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Lunch » Tags » Musicians » Reviews » Pentangle


1 rating: 5.0
A very strange 60s acoustic folk/rock/jazz/medieval group


Genre: Jazz
1 review about Pentangle

Brilliance comes in all forms with this group

  • Jun 3, 2009
  • by
I thought about just doing one CD, but there are just so many CDs from this wonderful group that I finally decided to do the whole group.  Pentangle was the brain child of two folk/jazz/classical/medieval guitarists in the late 60s.  The first was Bert Jaensch, a pure folkie in the tradition of Dylan, Donovan and the great folk movement of the 60s.  The second was John Renbourn, a more classically trained guitarist with a fascination for serious blues, jazz and medieval music.  They worked as a duo for a couple of years in the early 60s, playing mostly original pieces and/or classical stuff arranged for two guitars, although they also occasionally would add a Charles Mingus jazz tune as well.   Jaensch would also occasionally try to sing.  (Frankly, he is the only professional musician who sings worse than I do, and believe me, that's saying something).  Then, in 1968, they added a studio jazz drummer and bassist and a lovely and very talented female singer, and Pentangle was formed.  Even then, though, their music was so varied as to be nearly schizo.  They did Jaensch originals which were very folky, jazz standards, serious and sometimes very nasty blues tunes, spirituals, traditional Irish, Scottish and English folk and drinking songs, and medieval classical pieces by serious medieval composers.  One of their most famous performances is the 12th century piece The Lyke Wake Dirge, which was originally a pagan dirge, and then was borrowed (stolen? confiscated?) by the Catholic church and now in the 21st century has been returned to the pagans and wiccans again.  This piece has odd modal harmonies so prevelant in the 12th century, but Pentangle sings it beautifully.  On the same CD that has this piece, though, they also perform Goodbye Porkpie Hat, which Charles Mingus wrote to honor Lester Young when he died.  (For those who are not jazz fans, Charles Mingus was one of the finest bassists in the history of jazz, and Lester Young still has followers among present day tenor sax men).  They also do some traditional folk and an original by Jaensch.  I can honestly say that if you don't like one tune or style, wait a minute.  This group was so versatile that they would eventually play something you would love.  Renbourn left the group to go solo in the late 1970s, and formed several different medieval/renaissance groups.  He did very well.  Both the bassist and drummer returned to the studio around 1980.  Jaensch and Jacqui McShee (the female vocalist) found other musicians and Pentangle remainted active until well into the 1990s, continuing to make more CDs of varied music, and doing it well.  They never achieved the fame of the original group, though, and although all of the later groups were excellent, in my opinion, no other group was quite as musically adept as the first group, either.  It's only unfortunate that they didn't achieve more fame in the US.  They were special.

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June 04, 2009
Your attributes won't let me save members. They are John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox. I'm trying to use the extras, but sometimes they won't let me. Sorry.
June 04, 2009
I've listened to a bit of Pentangle in my day. The only albums that survived the downsizing when I moved though were things like Silly Wizard, the Tannahill Weavers, a Fairport Convention, and (for sentimental reasons) the old Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem's. And some badly worn Theodore Bikels.
June 04, 2009
You kept some good stuff, but I really loved Pentangle. Great sound, no matter what style they play
June 04, 2009
I never owned any of their albums but they did get play time on WUSF. They had 2 shows in a row that I used to listen to regularly. One was Music of the Isles which was primarily British, Scottish, Irish etc but would also include stuff from across the channel in Brittany. The other was a bit more eclectic.
June 04, 2009
Cool. I discovered them when I was stationed in Newfoundland. They got all the British stuff. I really love their music.
June 04, 2009
There was a pub we used to go to on St. Pete Beach that had an Irish singer who'd come to the U.S. via Canada. He was their regular in-house singer for years and got me tapes of some newer groups I hadn't heard of like Men Of No Property. But when I asked questions about them he said he couldn't tell because if he did he'd have to kill me. They were very underground at the time, subversive.
June 04, 2009
Interesting. The Newfs used to introduce me to these same groups and tell me more than I wanted to know sometimes. Newfoundland also had a very active music scene during those days. The musicians, unfortunately, never achieved fame. Some of them were incredible.
June 05, 2009
I had an even stranger encounter involving an Irish shop up in New Port Richey. I told a guy who was visiting from Ireland about the place and  Jerry who sang there and this guy asked me to ask Jerry if he played this very specific type of drum. So stupid me I asked him the next time I went there and Jerry nearly blew a fuse, all he said was "That's a Protestant Drum!" I was pretty pissed off too because that guy knew that he was using me for Catholic baiting.
June 05, 2009
Yeah, unfortunately that old Catholic/Protestant thing is still bad in Ireland. Of course, I blame the British. Then again, all Irishmen blame the British for everything. Still, that was not nice of the first fellow.
June 05, 2009
Yeah. When I thought back on it I realized it had been intentional because he had sort of a smirk on his face.
June 04, 2009
Hey there John! I must say, I've been catching your reviews more and more lately. From your recommended websites, to your classic films, and now some insight on your musical taste...all of which are being found helpful and welcomed here on Lunch! I noticed you've got a good mix of both factual information as well as your take on each of the things you review. You would probably appreciate how we separate the two, by placing all of the facts in the wiki section, leaving the actual review for some of your greatest commentary that I know the community will appreciate. Thanks for sharing, John!
June 04, 2009
I am trying, but the Wiki section won't let me. I am not all that computer literate. Sorry. You'll have to make do with what I can do, or else just no longer read my stuff. Sorry
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