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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)

3.89 | 70 ratings
The Pentangle
1968
3.61 | 61 ratings
Sweet Child
1968
4.15 | 148 ratings
Basket Of Light
1969
3.49 | 75 ratings
Cruel Sister
1970
3.42 | 45 ratings
Reflection
1971
3.32 | 42 ratings
Solomon's Seal
1972
3.87 | 25 ratings
Open The Door
1984
3.52 | 17 ratings
In The Round
1986
2.69 | 14 ratings
So Early In The Spring
1989
2.77 | 15 ratings
Think Of Tomorrow
1991
3.41 | 14 ratings
One More Road
1993
4.00 | 2 ratings
About Thyme (as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle, featuring Gerry Conway And Spencer Cozens)
1995
3.50 | 2 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)

4.00 | 5 ratings
Live at the BBC [Aka: On Air]
1995
4.00 | 2 ratings
At The Little Theatre (as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle)
2000
2.36 | 5 ratings
The Lost Broadcasts 1968-1972
2005
3.15 | 4 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
4.08 | 10 ratings
The Time Has Come: 1967-1973
2007
4.00 | 4 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
Once I Had a Sweetheart
1969
0.00 | 0 ratings
Wedding Dress / Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
1972
3.00 | 2 ratings
Dragonfly / Taste of Love
1984

THE PENTANGLE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live at the BBC [Aka: On Air] by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Live, 1995
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Live at the BBC [Aka: On Air]
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Not to be confused with the poor quality "The Lost Broadcasts 1969-1972" Hux Records CD of off air BBC recordings, this 61 minute CD of Pentangle's BBC rarities is the real quality article. Most of the tracks here are BBC Radio One sessions , recorded from 1969 to 1972, and the sound quality is impressive throughout. What stands out is that these songs are from the group's Basket Of Light album as well as from Reflection and the almost invisible and forgotten Solomon's Seal album, where as most extant early live recordings focus on the group's self titled debut and its follow up album Sweet Child. This album is a real treat for the group's many fans of their later output. All tracks are excellent baring a clunky rendition of "Train Song" and a slow to get going "In Time". As with most BBC session recordings, the immediacy of the performances are striking when compared to their studio counterparts, with McShee's and Jansch's vocal being far superior here. Even on the six live recordings from 1972 included here that round out this collection. Standout tracks are the session and live versions of "Hunting Song", the live version of "Light Flight", along with the session take of "The Cuckoo Song" and a rousing live version "House Carpenter." This CD is out of print but can still be found online for a fair price is one knows where to look, and is almost an essential for Pentangle fans. 4 stars.
 Cruel Sister by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.49 | 75 ratings

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Cruel Sister
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars John Renbourn continues to explore the possibilities of the electric guitar--sounding here very much like early Stephen Stills--while the rest of the band matures and performs as solid as rocks.

1. "A Maid That's Deep in Love" (5:30) John's constant soloing with Jacqui's most perfect folk singing while the rest of the band supports beautifully. (8.875/10)

2. "When I Was in My Prime" (2:56) a cappella Jacqui McShee. Beautiful but this no Loreena McKennitt or Elizabeth Fraser's "Song to the Siren." (8.6667/10)

3. "Lord Franklin" (3:24) a gentle song sung by John Renbourn in the truest folk tradition lamenting the loss of a son or friend. (8.75/10)

4. "Cruel Sister" (7:03) gentle folk-scape with sitar in support renders this classic folk song--full with its presentation of the song/legend's many verses. Still, it drags on a bit--especially for one (such as me) who hears very little of the lyrics and even less of their content. (13.125/15)

5. "Jack Orion" (18:36) while I appreciate the gradual and continuous development going on over the course of this song, I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed by the uniformity of both the vocal melody patterns and the rhythm track as provided by Terry, Danny and the guitars. Even the stop and shift at the five minute mark is far less than I was expecting (or would have liked). The shift into more mediŠval troubadour mode in the ninth minute feels as if a demotion into listlessness. The stripped down blues section of the tenth and eleventh minute gets a little interesting with the entrance of the tuned percussion, John's electric guitar, and Danny's more loose and improvisational play but the foundational music continues to be rather laissez-faire. As John's electric guitar soloing continues, the sound gets tweaked into a more distorted rock mode--which the player then adapts to with some quite nice rock lead playing. But then we fall back into the song's bluesy folk-rock opening motif for the final two and a half minutes--albeit with a bit more rock dynamic to it. Too bad they couldn't find more dynamic use for Ms. McShee. (34.75/40)

Total Time: 37:29

I like the instrumental explorations but to sacrifice such a gift/force as Jacqui McShee for fully half of the album is, in my opinion, sad.

B/four stars; another excellent contribution to the slowly developing sub-genre of Prog Folk music.

 The Albums by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
4.00 | 4 ratings

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The Albums
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars This mini CD box set is a gem with a few caveats. First off, it contains Pentangle's first 7 studio albums placed together for the first time, with a myriad of bonus tracks and alternate takes. First, the good: There are some stellar previously unreleased alternate mixes such as 5 Bert Jansch tunes taken from his 1969 solo album Birthday Blues, that's stripped of the fey flute and sax accompaniment. The sound is beefed up as it would be heard played live in the studio before the sound volumes were mixed down. Another is John Renbourn's song "So Clear" from the Reflection album outtakes that features a searing fuzzed electric lead solo in place of the more sedate acoustic lead work found on the released version.

So, there are some nice rarities with this set. What I find lacking is the remastered sound quality. Gone is the thinner sound mix of the original albums, which has now been messaged to sound like a modern sound mix with more mid bass prominence and less treble, along with some heavy handed use of noise reduction at times. Gone is some of the detail such as string noise on guitar and bass as well as a duller overall sound. This is especially prominent on the Basket Of Light disc (which I found quite annoying), but is less noticeable on the the band's first eponymous release and their stellar follow up album Sweet Child.

With that said, I can only recommend this set for diehard fans as much of the bonus material has been released previously, barring the songs mentioned above. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 sounds right for this modestly priced mini box with it's oddly inconsistent sound quality.

 One More Road by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.41 | 14 ratings

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One More Road
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars The last Pentangle studio album featuring the great Bert Jansch, One More Road is a fitting swansong. Fully recovered from severe illness due to alcoholism, Jansch is once more the band's star songwriter. Add that to the growing songwriting talents of vocalist Jacqui McShee and lead guitarist Peter Kirtley, and you have some stellar songs to place on an album. "Traveling Solo" and "One More Road" being the standout original songs as they're about what the band knows best, performing on the road with its numerous ups and downs, fulfillments and disappointments. Kirtley supplies an esoteric song of longing called "Endless Sky", which seems to endlessly get stuck in one's head. Drummer Gerry Conway is allowed to step out a bit on percussion and adds spice to the pseudo native song "Somali".

Where the album suffers is the band's desire to include a few traditional songs for old times sake. "High Germany" and "Willy O' Winsbury" were resurrected from the out of print (at the time) album Solomon's Seal. Done in a brezzier rock style, they pale in comparison to the original recordings. Still, the album is a worthy finale. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

 The Albums by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
4.00 | 4 ratings

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The Albums
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Comprehensive set from the original run of the classic British folk rock band, including all six of their 1960s and 1970s albums in attractive replica card sleeves, an extensive booklet, and a wealth of bonus tracks. To my mind, Pentangle never quite put out a five star album, but they were pretty consistent in quality within this period and this is a good way to get more or less all the Pentangle stuff you're likely to want, unless you're so keen on the band you want to dip into their reunion albums from the mid-1980s onwards. If you're out to explore the British folk rock scene you'll probably want to check in on Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span first, but this is a good next stop.
 Dragonfly / Taste of Love by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Dragonfly / Taste of Love
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars If I had to choose just one British folk rock band, my choice would be [The] PENTANGLE. The jazzy touch especially on the terrific rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, the crystal clear vocals of Jacqui McShee who's been compared to Renaissance's Annie Haslam, the finesse of acoustic guitars of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, the elegance of their own compositions and their arrangements of traditional songs. The band's original -- and finest -- era ended with their sixth studio album Solomon's Seal (1972). Even though the group's success wasn't as strong as before, "Pentangle Split" was the front-page headline of the first issue of Melody Maker of the year 1973; on New Year's Day Bert Jansch had decided to leave the band.

According to Wikipedia, "in the early 1980s, a reunion of the band was planned. By this time, Jansch and Renbourn had re-established their solo careers, McShee had a young family, Thompson was mainly doing session work, and Cox was running a restaurant in Minorca." Pentangle's comeback album Open the Door was released in 1984 or 1985, depending on the sources of information. By the time the album was recorded, John Renbourn had left the band to enroll in a music degree course, and his place was taken by Mike Piggott (guitars and violin). I haven't listened to the album entirely. "It┤s less jazzy and bluesy than most of their previous efforts and definitely more folk- rock oriented, but it is also very good", says the PA reviewer Tarcisio Moura. With my narrow view based on playing some songs from YouTube, my reception seems to be be very similar, equally positive. Now to this single featuring two songs from Open the Door.

'Dragonfly' is credited to the group and is immediately recognized as Pentangle. Danny Thompson is definitely among my favourite double bass players ever. Jacqui's voice on this tune is in a slightly lower register than in the old days, but still in a very good shape. The violin as a new element fits perfectly to the sound which still has the jazziness too, at least on this song. One might think of CARAVAN with the viola player Geoffrey Richardson (For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night, 1973).

On 'Taste of Love', sung by Bert Jansch, I sense the similar laid back (country-ish) feeling I have witnessed on Jansch's later solo albums -- that IMHO are far inferior to Pentangle. In other words, it's the rhythm section of Thompson and Cox that makes this one better than Jansch's solo stuff. I'm not a big fan of his voice with a slight Pogues-reminding grittiness. The guitar makes me think of Mark Knopfler, more on his solo albums such as Golden Heart (1996) than on Dire Straits. The song is fairly pleasant but not among the best ones on Open the Door.

3Ż stars for this single, rounded down since it's the whole album I'd rather recommend.

 Sweet Child by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.61 | 61 ratings

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Sweet Child
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by DangHeck
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Simply for the purpose of avoiding listening to "Alternate Takes", this will be a review for the original double album, sans all bonus material. [Not to mention this is the first review in too long for my tastes. Gotta take my rightful place here haha.]

Sweet Child is the second album by famed British Jazz-Prog-Folk[-Rock] group Pentangle, so famed that, despite my own ignorance of them, I recognize most everyone's name performing here. A year before producing the cover for this'n, artist Peter Blake had designed the cover to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. Much different art direction, not that that's any surprise, comparing these two bands. Funny to me, as I didn't realize this was a now- classic/archetypal half-studio, half-live album. Anyways, especially for ones second ever album, it's pretty remarkable to release a live album, but in their case it is a chance to truly show off their individual and collective chops. Mad respect.

Onto the album, "Market Song" is a relaxed yet upbeat, jazzy number. Wonderful vocals and phenomenal instrumental performances. Again, in my ignorance, this also feels like a stylistic platform for the great Joni Mitchell (to come), culminating in her albums The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975) and Hejira (1976). In a less definitive way, the sweet yet full vocals of Pentangle's Jacqui McShee--heard most fully at first with the next track, "No More My Lord"--may strike you as Joni-esque, if you, like me, are a Folk ignoramus (more interestingly, I heard similarities to The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan in her vocal inflections). That number, "No More", by the way, is indeed lovely and meditative, but nothing more to my ears, unto my tastes.

"Turn Your Money Green", having been writ by Country Blues songwriter Furry Lewis, strikes me as an at times dark Rock n' Roll number. Even in my general disfavor for these two popular modes, this was a head-bopper for sure, and again a showcase of their known talents via the 6-strings specifically. The first of two Mingus compositions, "Haitian Fight Song" begins with a solo upright, joined slowly and quietly by brushed drums; the second is the classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", performed most quietly and soulfully. The mid-section of "Goodbye..." ramps up, crescendo'ing to a delightful guitar solo section. The crowd certainly liked that one quite a bit (they must have had an enthusiastic and avid following, for sure).

Folk, more or less straight-up, untethered by the likes of Rock or even Jazz, is represented in "A Woman Like You"; the Southern-folksy "Watch the Stars"; the hauntingly beautiful, a capella "So Early in the Spring"; the eerie tale of murder, "Bruton Town"; our first track on side 2 and the title track, "Sweet Child", a number with full instrumentation and a rolling rhythm and a great solo showcase (and later one of the rare moments of Folk Rock); "I Loved a Lass"; "Sovay"; "In Your Mind", which is rightly Psych-light to my ears; and the story of... pedophilia(?!) by way of arranged marriage (I think?) on "The Trees They Grow High".

The "Three Dances Medley" (tracks not so strung together seamlessly, but performed simply one after the other) is a return to the fresh and at times brilliant mish-mash of Folk and... Third Stream(?), featuring Terry Cox on glockenspiel. This in particular, especially the third piece ("The Earle of Salisbury"), should appeal well to fans of Anthony Phillips. Another of this general feel is the near-Medieval "Three Part Thing".

Big Blues continues later down the road on the jammy "No Exit" [Pentangle were Fates Warning fans?! /s] and the instrumental closer "Hole in the Coal". Mingus-adjacent Jazz-Folk can be found on "The Time Has Come", a delightfully bright number; "In Time", with some more cool, bluesy soloing; and "I've Got a Feeling". One of the more interesting songs of the whole is "Moondog", simplistic in its wild hand drums-vocal duo, purportedly an homage to the iconic composer of the same name.

I wasn't too much impressed with much of anything on the album. It lacked the overly, overtly or daringly experimental or progressive to my ears, though the band certainly offers much here on a (more than) basic musical level (as opposed to my more specific sights on "Prog"). If any highlights can be found, they'd be "Market Song", "Sweet Child", and "In Time".

True Rate: 2.75/5.00

 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.32 | 42 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
3.42 | 45 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.

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

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