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John Renbourn - The Nine Maidens CD (album) cover


John Renbourn


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4.64 | 5 ratings

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5 stars Its impossible to list anything recorded by John Renbourn as not being of quality as the man had absolutely no regard for any kind of commercial success. So, we are left with a bevy of fine albums by the late guitar virtuoso. The Nine Maidens stands out because it is simply the pinnacle of Renbourn's ability at composition, arrangement and, naturally, guitar playing. The man was always trying to improve his craft and never, to my mind, hit any sort of plateau and remained there.

What is also different about this all instrumental album is that Renbourn forgoes his need to combine a guitar tutorial with an artistic endeavor as his did on his celebrated albums The Hermit and Black Balloon, which both featured very staid, if ornate, pre Renaissance and baroque era songs that Renbourn reworked for guitar. The Nine Maidens is made up of six songs composed by Renbourn that start out in the familiar stately Elizabethan styles that he so loved like a reworking of his celebrated "Lady Nothinge's Toye Puff" from his Sir John Alot album which is followed by "The Fish In The Well" and "Pavan D'Aragon". Both songs can't fail to conjure up mental images of knights, kingly courts and stately galliards with future damsels in distress. Renbourn has done this before but never as accomplished. What really sets this album apart, from a prog perspective, is the collaborations with longtime alumnus Tony Roberts and Toby Peddley on North Umbrian Pipes and recorder, respectively, on the manic but sublimely melodic "Circle Dance" which is a wonderful set up for the magnificent mini opus that entails the album's three part title track. Indeed, more stately guitar soon gives way to a Celtic romp of dual recorders and congas that would have made Mike Oldfield envious as it would have easily stood out had the music from "The Nine Maidens" been included on an album like Ommidawn or Hergest Ridge. "Variations On My Lady Carey Dompe", that anticipates "Circle Dance", is another clinic in pre medieval grandeur that does seem to start to overstay it's welcome but Renbourn's lightning fast injections of lead guitar make one anticipate what he'll play next as he battles with the galloping melodies of a recorder throughout the song.

Renbourn never made another instrumental album to better The Nine Maidens and I can only surmise that he simply didn't want to. 5 stars.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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