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The Pentangle - Cruel Sister CD (album) cover


The Pentangle


Prog Folk

3.41 | 57 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Past their prime? No, but this is no light flight

Pentangle's fourth album, released in 1970, indicated a subtle but clear change of approach by the band. The most obvious development is the inclusion of electric guitar, played by John Renbourn. Up until this point, the band had proudly boasted of their acoustic only approach. On the other hand, this proved to be an album made up entirely of traditional material, with no band compositions or even cover versions included.

The opening tracks feature the wonderful voice of Jackie McShee. "A maid that's deep in love" tells a tale of a young lady dressing up as a man in order to follow her lover to sea. The arrangement is surprisingly intense for a Pentangle song, but this version of a popular song brings out the melody well. The following "When I was in my prime" is an unaccompanied solo by McShee, who carries the song with consummate ease.

Renbourn takes centre stage for the reflective "Lord Franklin", which tells the story of an ill fated quest to find a passage in the seas north of Canada. Bert Jansch adds some effective concertina* playing here, while McShee's background vocalising contributes to the fine atmosphere. The seven minute title track has a simple repetitive melody in the way of so many traditional folk songs. Four of the five band members contribute to the vocals here, the song relating a story of sibling rivalry and worse.

* The concertina player is actually unclear as the sleeve notes for the CD indicate that it is McShee playing, while the song credits state Jansch.

The second side of the LP is occupied in its entirety by "Jack O'Rion", (or "Jack Orion") an 18 minute rendition of a song which previously appeared on a Jansch solo album. It also featured on the Fairport album "Tippler's tales" and on Trees debut release. Originally called "Glasgerion", the song tells a good old tale of debauchery and deception in lengthy narrative format along the lines of The Strawbs "Vision of the lady of the lake". The instrumentation is adventurous as is the vocal arrangement, and although the song may not be a prog epic as such, it is by far the most challenging number the band created during their career. The latter part of the song is reminiscent of Fairport's interpretation of "A sailor's life", with a lengthy lead guitar work out.

As a commercial venture, and as the follow up to the highly successful "Basket of light", "Cruel sister" was something of a disaster. As a folk rock album with prog folk overtones, this is a fine work. It's true this is no light flight, but the album should please those in these parts with a prog folk inclination.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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