McShee and the delicate and selective interplay of the other strings (acoustic guitars, banjo, and sitar) and you have a full band of virtuosi weaving their weaves in quite a masterful way. And I did not even mention the amazing work of percussionist Terry Cox. I do not know of many bands even in the jazz fusion sub-genre who weave together their songs so intricately. How this album goes so poorly rated I do not know. It is a masterpiece by my standards--one that never ceases to make my jaw drop with every listen. The musicians are so accomplished in their instrumental play and Jacqui McShee is at her very, very finest. I find it mystifying. This album was apparently the last of the original "classic" Pentangle lineup. I see a bit of a parallel to the course of the band RENAISSANCE during a phase of their career in which one of their final "prog" albums (Novella) feels "tired" to many listeners. Well, I don't hear it. They sound like they're at the top of their games (except the weak male vocals on "Snow" and "People on the Highway." And I know that these amazing musicians all went on to continue producing top-notch music for years after this album.

Favorite songs: 1. "Sally Free and Easy" (3:56) (10/10); 7. "No Love Is Sorrow" (2:47) (10/10); "The Cherry Tree Carol" (3:04) (9/10); 4. "High Germany" (3:19) (9/10); the incredibly emotional, delicate 6. "Willy O' Winsbury" (5:56) (9.5/10), and even; 5. "People on the Highway" (4:45) (8/10), the Bert Jansch lead, "The Snows" (3:48) (8/10), "Jump, Baby, Jump" (3:13) (7.75/10), and the Mississippi harmonica bluesy "Lady Carlisle" (4:45) with the surprise move of having Jacqui in the full lead (7.75/10).

Total Time: 35:58

Wonderful sound, wonderful arrangements, wonderful instrumental performances with the highlight, for me, being the incredibly creative musicianship of Danny Thomson on the double bass (though the crystalline voice of perfection that Jacqui McShee possesses is also quite mesmerizing).

Four stars; an excellent contribution to the lexicon of progressive rock music for this "classic" of the folk/prog folk world.

 Think Of Tomorrow by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.77 | 12 ratings

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Think Of Tomorrow
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Six of one, or a half dozen of the other.

Think Of Tomorrow, a 1991 offering from the reconstituted Pentangle, was recorded for the German Hypertension label in, literally, a rush due some bizarre disturbances with airline booking due the quickly escalating Gulf War and the fact that band was caught off guard by the Hypertension's sudden offer to record the group, which resulted in the group not having quite a full album's worth of material to record.

Lead guitar duties were taken up by Bert Jansch's friend Peter Kirtley, a finger style electric blues guitarist, with Nigel Portman Smith and Gerry Conway returning on bass and drums respectively.

What gives most of this material a kick is that Jansch, having fully recovered from alcoholism, was writing some of the best songs of his storied career was combining themes of ecological demise along feeling relationships and combining them with music that sported brilliant melodies.

Standouts include the album's first four songs which display vintage Jansch songwriting such as O'er The Lonely Mountain, Baby It's Over, Share A Dream, and The Storyteller (Paddy's Song). Jaqui Mcshee sings beautifully in a more 'breathy' vocal style and still has great vocal range to match her penchant infuse this material with emotion without sounding cloying.

Kirtley supplies the gritty blues number Meat On The Bone, which would not sound out of place on a Chris Rea album, and the band follows with a composition Ever Yes, Ever Know, which sounds like one the better tracks on Renaissance's Asure D'or album from 1979. Good Stuff.

Unfortunately, the group resort to traditional material such as The Lark In The Clear Air and The Bonny Boy (a Jansch reworking of the trad. song The Trees They Do Grow High), as well a trite pop rock original titled Color My Paint Book, in order to fill up album space which unfortunately puts a damper to the album's last five tracks.

However, when the music on Think Of Tomorrow is good, it's very good. 3 stars.

 One More Road & Live 1994 by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Live, 2006
3.08 | 3 ratings

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One More Road & Live 1994
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Bert leaves the Pentangle on a high note.

Before relinquishing control of the Pentangle name to co-founder Jacqui McShee, Bert Jancsh and the reformed Pentangle recorded a studio album, that was released in 1993, and a live album, released in 1994, for the small but dedicated following of fans that the band still enjoyed in Germany in the nineties and is the basis for this double CD compilation.

The studio material displays the most overt of the band's slightly harder but more conventional, for the times, folk rock sound that would not be out of place with contemporary Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span material. Long gone all the band's trademark jazz flourishes, which seemed to disappear years earlier when double bass great Danny Thompson left the group.

The Pentangle, at this juncture, are still world class musicians and McShee is as brilliant a vocalist as ever.

The key to the success of this material is that Jansch is still a great songwriter, both musically and lyrically, as is displayed on the One More Road studio disc while the band as a whole effortlessly show off their live wares on the live disc titled Live In 1994. Put together by UK's Hux label, both albums are excellently remastered and make a good match. Especially since many of the studio disc's songs sound like they were cut live in the studio, so there's a sonic continuity between the two recordings.

Is this double offering a necessary addition for a Pentangle collector? Probably not. But it is extremely enjoyable to listen to. 3.5 stars.

 Open The Door by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.92 | 22 ratings

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Open The Door
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Fifteen years is a long time for a follow up album, but Pentangle's 1984 reunion album Open The Door, while not a direct follow up to the group's 1969 pinnacle Basket Of Light, is just that.

Basket Of Light was immediately followed by three disappointing Pentangle studio albums, Cruel Sister, Reflection and Solomon's Seal, that went away from the group's original folk/blues/jazz fusion songs and concentrated instead on traditional folk tunes or originals that were in the same vain, the others having a distinctive country vibe.

Reasons for this are speculative, but it's safe to assume that Bert Jansch's displeasure with the treatment the band received by both it's record label and the band's then manager that was in sharp contrast to that of fellow Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn, most likely being a key factor. Further differences in the two guitarists playing styles and changing musical preferences led to the Open The Door reunion album being recorded without Renbourn (who decided to pursue a music degree), with Mike Piggott drafted in to replace him. Piggot is an accomplished guitarist as well as an excellent fiddle player.

The result is that Open The Door, while still lacking in overt jazz references, is extremely fresh sounding, as if the reconfigured group was shot with a much needed dose of enthusiasm. The album is, ironically, nearly bracketed by two traditional folk songs with much of the newer material placed in between.

Standout tracks include the British traditional songs "Open The Door" and "Yarrow", with originals like "Dragonfly", "Child Of Winter", "Lost Love", "Sad Lady" and "Taste Of Love" revealing once again solid songwriting and execution from this once venerated group. These songs are again in the folk vain, but still feature a bluesy, and sometimes occasional jazzy undercurrent, while closing track "Street Song" lets double bass great Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox cut loose to do their jazz thing one last time, as this being the great rhythm duo's last album together as Thompson was not present for any following albums. Long time original members Jacqui McShee, Thompson, Cox and Jansch are all in fine voice and/or playing ability and this album features the welcome return of Jansch's familiar string snapping playing style that was such a fixture and trademark on the band's first three classic albums. Piggott adds tasty low volume country style electric guitar licks at times, and his fiddle playing is meant to invoke mood and atmosphere and never strays into a Fairport Convention foot stomping "hoe down" style.

Open The Door is a refreshing reminder that Pentangle were a world class band and deserved their formally exalted reputation, and the pastoral album cover sets up this material quite well. 4 stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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