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The Pentangle

Prog Folk

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The Pentangle Basket Of Light album cover
4.15 | 152 ratings | 20 reviews | 33% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Light Flight (3:19)
2. Once I Had a Sweetheart (4:43)
3. Spring Time Promises (4:09)
4. Lyke-Wake Dirge (3:36)
5. Train Song (4:47)
6. Hunting Song (6:44)
7. Sally Go Round the Roses (3:40)
8. The Cuckoo (4:30)
9. House Carpenter (5:32)

Total Time: 41:00

Bonus tracks on 2001 Castle Music CD:
10. Sally Go Round the Roses (Alternate version) (3:40)
11. Sally Go Round the Roses (Alternate version) (3:42)
12. Cold Mountain (B-Side single) (2:02)
13. I Saw an Angel (B-Side single) (2:52)

Total CD Time: 53:16

Line-up / Musicians

- Jacqui McShee / lead & backing vocals
- Bert Jansch / acoustic guitar, banjo (9), co-lead (3,5,6,9) & backing vocals
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar, sitar (2,9), co-lead (4,6,7) & backing vocals
- Danny Thompson / double bass
- Terry Cox / drums, glockenspiel (2,6,8), hand drum (4,8,9), hihat (8,9), co-lead (4,6) & backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Diogenic Attempts Ltd with Peter Smith (photo)

LP Transatlantic Records - TRA 205 (1969, UK)
LP Reprise Records - RS 6372 (1969, US)

CD Line Records - TACD 9.00555 (1988, Germany)
CD Castle Music - 06076 81126-2 (2001, US) Remastered Andy Pearce with 4 bonus tracks
CD Castle Music - CMRCD207 (2001, UK) Remastered by Andy Pearce with 4 bonus tracks
Numerous reissues

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy THE PENTANGLE Basket Of Light Music

THE PENTANGLE Basket Of Light ratings distribution

(152 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THE PENTANGLE Basket Of Light reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 'Basket of Light' is the third Pentangle record and their masterpice. The band had developped a good equlibrium between traditional folk songs and band compositions in their typical Jazz-Folk-Blues style. The album opener 'Light Flight', which has become their signature song, is a band composition based on a tricky rhythm track(alternating 5/8, 7/8, 6/4) over which Jacqui Mc Shee lays her lead and overdubbed vocals. 'Once I had a sweetheart' is a traditional folk song with an interesting Sitar solo by John Renbourn, followed by another band composition 'Springtime Promises' with Bert Jansch on lead vocals and an elaborated rhythm track. 'Lyke -Wake Dirge' another traditional is arranged for three part vocals in 'Elizabethean' style, the most traditional track on the record with a mournful mood. 'Train song', a band composition (my favourite track BTW), a Blues, starts with a twisted Blues scale on guitar, imitating the start of a train, and evolving into a medium Blues-Groove when the train gets moving. Then in the middle of the song the song slows down to a beautiful Slow Blues with Jacqui Mc Shee vocalizing over it until the train takes speed again. 'Hunting Song' another band composition, that is arranged as a traditional folk tune, is introduced by a nice melodic pattern on 'Glockenspiel' played by Terry Cox giving way in the middle of the song to a three part canon. 'Sally go round the roses' is a Phil Spector composition and the most funkiest track on the record with Renbourn and Mc Shee on vocals.The record closes with two traditionals 'The Cuckoo' and 'House Carpenter' the latter with a Banjo/Sitar interplay by Rebourn and Jansch. This record is a timeless beauty.
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4,5 stars really!!!

If most fans love the Sweet Child album as their fave, the other part of their fans will cite this album as their fave and there are obvious hint why this album is a more complete oeuvre than its predecessor as the album is much more even.

Basket Of Light (the track) is known to a very wide public, because it was used as a theme soundtrack to a TV series, but this is hardly the main claim to fame of this album. One of the best track is their irreplaceable track Train Song with its incredible bowed double bass ending, followed by another high drama Hunting Song where McShee is simply awesome behind some bell percussions from Cox and superb bass staccatos from Thompson the two guitarists waiting inn the aisle underlining the track with sober guitars but also alternating sung verses with their female colleagues - awesome and maybe their finest moment. Light Flight and Lyre Like Dirge are simply outstanding tracks also but almost getting lost in the sheer mass of greatness present on this album. The Cuckoo is another one of those highly orgasmic moments of crystal clear vocals that makes you wish for previous centuries to come back. And I have not talked yet of the most definitive version of one of the most covered trad folk song If I Was A Carpenter that takes here its best clothes and sounds stupendous with its incredible banjo and sitar duo - and believe me I am not a banjo fan.

Clearly this album is the apex of the five man figure band and coincides with their height of popularity as the artwork sleeve plays with a picture of them playing to a packed Royal Albert Hall. I would advise progheads to investigate this album first before venturing further! But I doubt you will stop at this album.

Review by ghost_of_morphy
5 stars I don't know who decided to mix folk and jazz together first. I'd like to think that it was some unsung genius fiddleplayer back in a lonely valley in Appalachia. However, I can think of no group better at wedding jazz elements to folk tunes than The Pentangle. In Basket of Light, that's what we have: solid folk tunes treated with varying degrees of jazz elements. The gamut runs from Lyke-Wake Dirge, in which jazz barely discernable, through the cool Sally Go Round the Roses, up to technical extravaganzas like Light Flight and Train Song that bring innovation and excess comparable to the best of prog folk.

If you like your prog folk with a very strong infusion of folk, if you think of Fairport Convention instead of Jethro Tull when you hear of prog folk, or if you are just looking for something completely different and yet still rewarding, Basket of Light is the album for you.

5 Stars. I love this album! Everybody should hear it!

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Take one talented girl. . . and four talented guys

Having released two albums in 1968 which were critically acclaimed but commercially less successful, the Pentangle returned in 1969 with what would prove to be their best selling album. While it would be great to say that this success was down to the wonderful music throughout the album, the popularity of the album can be attributed to just one song.

"Light flight" was used as the theme song for a BBC drama series called "Take three girls". The series was the first of that type the BBC had broadcast in colour, although most people saw it at the time in black and white of course. The band also contributed incidental music for that series, raising their profile further. "Light flight" became a big selling single, leading to raised interest in the band. Fortunately, this attention coincided with the Pentangle finding their true calling, and recording a succession of great songs for the album.

In reality, while "Light flight" is an alluringly melodic piece, it is not that representative of Pentangle's style. The vocalising and the jaunty rhythm make for the sort of pop a late 60's teenager would have approved of. The song though is quite different to the rest of the album.

With "Light flight" in pole position, the real Pentangle come to the fore on the charming "Once I had a sweet heart". This version of the traditional British song "A maid sat a-weeping" reclaims it by giving the American adaptation a very British feel. Jackie McShee gives what for me is her finest vocal performance ever, the song is a pure delight.

Elsewhere the intriguingly named "Lyke-wake dirge", a traditional Yorkshire piece based on a poem, contains some fine multi-part harmonised singing, the life (of the soul) after death sentiments being delivered in an admirably practical (as opposed to emotive) way. A "lyke", by the way, is a dead body. "Hunting song" also features some fine harmony singing set against the pleasant sound of the glockenspiel played by Terry Cox. In an interesting but highly effective twist, Phil Spector's "Sally go round the roses" is given a fine folk treatment, McShee having a sung conversation with John Renbourn.

The closing "House carpenter", which is a variation on the traditional "The Daemon Lover", is very much in the mould of Pentangle's peers Steeleye Span. The song features a backing duet of banjo and sitar (it does actually work!) while telling a warming tale of a young maiden being lured by the devil.

There is no doubt that, even without the fine "Light flight", "Basket of light" would have been Pentangle's finest hour. It is fortunate though that it did also spurn a hit single, as the album it gained the popularity which might otherwise have passed it by. The sleeve bears the proud boast that the album is entirely acoustic, but the clever use of vocals and guitars results in something every bit as captivating as the most electric of albums.

The Castle CD release has four additional tracks. Two of these are largely superfluous alternative versions of "Sally go round the roses". The two other songs are single B-sides which did not appear on Pentangle albums at the time. Of these, "Cold mountain" has an American folk (Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins) feel, while "I saw an angel" heads south to gather a more rootsy, blues mood.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Oh, what an album! Pentangle finally combined the best of its elements to release one hell of a great CD! Everything their previous works promised is fulfilled here. As usual Basket of Light mix traditional folk songs with original material, but the balance is the most perfect the band ever achieved in their entire career. They blend folk, blues, jazz and eastern sounds (using almost no eletric instrument at all) to make a very unique and exciting sound. It was an artistic and commercially successful album. And deseverly so.

The production is very good for the time. The band was a dream team of skilled and outstanding musicians put together with a relatively unknown singer (but very talented). And did they gell! Terry Cox use of the glockenspiel on several tracks is just magical. The dual guitars of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch are amazing and Danny Thompson was one of the few bassists to use the acoustic double bass in all full glory. On top of that there was the voice of Jaqui McShee, a splendid singer with a marvelous soprano voice (very similar to Renaissance´s Annie Haslam).

There is not a bad song in the entire tracklist, but some moments are just too good not to notice immediatly: The Train Song just shows how creative and skillful the members of Pentangle, Hunting Song is a fantastic mini epic and Lyke-Wake Dirge is just wonderful in its church like choir and ambience. The swapping vocals of McShee and Jansch are another highlight: flowing and natural. John Renbourn was also one of the few guitarrists who could actually play the indian sitar with originalty and knowledge.

If there is a prog folk masterpiece then it is Basket Of Light. Pentangle proved they could release a progressive, groundbreaking work without keyboards, much studio trickery or even electric instruments. If you don´t know this unique band, this is surely the album to start. Highly recommended.

Review by Negoba
5 stars Prog Folk for Folkies..and How!!!

I have a long history with folk music dating back to having hippy parents and listening to their LPs from my childhood. As a guitarist, perhaps my greatest and most favorite influence is the acoustic work of Jimmy Page, with his medieval flavorings and alternate tunings. Research led me to learn that Page's major influence in that regard was a guitarist (famous in England, less in the US) by the name of Bert Jansch. Later research revealed that Page actually lifted "Black Mountain Side" directly from the accompaniment that Jansch had composed for a traditional tune called "Black Waterside." (Not exactly sneaky, Mr. Page)

It was through exploring Jansch that I discovered Pentangle, and my oh my what a discovery. To me this band is the best of 60's psychedelic folk, eclipsing any of the bands I grew up with. The band is a supergroup in the truest sense, with Jansch and fellow Davey Graham acolyte Bruce Renbourn playing interlocking guitar lines (they had already been doing this as a duo prior to the formation of the group, and each were solo artists before and after the group). Danny Thompson was and continues to be a legendary session bassist (including work on Porcupine Tree keyboardist Richard Barbieri's 2008 solo album). Percussionist Terry Cox also went on to a lengthy session career, playing on Bowie's Space Oddity, Elton John's self-titled album, among others.

Understandably, the instrumental portion of this folk-jazz fusion is of higher quality than any other band of its kind. The English folk scene in general was more nuanced instrumentally than the American groups (who focused instead on vocal interplay and poetic lyrics), and this is the apex. And in fact, this album is the peak of the peak band. Singer Jacqui McShee combines the tonality of typical 60's folk with Celtic flavors, and percussionist Terry Cox follows melody rather than laying a foundation for the other musicians. The guitarists each have good voices, and the three singers combine for the choral "Lyke-Wake Dirge" in perfect alignment. The band uses complex time signatures, with their biggest single "Light Flight" being based on a 5+5+2 groove that does in fact invoke a feeling of dance and movement (how often does that happen?) Most of all, the guitars are lush, modal, and complex pieces (think of having two Nick Drakes playing composed duos) rather than American campfire strumming.

Every song on this album is high quality, and for the most part, some new element is presented in each song. Its length (without the relatively throwaway bonus tracks added later) is just right, and leaves the listener wanting more. The one weakness compared to American folk is that the lyrics mainly follow traditional medieval themes, and lack the contemporary poetry and social bite of Dylan or Paul Simon.

Many of the artists in this site's prog-folk genre are rock bands with flavors of prog and folk (Tull) or Symphonic Prog bands that followed the medievalisms of Genesis further along (Gryphon). In my opinion, if you are looking for true prog-folk, Pentangle is the best. And this is their best album. Essential for folkies, prog-heads, hippies, lovers of complex acoustic guitar, lovers of solo female voice, lovers of active jazz bass; in a word, masterpiece.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars The first time I heard Jacqui McShee sing, I thought sure I was listening to the great Annie Haslam. The music is all acoustic, but even so, the musicians are very subtle and sophisticated in building pleasing, thin layers of music. Other than the creative blending of those acoustic instruments, there really isn't anything progressive about this album; it's a decent collection of arrangements of traditional songs and covers of blues and folk pieces. Very few of the songs are originals, and for the most part, everything is quite plain.

"Light Flight" This loose acoustic song follows varying time signatures. It's a great song, and is the best on the album.

"Once I Had a Sweetheart" This is a traditional folk song. Unfortunately, the lovely vocals are bit crusty sounding in the mix (granted, this album came out in 1968, but still).

"Spring Time Promises" The masculine vocals are a bit rigid sounding, but overall, this song sounds a bit like Cat Stevens, with all those acoustic instruments and laid back playing.

"Lyke-Wake Dirge" Here lies a traditional dirge that describes the soul's progress to heaven. It is a vocal piece, almost a chant, and is haunting in its way.

"Train Song" A sophisticated bluesy guitar goes solo at first. Behind the deep, droning masculine lead singing, McShee participates with some simple vocalizations. She takes over lead vocals at one point, introducing a completely different feel.

"Hunting Song" A glockenspiel and guitar-laced song that tells a story (with male and female vocals alternating), this traditional-sounding piece has some very good percussion and bass work throughout. The complex vocals are not exactly a treat for me, and this song does wear on after a while. The lyrics are based on part of the legend of King Arthur.

"Sally Go Round the Roses" This is a cover of a song released in 1963 by The Jaynettes. It's standard blues fare.

"The Cuckoo" This one is a basic arrangement of a traditional English folk song.

"House Carpenter" Dark banjo, sitar, and the lovely vocals of McShee make up this strange arrangement of an American take on an old British ballad called "The Daemon Lover." After a while, it becomes rather noisy, however.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars A basket of very "light flights" indeed

I would prefer to characterise the kind of music on this album as 'completely acoustic, somewhat eclectic Folk Pop'. What made bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span interesting was that they put the Rock into Folk Rock. The music of Pentangle (at least on the present album) is in contrast wholly devoid of Rock elements. Instead we get pure acoustic Folk music with some slight Jazz influences. Mixing Folk music with Pop and Jazz may be "progressive" in some sense, but it is very hard for this reviewer to see what makes this Prog. In my opinion, in order for something to be Progressive Rock it has to be Rock in the first place.

There are indeed some lovely songs here and I can definitely understand why many like this album. However, it tends to be a rather tiresome listen in its entirety since all the songs basically have the same sound and instrumentation. The very interesting use of sitar in Once I Had A Sweetheart stands out. The very discrete and jazzy drums are hardly driving the music. The acoustic guitars and bass are very well played, but I seem to get enough of it after less than half the album's running time. The male and female vocals are nice but rather anonymous. Jacqui McShee's vocals are far from as distinctive as, say, Maddy Prior's or Sandy Denny's.

In conclusion, this is indeed a nice set of acoustic Folk songs with some jazzy and poppy touches. But it fails miserably to be anything over and above that. Needless to say, this is not really my cup of tea. A very lightweight basket!

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There must have been something in the water in Great Britain back in 1969 that inspired musicians to produce such an impressive number of landmark albums. Though best known to prog fans for King Crimson's seminal debut, the year saw the release of other essential discs for the history of rock in all its forms. Pentangle's third album, "Basket of Light", is one of those, though unfortunately an album that all too easily flies under the radar, unless you are a folk-rock enthusiast - which is a pity, because the music produced by the British quintet definitely had a much higher progressive content than the offerings of their contemporaries Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention.

Widely considered as the band's masterpiece, "Basket of Light" is everything a prog-folk lover might expect, and then some. Bert Jansch's and John Renbourn's fluid, jangling guitars weave seamless melodies, backed by Danny Thompson's impeccable double bass work and Terry Cox's precise, understated drumming (the perfect antidote to overdoses of Portnoy and his ilk), with Jacqui McShee's enchantingly crystalline tones soaring above all. Though this is the recipe for all of Pentangle's best output, "Basket of Light" possesses a cohesive nature that somewhat eludes their other albums (as excellent as they are). Though a good proportion of the material featured here are rearrangements of traditional British or American folk songs, the band's original compositions are shining examples of how those traditions impacted their creative process, allowing them to produce songs that are at the same time accessible and musically complex (though in a very subtle way).

The album's title comes from a line of "Train Song", one of the best-known, most distinctive items in the band's output, and one of the original compositions previously mentioned. Indeed, the title describes the album quite aptly - it is an overall uplifting slice of music, though not in the quirkily humorous way typical of Canterbury bands. For instance, "Lyke-Wake Dirge" (as the title implies) is based on an ancient Anglo-Saxon funeral chant, and as such might be expected to be quite depressing - which is not the case. With its gorgeous, three-part vocals and a delicate, barely perceptible guitar accompaniment, the song is beautiful in a melancholy way, yet anything but gloomy. On the other hand, album opener "Light Flight" (a favourite of mine as a child) is a deceptively light and airy tune permeated by a faint sense of nostalgia, which follows some interesting rhythm patterns and introduces the listener to the delights of Jacqui's vocals. Gentler and less assertive than Annie Haslam's, but powerful in its own way, her voice possesses an authentic sweetness devoid of that saccharine aftertaste so rife in her modern followers.

Interestingly, a good proportion of the album is dedicated to American music, in the shape of two folk songs derived from traditional English ballads ("Once I Had a Sweetheart" and the vaguely disturbing "House Carpenter"), and "Sally Go Round the Roses", the only hit by New York girl group The Jaynetts, a delightful, feel-good tune (originally written by Phil Spector) showcasing a different side of Jacqui's singing style. The latter is also present in two different versions as a bonus track, together with two other songs that, while penned by the band or individual members, have strong connections with the American musical tradition (especially the upbeat "Cold Mountain"). The aforementioned "Train Song", written as a lament for the passing of the steam train, has a basic blues structure with vocal arrangements that reproduce the sound of a train in motion; while "The Cuckoo" is a traditional folk song from Somerset interpreted by Jacqui in piercingly sweet tones. "Hunting Song", an original band composition based on traditional materials (namely an episode of the King Arthur cycle involving Morgana Le Fay and a hunting horn), is an almost seven-minute mini-epic sung by Jansch and McShee in their sharply contrasting tones, and infused with the gently tinkling sound of the glockenspiel. "House Carpenter", which closes the original edition of the album, is another highlight, with Renbourn's and Jansch's banjo-sitar interaction reinforcing the sinister atmosphere of the tale of a young woman lured to perdition by the Devil himself.

And now for the burning question? Is it progressive? Of course it is, though not in the same way Yes or Genesis can be. We are not talking about lengthy epics with a pinch of folksy flavouring thrown in for good measure, but about a genuinely progressive approach, blending folk, blues, jazz, country and medieval/Elizabethan music with immaculate instrumental proficiency and vocals that achieve the perfect balance between technique and emotion. Though on "Basket of Light" there is nothing as overtly 'proggy' as the 20-minute-plus "Jack Orion", this is the kind of music whose progressiveness is made of subtle layers of light and shade, rather than a pile-up of flash and bombast. Indeed, many modern bands would have a lot to learn from this album. Five stars for a masterpiece of class, expertise and restraint - a delight from start to finish.

Review by ProgressiveAttic
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Progressive Folk indeed!

This album is the exact definition of Prog-Folk in both approach and sound. In first place, the instrumentation is typical to folk music and completely acoustic (not a bit of electricity is used here). The musical orientation is driven by English (mainly medieval) and, to a lesser extent, American folk influences with the purpose of progressing beyond the "traditional" sound of the genre with the addition of elements from blues and jazz. As a matter of fact, an important fraction of the album is dedicated to re-workings of classic folk pieces.

Although this album (and review) is featured on a website dedicated to Progressive Rock, do not expect any rock from it. Danny Thomson (double bass) himself said that "one of the worst things you can do to a folk song is inflict a rock beat on it", as a consequence of this line of thought Pentangle developed an approach of conserving the internal rhythm of each piece, resulting on an extensive use of unusual time signatures and changes (such as on Light Flight). At the end, this is Progressive Folk not Progressive Folk-Rock of the likes of Jethro Tull.

Light Flight starts the album in the most progressive fashion of folk with changing time signatures, great female vocal displays (courtesy of Jacqui McShee) and very impressive and cohesive instrumental sections and backing (double bass + guitar +drums). 5

Once I Had A Sweetheart is the first re-working of a classic folk song. Very strong version, highly enjoyable and interesting, mainly due to the vocals and the introduction of a sitar on the mix (which will remain almost constant throughout the rest of the album). 4.5

Springtime Promises is another Pentangle original, this time featuring the apt vocals of Bert Jansch (also responsible of half of the amazing guitar work) and a specially enjoyable rhythm arrangement. 4.5

Lyke-Wake Dirge, apparently, some sort of death-related traditional English chant of Saxon origin. Very solemn and pleasant song. 3.5

Train Song lets the band's bluesy leanings flourish. The rhythm is intended to mimic the sound of the wheels of a train with alternating male and female vocals. The final output is a very interesting blues piece with nice vocalizations and an outstanding guitar work. 4.5

Hunting Song is one of my favorite pieces of the album. The highlight of the song are the vocals with contrasting male/female timbers and very intricate lyrics based on the Arthurian legends. The instrumental passages and backing are top notch with a heavy emphasis on the guitar and the glockenspiel, supported by the always excellent rhythm section. 5

Sally Go Round the Roses, originally an R&B hit, receives the Pentangle treatment. Not really intricate (very simple actually) bluesy track turned into a folky piece featuring a very pleasant vocal duo. 4

The Cukoo is another re-working, this time of a classic English tune. Here, the strings and female vocals are the center of attention. Flawless piece. 5

House Carpenter closes the album with another classic English piece treated ala Pentangle. This time the instrumental background is dominated by the sitar and banjo, joined by the characteristic male/female vocal duet contrast. 4.5

Total: 4.5

The bonus tracks are very pleasant and none deserves less than 4 stars, which makes them an added value to this already excellent album.

Every single instrument is a highlight, but the ones that impressed me the most are McShee's vocals (some of the best I've ever heard), the upright bass (I cannot get tired of Thomson's work) and guitars (no folk album is complete without them.... nonetheless a guitar-less folk album should be interesting...).

This album has its low points (such as Lyke-Wake Dirge.... which aren't too low, by the way ), but nonetheless is an absolute essential and masterpiece for any progressive folk fan.

5 stars for one of the most revolutionary albums in folk music history.

Review by lor68
3 stars First of all, I would like to remind you of a few prog folk bands (apart from Renaissance, which has been often a symphonic ensemble), such as Gryphon, Strawbs, Fairport Convention, for example, which have been so creative in the folk genre and very interesting in their execution live, but without playing an acoustic jazz (unlike The Pentangle, I mean). Usually a prog-folk band is able to create a mix of rock or medieval music, passing thorugh the language of the traditional folk, but seldom inside an apparatus of an experimental acoustic jazz...In any case the improvisational approach here is replaced by an intelligent search of a precise scheme, inside a typical melodic folk- even by means of a couple of covers (being never banal anyway!).

The track "Light Flight" is the best song here and- in spite of the uneven approach of the vocalist (of course not equal to Annie Haslam or Silvia Kristina by Curved Air), she's quite convincing, especially in the passages where the voice is not too much "masculine". Then regard the fascinating track "Lyke-Wake Dirge", with their emotional approach, which is as good as the clever "incipit" of the mentioned opener; and this way at the end it could be enough to judge this "Basket of light" as an "illuminated" small jewel of prog folk (think of the album title)...Ok "Sally Go Round the Roses" is a cover concerning a traditional folk of the sixties and also "Once I Had a Sweetheart" belongs to that period; and moreover these latter tunes don't seem so "original" (above all talking about their arrangement), but it's a minor defect after all, cause the present "benchmark"- regarding the best folk prog- won't never pretend to be a masterpiece of prog music or prog rock, but it's well worth checking out at fact- out of a typical prog collection- you can add 1 star, with no doubts!!

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pentangle's most progressive album and real folk prog gem. Excellent combination of British folk, early bluesy jazz (coming from band's rhythm section with their roots in Alexis Corner Blues Inc) and slight psychedelia.

Sound is very acoustic, but multi textured, with very tasteful arrangements. Comparing with band's next album, "Cruel Sister", which is pure folk rock, this release is complex and much more progressive. Vocals duet of Jacqui Mc Shee and John Renbourn (or Bert Jansch on different songs) is great decision as well. Still being very folksy, this album's music crossed the limitation of folk, adding complex instrumentation, jazzy arrangements and even slightly psychedelic feeling. Songs all are great, and album doesn't have that monotonic folksy atmosphere, so usual for many folk rock releases.

One of greatest British folk prog release coming from late 60-s. My rating is 4+.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars I had the temptation to give this album a rating only, as in general everything has already been said of true masterpieces. I'm writing a review at use of those who may not know this old folk band. So old that the keyword "Prog-folk" didn't exist yet at the time of their debut.

This is a sort of supergroup built up by two of the greatest acoustic-folk guitar players ever: Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Pentangle is an acoustic band (today we would call them "unplugged"), with an incredible vocalist, Jacqui McShee whose voice is comparable also in the style to Annie Haslam. Her pitch is not so high but she has very good basses, instead. Danny Thompson's bass is totally acoustic and gives an unique sound to the band. The rhythmic section is completed by a great drummer and percussionist: Terry Cox, who's glockenspiel work on The Cuckoo is one of the highlights of this album.

The album is a collection of both original and traditional songs with arrangements that are sometimes influenced by jazz and blues and sometimes by medieval leads or just traditional. For those who like British folk, this is an absolute masterpiece. If you like the early Clannad (before their 80s contaminations), and still don't know the Pentangle, this album will be a great surprise as it's probably the best album of one of the best prog-folk bands ever.

Review by Sinusoid
5 stars If you think this is just another, stuffy old folk album, think again. The Pentangle take off on the word ''Go!'' thanks to the daring jazz-folk manoeuvers of ''Light Flight''. As folk music goes, the first cut is ''edgy'' for lack of a better term, and the rest of the record is somewhat unusual. The jazz influences of the group pop up here and there, and while they tackle traditional folk songs, they also go outward with choir pieces (actually, ''Lyke-Wake Dirge'') and include instruments like glockenspiel and sitar. Even as a non-fan of folk music, BASKET OF LIGHT floored me, and still does.

The real treat in the album is the rhythm section. Danny Thompson is a double bass player exclusively, yet amidst the booms, he is able to make his bass breathe. He is the key reason for enjoying the shifting structure of ''Light Flight''. Terry Cox's percussion approach just makes sense, especially the times when he drops the kit in favour of glockenspiel. His style reminds me of Bill Bruford's, but less rock-oriented.

Sometimes, the content can sound like ordinary folk, but the songs can be some of the most beautiful adaptations. The nearly rock number with stunning guitar solos ''Sally Go Round the Roses'' is actually one of the highlights, but so is the mood shifting ''Train Song'' (within is the album's title) and the epic-like ''Hunting Song''. ''House Carpenter'' (their spin on the classic ''The Daemon Lover'') features sitar and banjo simultaneously and in perfect harmony.

Don't judge this as some random folk album or you'll miss out on one of the best progressive folk albums around. The use of occasional dabblings with jazz and rock structures with the instrument choices give this a progressive feel. A folk album to be placed proudly in any prog rock collection along with Jan Dukes de Grey's debut album, SORCERERS.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Given a big boost by Light Flight being used as the theme music to an otherwise forgettable TV drama, the Pentangle's Basket of Light is a grab-bag of folk originals as well as traditional standards, all given a mild twist - a jazz rhythm here, a bit of rock and roll energy there, and some occasional light psych touches. Pleasant enough, and if you are very into traditional British folk you might find it a rewarding experiment, but if you aren't especially into folk the album doesn't deviate from the folk style sufficiently that it'd likely appeal to you. It almost seems as though the mild experimentation with other genres is merely there to add flavour to the folk, rather than being a genuine attempt to blend genres. Three and a half stars.
Review by friso
3 stars The Pentangle - Basket of Light (1969)

After the momentum of songwriters folk music of the mid sixties the second halve of the sixties would facilitate a wave of traditional and rock influenced folk groups in England. The Pentangle is one of those groups, reinventing and rewriting folk classics and writing new songs with intelligent arrangements.

The Pentangle uses mainly string-instruments, but sometimes we can hear the pleasant glockenspiel. The band focusses on English traditional folk, but the use sitar and other eastern string-instruments sometimes evokes the feel of world music. Some tracks have a pastoral feel, are more like up-tempo folk tracks. All tracks dwell in a layer of reverbs, as if the album was recorded in a church.

Female vocalist Jacqui Mc Shee has a voice reminding us of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, but she sings a bit more 'noble' - the reason for which my brother gave me this record; "folk should be folky and for the people". And indeed, it's all very serious. The male vocals on some tracks sound a bit Canterbury like, reminding me of Caravan.

On this particular record of The Pentangle the arrangements very well developed, evoking that intelligent progressive feel. It also makes the record quite intensive to listen to and not as accessible as other folk rock albums. The multiple layers of guitar lines and bass sound a bit like how Gentle Giant would later arrange its folk parts.

Conclusion. Great folk rock album that's recommended to those interested in the more traditional sounding acoustic folk rock. Let's not forget that this is a very early effort and it's quite far ahead for it's time. Four stars.

Review by GruvanDahlman
5 stars Easily the bestalbum they made, though I feel all albums from the 70's are worth at least a listen, lest you're like me obsessed with british folk and Pentangle in particular, wanting to own them all. "Basket of light" is THE album where everething merged together. The traditional folk meets rock and prog like never before. My particular favorites being "Hunting song", "House carpenter" and well... The entire album is my favorite songs. It's a masterpiece of utter beauty, grimness and haunting tales, instrumentation to die for and vocals of un-earthly qualities. If you want one single folk album from the early 70's, this is the one.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Prog Folk's most boundary-pushing pioneers at their most creative. Universally, this album is a fan and critics' favorite.

1. "Light Flight" (3:19) delightful "Take Five"-like rhythm-driven weave over which Jacqui gives light performance perfect for the times. The song was even used as the main theme for BBC's first color television series, the popular "Take Three Girls." Wonderful shift in the second half to 7/4 time before returning to the original vocal theme. (9.25/10)

2. "Once I Had a Sweetheart" (4:43) nice slow paced tune with some interesting psych-electric instrumentation (glockenspiel, sitar, rondo background vocals). The weave thickens and feels on the verge of unraveling during the crazy instrumental passage but then is pulled back in order to support Jacqui and the b voxers for the third chorus and fourth part. What a brave composition! (9.25/10)

3. "Spring Time Promises" (4:09) opening with Bert in the lead vocal as the band jazz-folks behind him. Catchy vocal and lyric that could've come from a CARAVAN album. (Never heard how much Bert's voice sounds like Richard Sinclair as I do on this song.) The song feels so fresh and iconic that I wonder at its popularity and influence on other artists at the time and since. The band just sound so confident and loose that they almost can't help but create great, fresh-sounding music. (9/10)

4. "Lyke-Wake Dirge" (3:36) a vocal-centric song that is constructed (and recorded) as if it were in a church or music hall. Very pretty. If I had the desire/inclination to tune into lyrics it might be even better. (8.75/10)

5. "Train Song" (4:47) after a cool little solo guitar intro, the whole band kicks into a high-flying ride that speeds down the tracks with an innovative vocalise leading the way until the train eventually lifts off into the ether, flying off into the cosmos on the wings of Ms. McShee's floating, sustained notes. Very cool and creative song. (9.5/10)

6. "Hunting Song" (6:44) intriguing use of congas and glockenspiel woven into the rhythmic tapestry of the guitars and bass while Jacqui sings a fairly traditional-sounding ballad, solo, over and above. The inclusion of the "Hey, Ho! Nobody home" melody during the multi-voice vocal rondo weave in the sixth minute (of a hunting song!) is pure genius. This is a song that also seems to preview the arrival and star-making quality of the Annie Haslem-led version of the Renaissance project. (13.5/15)

7. "Sally Go Round the Roses" (3:40) opens like a gentle guitar pickin' song as bass, second guitar, brushed drums, and male and female vocals each enter, on at a time, each after another. John and Jacqui play off each other, taking turns leading over this interesting bluesy-jazzy version of an 1963 Chess Records hit by the band The Jaynettes. The song had already been covered by several other artists--both in America and the UK--but this was it's most high profile version since the original. (8.875/10)

8. "The Cuckoo" (4:30) another traditional English folk song that is receiving a very special rendering by this band of extraordinary artists--including a more modern re-write(!). (8.75/10)

9. "House Carpenter" (5:32) a traditional song whose lyric/story is, for me, detracted from by the loud presence of the banjo and sitar. I would love to hear this in a trio format with just guitar, double bass, and voice. (8.6667/10)

Total Time: 41:00

A very unusual "folk" album in which the progginess is revealed through the unusual time signatures and some very creative and innovative musical ideas and forms. The inventive arrangements of the vocals and rhythm tracks are, of course, greatly augmented by the dynamic bass playing of Danny Thompson on his beloved Victoria, the amazing intuitive interplay between Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, as well as the steadfast and pure vocal performances of Jacqui McShee.

A-/five stars; an essential addition to any Prog Folk loving music collector as well as an excellent addition to any fan of virtuosic instrumental interplay (albeit, herein, mostly acoustic).

Latest members reviews

5 stars The Pentangle's Basket of Light album from 1969 is adorned by many great PA reviews and that's for many good reasons. First off, it's leadoff track Light Flight is a prog lover's dream with it's incredible time changes (7/8, 5/8 and 6/4) with electrifying playing from all involved, which i ... (read more)

Report this review (#1390642) | Posted by SteveG | Monday, March 30, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Pentangle's warm mix of free jazz, traditional folk, blues and slight gospel is a real winner, they are a band of competent and inspired musicians that work very well together. Jacqui McShee handles her vocals very well, they are pure and beautiful. The male singer isn't quite up to par, his wave ... (read more)

Report this review (#115173) | Posted by OGTL | Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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