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Prog Folk • United Kingdom

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The Pentangle biography
Formed in London, UK in 1967 - Disbanded in 1973 - Reformed from 1981-1995 and again 2008-2011

PENTANGLE was formed in 1967 by John Renbourn and Bert JANSCH two guitarists who had both already recorded as solo artists since 1965. Both musicians had recorded together 'Bert and John' in 1966 for 'Transatlantic'. Jacqui McShee who joined the band on vocals had already worked with John Renbourn on his first solo record. The rhythm section was formed by Danny Thompson on double bass and Terry Cox on drums and percussion, both former sidemen of Alexis Korner in his band ALEXIS KORNER BLUES INCORPORATED.
PENTANGLE played a mixture of Jazz and Folk with Blues-elements, influences that the band integrated in their debut record 'The Pentangle' which was produced by Shel Talmy. The same year PENTANGLE released their second record 'Sweet child' a double LP consisting of live and studio tracks and containing among others two compositions by Charlie Mingus 'Haitian Fight Song' and 'Goodbye Pork Pie hat'. In 1969 they released their masterpiece 'Basket of Light' , a commercial success including the single 'Light Flight' which served as the theme song to the UK television series 'Take three girls'. PENTANGLE released three other records, 'Cruel sister' in 1970, 'Reflection' in 1971 and 'Solomon's seal' in 1972, before breaking up in 1973. While Bert Jansch and John Renbourn continued as solo artists, the latter with singer Jacqui McShee in the JOHN RENBOURN BAND, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox returned to session work. The original line up reformed in 1982 for a European and Australian tour. John Renbourn left before the release of the 1985 record 'Open the door' and was replaced by Mike Piggott. For the next ten years the band continued to record with changing outfits, 'So Early in the Spring' (1988), 'Think of Tomorrow' (1991), 'One More Road' (1991) and a live record in 1994 'Pentangle Live 1994'. In 1995 Jacqui Mc Shee recorded together with Gerry Conway, Spencer Cozens and guest musicians 'About Thyne. This record was the starting point for JACQUI MCSHEE'S PENTANGLE a refreshed PENTANGLE that released 'Passe Avant' in 1989, the live record 'At the Little Theatre' in 2000 and 'Feoffee's Land' in 2005.

The PENTANGLE records recorded between 1968 and 1972 are highly recommended.

: : : Martin 'Alucard' Horst, FRANCE : : :

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THE PENTANGLE discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

THE PENTANGLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.88 | 58 ratings
The Pentangle
3.68 | 50 ratings
Sweet Child
4.15 | 127 ratings
Basket Of Light
3.41 | 57 ratings
Cruel Sister
3.44 | 34 ratings
3.27 | 35 ratings
Solomon's Seal
3.92 | 21 ratings
Open The Door
3.55 | 13 ratings
In The Round
2.71 | 11 ratings
So Early In The Spring
2.77 | 12 ratings
Think Of Tomorrow
3.31 | 11 ratings
One More Road

THE PENTANGLE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.04 | 5 ratings
Live At The BBC (aka On Air)
2.44 | 6 ratings
The Lost Broadcasts 1968-1972
3.08 | 3 ratings
One More Road & Live 1994
4.86 | 5 ratings

THE PENTANGLE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.02 | 7 ratings
Captured Live

THE PENTANGLE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.12 | 7 ratings
3.09 | 6 ratings
A Maid Deep In Love
3.13 | 4 ratings
The Collection
4.03 | 8 ratings
The Time Has Come: 1967-1973

THE PENTANGLE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Finale by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Live, 2016
4.86 | 5 ratings

The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

5 stars Saving the best for last?

Finale is a live album that consists of the original folk/jazz/bues rock pioneering Pentangle members, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Terry Cox, Danny Thompson and Jacqui McShee, that was recorded during a summer reunion tour in 2008, but not released until this year. Guitarists Jansch and Renbourn have now both, sadly, passed away. Finale is a fitting memorial to their fine artistry, which seemed to have shone the brightest when the two were in the company of the afore noted drummer, double bassist and lead vocalist, respectively. The group's first six studio albums are equally represented with Finale's nineteen songs.

Having won a Life Achievement Award by BBC Radio 2 in 2007, the original Pentangle members finally put long standing differences, both artistic and personal, aside in order to celebrate their music and their long time fans, with a series of stellar performances that were expertly captured for prosperity. The recordings were aided by state of art mobile digital recording techniques, that were further enhanced by Jansch selecting the best song performances and mixing them, while Renbourn aided in their mastering.

The result is some of the best sounding Pentangle recordings to date, be they live or studio. The low resonances reproduced by Danny Thompson's propulsive bass playing was merely hinted at on any of the group's first six studio albums, while Terry Cox's drums finally sound real and dynamic instead the thin cardboard box bashing that came across on the band's early albums.

Only Jacqui McShee sounds just a bit thin on a couple of songs (a recording glitch perhaps), otherwise, her vocal delivery is still strong, if just a bit measured.

And what of the two guitar heroes? Well, Renbourn plays with an authority that was only suggested at back in the day, and, if it can be believed, plays better then he did forty five years earlier, and that includes some wonderful sitar playing on two tracks. Jansch mostly ceded the guitar honors to Renbourn this time around, as he was too busy singing lead, or alternating lead vocals with McShee, on about a third of this album's songs. Jansch still had a wonderfully strong voice at that time and it doesn't sound as if had aged a single day. But don't fret. He exchanges red hot guitar leads with Renbourn on the instrumentals "In Time", and the Mingus jazz standard "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", just like in the days of yore.

However, to dwell on the individual band members defeats the purpose of this fine album. Its the chemistry that was generated anytime these powerhouse musicians were in earshot of each one another that is to be enjoyed and celebrated. The jazz inflections and solos from Thompson and Cox, the fluid guitar lines of Renbourn, Jansch's percussive finger picking and world weary baritone, and of course, McShee's cooing bluesy siren calls which were often contrasted by her near angelic traditional folk song delivery. Only drummer Tony Cox, who hasn't played in anger (or at all!), for the last 20 years sounds a bit stiff and workmen like, but he was never a focal point of the band's music and no song suffers because of his long absence away from a drum kit.

I could be bemoan the absence of standout songs like "Way Behind The Sun" from the group's eponymous debut album, or "Train Song" form the Basket Of Light album. However, that's only because so much of their early collective output was so outstanding that fifty of their songs seem like essentials. What more can a reviewer say than that?

If you only own one Pentangle album, it should be Finale. If you own most of their output, then this album is icing on a very delicious and rich musical cake. Simpy put, it's an essential album artistically, sonically and, most of all for those who were initiated into Pentangle long ago, emotionally.

 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.27 | 35 ratings

Solomon's Seal
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The final album of Pentangle's original incarnation gets short shrift, but I actually quite like it. Yes, the band sound weary here - and it's not hard to imagine why if you know about the interpersonal strife within the group and the legal and contractual issues they were having - but I actually think the weariness adds something to the sound of the album, a sort of wistful sadness shot through with the occasional hot dose of bitterness which adds texture to the proceedings. Otherwise, it's business as usual, competently delivered and tastefully accomplished. It wasn't enough to save the band, but it's more than enough to keep me happy.
 The Pentangle by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.88 | 58 ratings

The Pentangle
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Pentangle kicked off their career here with this early release which sits alongside early releases by Fairport Convention as a rough blueprint for the British folk-rock scene (as distinct from the folk rock style that would be derived from Dylan, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and other such artists in the States). Pinches of jazz and blues stylings spice things up without allowing them to stray too far from the folk baseline, and the combination of innovative arrangements of traditional fare and group compositions retains the listener's interest all the way through. It isn't essential - I'd listen to Sweet Child as a first port of call for the band - but it's pretty good.
 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.27 | 35 ratings

Solomon's Seal
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars continues to expose the world to the extraordinary talents of jazz-oriented bass player Danny THOMPSON and his friend Victoria (the name he gave to the Gand stand up double bass that he has used almost exclusively throughout his much lauded career). In fact the presence of that bass playing alone renders this album unique in my listening experience (it is only my second Pentangle album)--I can think of no other folk or prog albums up to this time (1972) that use the double bass in this fashion. Then throw in the wonderful lead vocal work of Bert Jansch and Jacqui McShee and the delicate and selective interplay of the other strings (acoustic guitars, banjo, and sitar) and you have a full band of virtuosi weaving their weaves in quite a masterful way. And I did not even mention the amazing work of percussionist Terry Cox. I do not know of many bands even in the jazz fusion sub-genre who weave together their songs so intricately. How this album goes so poorly rated I do not know. It is a masterpiece by my standards--one that never ceases to make my jaw drop with every listen. The musicians are so accomplished in their instrumental play and Jacqui McShee is at her very, very finest. I find it mystifying. This album was apparently the last of the original "classic" Pentangle lineup. I see a bit of a parallel to the course of the band RENAISSANCE during a phase of their career in which one of their final "prog" albums (Novella) feels "tired" to many listeners. Well, I don't hear it. They sound like they're at the top of their games (except the weak male vocals on "Snow" and "People on the Highway." And I know that these amazing musicians all went on to continue producing top-notch music for years after this album.

Favorite songs: 1. "Sally Free and Easy" (3:56) (10/10); 7. "No Love Is Sorrow" (2:47) (10/10); "The Cherry Tree Carol" (3:04) (9/10); 4. "High Germany" (3:19) (9/10); 6. "Willy O' Winsbury" (5:56) (9/10), and even; 5. "People on the Highway" (4:45) (8/10).

A solid four star album of prog folk: an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

 Think Of Tomorrow by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.77 | 12 ratings

Think Of Tomorrow
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Six of one, or a half dozen of the other.

Think Of Tomorrow, a 1991 offering from the reconstituted Pentangle, was recorded for the German Hypertension label in, literally, a rush due some bizarre disturbances with airline booking due the quickly escalating Gulf War and the fact that band was caught off guard by the Hypertension's sudden offer to record the group, which resulted in the group not having quite a full album's worth of material to record.

Lead guitar duties were taken up by Bert Jansch's friend Peter Kirtley, a finger style electric blues guitarist, with Nigel Portman Smith and Gerry Conway returning on bass and drums respectively.

What gives most of this material a kick is that Jansch, having fully recovered from alcoholism, was writing some of the best songs of his storied career was combining themes of ecological demise along feeling relationships and combining them with music that sported brilliant melodies.

Standouts include the album's first four songs which display vintage Jansch songwriting such as O'er The Lonely Mountain, Baby It's Over, Share A Dream, and The Storyteller (Paddy's Song). Jaqui Mcshee sings beautifully in a more 'breathy' vocal style and still has great vocal range to match her penchant infuse this material with emotion without sounding cloying.

Kirtley supplies the gritty blues number Meat On The Bone, which would not sound out of place on a Chris Rea album, and the band follows with a composition Ever Yes, Ever Know, which sounds like one the better tracks on Renaissance's Asure D'or album from 1979. Good Stuff.

Unfortunately, the group resort to traditional material such as The Lark In The Clear Air and The Bonny Boy (a Jansch reworking of the trad. song The Trees They Do Grow High), as well a trite pop rock original titled Color My Paint Book, in order to fill up album space which unfortunately puts a damper to the album's last five tracks.

However, when the music on Think Of Tomorrow is good, it's very good. 3 stars.

 One More Road & Live 1994 by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Live, 2006
3.08 | 3 ratings

One More Road & Live 1994
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Bert leaves the Pentangle on a high note.

Before relinquishing control of the Pentangle name to co-founder Jacqui McShee, Bert Jancsh and the reformed Pentangle recorded a studio album, that was released in 1993, and a live album, released in 1994, for the small but dedicated following of fans that the band still enjoyed in Germany in the nineties and is the basis for this double CD compilation.

The studio material displays the most overt of the band's slightly harder but more conventional, for the times, folk rock sound that would not be out of place with contemporary Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span material. Long gone all the band's trademark jazz flourishes, which seemed to disappear years earlier when double bass great Danny Thompson left the group.

The Pentangle, at this juncture, are still world class musicians and McShee is as brilliant a vocalist as ever.

The key to the success of this material is that Jansch is still a great songwriter, both musically and lyrically, as is displayed on the One More Road studio disc while the band as a whole effortlessly show off their live wares on the live disc titled Live In 1994. Put together by UK's Hux label, both albums are excellently remastered and make a good match. Especially since many of the studio disc's songs sound like they were cut live in the studio, so there's a sonic continuity between the two recordings.

Is this double offering a necessary addition for a Pentangle collector? Probably not. But it is extremely enjoyable to listen to. 3.5 stars.

 Open The Door by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.92 | 21 ratings

Open The Door
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Fifteen years is a long time for a follow up album, but Pentangle's 1984 reunion album Open The Door, while not a direct follow up to the group's 1969 pinnacle Basket Of Light, is just that.

Basket Of Light was immediately followed by three disappointing Pentangle studio albums, Cruel Sister, Reflection and Solomon's Seal, that went away from the group's original folk/blues/jazz fusion songs and concentrated instead on traditional folk tunes or originals that were in the same vain, the others having a distinctive country vibe.

Reasons for this are speculative, but it's safe to assume that Bert Jansch's displeasure with the treatment the band received by both it's record label and it's then manager that was in sharp contrast to that of fellow Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn was a key factor. Further differences in the two guitarists playing styles and changing musical preferences led to the Open The Door reunion album being recorded without Renbourn (who decided to pursue a music degree), with Mike Piggott drafted in to replace him. Piggot is also an accomplished electric guitarist as well as an excellent fiddle player.

The result is that Open The Door, while still lacking in overt jazz references, is extremely fresh sounding, as if the reconfigured group was shot with a much needed dose of enthusiasm. The album is, ironically, nearly bracketed by two traditional folk songs with much of the newer material placed in between.

Standout tracks include the trad songs Open The Door and Yarrow, with originals like Dragonfly, Child Of Winter, Lost Love, Sad Lady and Taste Of Love revealing once again solid songwriting and execution from this once venerated group. These songs are again in the folk vain, but still feature a bluesy, and sometimes occasional jazzy undercurrent, while closing track Street Song lets double bass great Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox cut loose to do their jazz thing one last time, as this being the great rhythm duo's last album together as Thompson was not present for any following albums. Long time original members Jacqui McShee, Thompson, Cox and Jansch are all in fine voice or playing ability and this album features the welcome return of Jansch's familiar string snapping playing style that was such a fixture and trademark on the band's first three classic albums. Piggott adds tasty low volume country style electric guitar licks at times, and his fiddle playing is meant to invoke mood and atmosphere and never strays into a Fairport Convention foot stomping "hoe down" style.

Open The Door is a refreshing reminder that Pentangle were a world class band and deserved their formally exalted reputation, and the pastoral album cover sets up this material quite well. 4 stars.

 In The Round by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.55 | 13 ratings

In The Round
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars And now for something completely different.

Well, perhaps just a bit different. This reconfigured version of the British band Pentangle sees the departure of stand up bassist Danny Thompson replaced by guitarist Bert Jansch's friend Nigel Portman-Smith on electric bass, as the group exercises their penchant for American Country and Western music by creating some great country songs of their own.

What Pentangle only hinted to in the past on covers of such songs as Cold Mountain and Will The Circle Be Unbroken, comes to full fruition on bluesy country tinged originals like this album's opening track Play The Game, Sunday Morning (which has lyrical echoes of the Johnny Cash classic Sunday Morning Coming Down) and the sublime jazzy Chase That Devil Away.

Bert Jansch, strangely, as he was by his own account deeply in trouble with alcohol abuse around this time, is in extremely fine voice and penned three his finest and most introspective songs The Open Sea, The Saturday Movie and the fantastic Let Me Be. Jansch's tunes go away from the country vibe of this album and add an air of disunity, but also a welcome respite.

Vocalist Jacqui McShee absolutely shines in singing this material and is still a revelation. Drummer Terry Cox forgoes his more percussion based playing style for that of a straight up but effective rock drummer and meshes perfectly with Portman-Smiths fretless burping bass style.

The only down side that I can find with In The Round is two pedestrian covers of the traditional folk songs She Moved Trough The Fair and Suil Agrar, which I feel were done to keep their hard core folk fans happy. None the less, 4 stars is in order.

Perhaps this album is a bit of a guilty pleasure for the Prog-Folk fan, but it's irresistible ear candy and quite a refreshing return to quality from a band that had been plagued with personal, as well as professional, problems up until this point in their on again, off again career. 4 stars.

 The Lost Broadcasts 1968-1972 by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Live, 2005
2.44 | 6 ratings

The Lost Broadcasts 1968-1972
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

1 stars I believe that this is the first time I have ever rated an album with a lowly one star. However, I have some very good reasons for doing so.

This collection of BBC sessions from The Pentangle are "from off the air" private recordings, as no BBC archival recordings of The Pentangle are known to exist. Shame on the BBC.

Well, not really. The BBC didn't have all of the session recordings that made up the impressive Fairport Convention BBC sessions compilation album titled Hey Day, which featured never recorded cover versions of American folk songs from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen on through to Joni Mitchell, along with many other notable American folk artists. Original Fairport bassist and co-founder Ashley Hutchings at least had 1/4 inch tape "safety copies" made for his private collection that were of decent sound quality and were used to make the album. And what if they were not? Those rare Fairport recordings would still have warranted a listen regardless of the sound quality, as does the rare but dodgy sounding mark 1 Renaissance recordings titled Past Orbits Of Dust 1969/70. The early John Hawken led version of the now familiar Annie Haslam era mark ll lineup is precious because the group was only together for one year and were indeed rarely recorded live except for two or three songs that were occasionally recorded for "one off" radio broadcasts.

This is not the case with The Pentangle: The Lost Broadcasts 1968-1972. There is nothing super rare on this collection except a group arrangement of the inane song Moondog, which was a filler piece for drummer Terry Cox on the group's second album titled Sweet Child, in much the same way that Ringo Starr's songs were filler on many Beatles albums. Rubbish.

The sound quality of The Pentangle: The Lost Broadcasts ranges from poor (mostly) to passable (on rare occasions). As I've stated, there are no historical performances featured on this BBC sessions compilation, and I can not think of any viable reason why it exists. Pass this one up unless you are a diehard fan that must have everything recorded by this once revered British folk/blues/jazz rock fusion ensemble.

 Cruel Sister by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.41 | 57 ratings

Cruel Sister
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Left turn, Clyde.

No early Pentangle album split fans as much as 1970's studio offering titled Cruel Sister. After the relative success of 1969's Basket Of Light that featured the British chart hit Light Flight, several member's of the group were actually disturbed by their relative success, as if Basket Of Light with it's stunning interplay of jazz rhythms, acoustic guitar pyrotechnics and exquisite singing was no more than a bubblegum pop album. As silly as that sounds and owing to the rival success of Fairport Convention's 1969 hit album Liege and Leif, The Pentangle decided to go in FC's pure English folk rock direction and jettisoned their jazz influences and dynamic acoustic guitar interplay, which had been a staple of the group up until that time. Indeed, this is the first studio album to feature John Renbourn on electric guitar, albeit in a very toned down delivery.

This resulted in the quick departure of uber producer Shel Talmy, who was critically influential to the band's recorded sound, as well as helping in editing and arranging the band's songs. Talmy saw no future in the band's new direction and decided to call working with The Pentangle a day.

The result is this self produced album. While critics bemoan the fact that a lot of the traditional songs on this album reek of doom and gloom, with murder, deceit, and mistreatment being the main themes, it's more of the restrained musical and vocal delivery that really lets the album down.

Jacqui McsShee does a good turn on the unaccompanied traditional song (all of the album's 5 songs are traditional English folk songs) When I Was In My Prime. However, It's far from a riveting "is it live or Memorex?" moment. In other words, don't expect any of your glassware to break on this or any of the album's songs.

Lord Franklin is a pleasant song sung by Renbourn in a pleasant monotone, but it easily displays his vocal limitations as does the album's one true progressive rock song, the 20 minute long Jack Orion, of which a majority of the vocal duties is handled by the almost equally limited Burt Jansch. The song meanders into many different themes and is actually quite interesting the first time around. But I'm afraid that's were the interest, timewise, ends.

Cruel Sister is by no means a bad album. It just happens to follow three of the best folk rock albums ever produced by a British band, which just happens to be themselves, and for better or worse, it shows. 3 stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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