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John Renbourn - The Black Balloon CD (album) cover


John Renbourn


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5.00 | 1 ratings

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5 stars The second jewel in John Renbourn's amazing trilogy of all instrumental acoustic guitar tutorial albums, sitting between The Hermit and The Nine Maidens, The Black Balloon is another virtuoso tour de force, and to many it's his best.

John returns us to the Tudor era of The Hermit with the traditional tune "The Moon Shines Brightly". Another stately court dance, whose melody opaquely approximates the melody of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in some of it's phrases, and where John approximates a harpsichord on his figure picked acoustic with subtle variations throughout. A somber opening that sets the stage for Renbourn's virtuouso "The English Dance" which is an upbeat melodic candy store, as John sends out a cascade of notes as he traverses his guitar with breathtaking speed and dexterity. Once again, employing an alternate tuning, John's melodies are punctuated with tricky fills and leads that are never repeated but always add to the song's gorgeous melodies. Indeed, this tune has been a staple of Renbourn's live playing up until his death and was a favorite of both his and the audience's. The "Medley: Bouree I and II" is more stately dance where Renbourn painstakingly alters his notes while staying true to the two melodies which are split apart by minor and major tonal settings.

"The Mist Covered Mountains Of Home/The Orphan/ The Tarboulton" are an Irish air, jig and reel, respectively, that were originally intended for the fiddle. These traditional tunes are expertly rendered by Renbourn, who adds melodic accompaniment from the impressive Tony Roberts on flute, and where Renbourn surprises by joining Roberts with crystalline notes from his beloved Gibson 335 electric guitar.

"The Pelican" and "The Black Balloon" are original Renbourn compositions where John branches out to the progressive elements more developed that were found on the stellar "Nine Maidens" album which followed this one. Both entail tricky electric and acoustic guitar interplay, with Tony Robert's flute returning in a jazzy mode on the latter song. These long pieces are so spellbinding that their long lengths seem to pass by in just a few minutes.

The Black Balloon is Renbourn's best sounding album with warm, detailed crystal clear sound, which is absolutely the icing on the cake of this fantastic offering from this master of the acoustic guitar.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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