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The Pentangle - Sweet Child CD (album) cover


The Pentangle

Prog Folk

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

This second effort is amazingly enough a double album, released the same year as their debut. It is a good indication that they had an extraordinary and fruitful collaboration and plenty ideas were blossoming even quicker than the flowers in the hair of the hippies. Most Pentangle fans will rate this album as their favourite, but personally I find this album a bit uneven but there are some real gems with high drama to stick you enough spine chills to give you a solid cold in the dog days of summer. Such is the case with No More My Lord were Jaqui dishes her plaintive vocals with such dexterity and greatly underlined by Cox's tom works that you wish the song lasted twice that long.

This double disc affair (remember that the Beatles had just managed the double white album) is a combination of a live album and studio recordings mixing also many short tracks - which could've easily doubled in length without problems - and longer tracks but there is not one single moment of self-indulgence even if some tracks have a lesser interest for the progheads; among the highlights are A woman Like You and No Exit (a guitar duo). The only time that individuals are put forward is in the Three Part Thing, but there is a section where the bowed bass gives a thoroughly medieval ambiance while the two guitarists are busy experimenting scales - very impressive. Another major highlight is In Time that holds your breath with its superb intensity and real suspense. Although brilliant, one could see that their excellent ideas were still not exploited to the fullest but nevertheless still spine tingling. There are also two songs from jazz great Charlie Mingus - both daring adaptations.

As with most double albums, there are some lesser moments but in this case never any weak ones. This is a true confirmation of the potential they had uncovered in the debut!

Report this review (#59385)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is my favourite's PENTANGLE record. Beautiful music that stands tall against the test of time. This is on of the children of the hippie-movement, but it does not sound dated or naive. The music is simple and complex in the same time. There is not many rock overtones here, this is pure folk with the clever amount of jazz, blues and medieval music thrown in for a good measure. Renbourn's guitar work is pure delight. Beauty of Jacqui's voice is outshining the rest of the female folk singers. Double bass is the band's trademark.

There are more than twenty tracks on this double album, but it's hard to tell if there's a weak one. It's impossible to choose the peaks here, this craft is more like a plateau, if I may say. Weak tracks are weak only compared to the brilliant ones: Three-Part Thing, remarkable Sovey, Bruton Town, In Your Mind...I won't analyse ever track here, let's just see a few highlights. Well, the most atmospheric one is "A Woman Like You", with incredible guitar work (a think the guitar is tuned in D open tune). The most tribal-sounding one is "Moon Dog", oh what a tune! Anybody sitting on a street with a small hand drum can do it. But it's so powerful.

"The Trees They Do Grow High" is another folk song, full of sorrow and beauty. ANGELO BRANDUARDI (Italian prog-folk singer) made the cover of this song with Italian lyrics. "Sovey" shares the same beauty and it sounds ancient at the same time...

There you go. I can continue with this until the last song is mentioned, but it's quite pointless to repeat the same "lovely" and "beautiful" all the time. Also, there is no point to make some clever comparisons and analysis. For God's sake, it's folk! And it's fine art at first place. The reason I'm giving one star less than five is only because the album does not suits perfectly into the typical progressive rock milieu.But let the music speak for itself.

Report this review (#99900)
Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sweet Child is a prog/jazz folk album having a woman as lead singer: this seems the norm of these late 60's. The similarities with Fairport Convention, Trader Horne, Trees and Fotheringay are obvious, except that the psychedelic dimension is not really present, and the rock/hard rock dimension is about inexistant: a connexion with soft bluesy jazz seems more appropriate. I do not find the music very progressive, so that it lies between the prog folk and the prog related styles. The songs are rather delicate and mellow, and the EXCELLENT acoustic bass jazzy rhythms, which is the strongest point on this record, give a warm dimension to the overall music. The very good voice of Jacqui McShee has a slight country style that other female singers of those times do not have. There are a few charming glockenspiel parts. The album sounds like a live one, since one can hear a crowd applauding at the end of the tracks.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#123578)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Originally a double LP, with one live record and one sutdio offering, Sweet Child shows the great band Pentangle still in a kind of embryonic stage. All the basic elements are here: fantastic musicanship of all involved, a wild variety of music styles and tremendous swapping lead vocals from Jacqui McShee and Bert Jansch. They had yet to mastered their sound (something they would eventually achieve in their next work, the brilliant Basket Of Light), but Sweet Child already shows they were something very special and innovative for the time.

The live album often rings more like individual solo performances sometimes backed by the rest of the band. Still, it is a great display of their incredible talents as musicians and singers. Jacqui Mchsee shines on No More My Lord and teh a capella version of So Early In The Spring, while Danny Thompson proves he was one of the best players of the acoustic bass doing a bold rendition of Charles Mingus Haitian Fight Song. Three Dances is another highlight, where the band members show off their skills on three short classical pieces. And, except for the use of a sole electric guitar on a couple of songs, they did it all handling only acoustic instruments. Impressive!

Folk, Blues, R & B, gospel, baroque, jazz.. you name it. They can handle it all. And very well! Although Sweet Child is not their best ever, it is an outstanding achievement for such recently assembled band. There is little prog in here as we know, but, boy, do they play good! If you´re into progressive folk this is a must have. Unfortunatly my Line single CD version is missing 3 tracks from the original double LP. A small price to pay, I guess, since the rest of the record is so rich and varied it is had to believe this band could do it all in just one release. final rating: something between 4 and 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#191502)
Posted Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pentangle's second album of 1968 is perhaps my favourite of the albums I've heard by the band to date. Double albums are usually tricky to justify, but here Pentangle avoid that issue by not making this a double *studio* album. Whilst the second disc consists of new studio tracks, the first disc is a release of a warm, intimate performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Ably teasing out the electric folk, traditional folk, and jazz influences on their sound both in the live performance and in the studio. the Pentangle treat the listener to a true tour de force here.
Report this review (#1128714)
Posted Saturday, February 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Pentangle's follow up album to their self titled debut, titled Sweet Child, does not suffer from the usual "sophomore jinx" that plague many other followers of a debut album. Perhaps except that the shock of the group's musical formula may have worn off on some listeners along with some surprise that the double album follow up contains a new live material recorded at the London Festival Hall, with the second disc comprised totally of new studio songs.

I can only surmise that the band's touring schedule may have cut into their studio time. However, the first disc is excellently recorded in front of a rapt and extremely quiet audience. At least during the performances that is.

The group once again mine material from traditional English folk, Charles Mingus penned jazz classics, original folk/blues compositions as well as Elizabethan era dances played on a glockenspiel from drummer Terry Cox.

John Renbourn plays electric guitar as was he's want during live performamces and this steals a little bit of thunder from the usual guitar interplay between himself and Bert Jansch. Howerever, fear not, as the two resume their acoustic guitar dueling on several tracks of the studio disc along with some brilliant outtakes that have been added as bonus tracks to the 2 CD Castle Records reissue.

Aside from making marginal vocalists like Renbourn and Jansch actually sound good, producer Shel Talmy deftly recorded both guitarists in wide separation stereo which really shows off their breathtaking improvisational playing. As one guitarist starts a lead section on one channel, the phrase is telekinetically answered by the guitarist on the other and when both play intricate leads together, it simply sounds like one guitarist has filled the sound stage and is a testament of the extraordinary playing skills of both.This is extremely prevalent on the instrumentals In Time and Hole In The Coal, as well as their alternate versions.

Double bass great Danny Thompson struts his stuff on the above mentioned Mingus songs while the incredible Jacqui McShee again shows her vocal prowess both traditional songs like So Early In the Spring (sung unaccompanied ) on the first live disc, as well as soulful jazzy originals like the stellar I've Got A Feeling from the second studio album.

I've felt a need to review this album again in light of the current Indie folk rock (Nu folk?) resurgence as well the current trend of modern rockers like Mark Knoplfler to produce albums exploring American Roots and Folk music.

The Pentangle still defy classification almost fifty years after releasing their debut album and their collective musical skills have still not been equaled to this day. Four stars for another of The Pentangle's landmark albums. The Castle CD re-master has fantastic sound quality as well as the wonderful bonus tracks that also include live versions all of material that was released on groups' self titled debut and is featured on the first live disc.

Report this review (#1390027)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#2787642)
Posted Thursday, September 1, 2022 | Review Permalink

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