The Lost Broadcasts
1968-72 (Hux Records 049, 2004)
I’ve never been able to make up my mind about Pentangle. were they a unique
fusion quintet brimming with virtuosity or an entity seemingly designed by
committee, all those influences pulling in different directions? Sometimes they
gelled and at other times they sounded a bit awkward, as though the effort of
unifying the diversity was too much.
This double CD unearths recordings made for various BBC broadcasts tracing
the arc of their commercial success and appeal up to work which appeared on the
recently re-released Solomon’s Seal, their final album. It shows a band
incorporating blues, traditional folk and elements of jazz as well as original
compositions. Some have worn better than others but it is a fair representation
of the band on good form.
Jacqui McShee had a voice of almost unparalleled purity and her performance
on some of the material was peerless. ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’ and ‘The
Cuckoo’ are excellent examples of the clarity and strength of her delivery. Even
the much anthologised ‘Light Flight’ has lasted well, mainly thanks to her
impeccable voice. She sounds less at home on the Furey Lewis blues, ‘Turn Your
Money Green’ and some of the shared vocals with Bert Jansch. He was and is a
fine guitarist but I find his voice monotonous and dirge-like. He may have
provided a contrast to McShee but it was one I could live without.
On the second CD they perform a version of one of my favourites, ‘Lyke Wake
Dirge’ which still sends shivers down the spine. This spare treatment of the
ballad was one of their most successful, giving due prominence to the menace of
the lyrics whilst embellishing them with the right amount of instrumental colour.
By comparison, ‘Reynardine’ is a little lifeless though that may be due to
Jansch’s voice again. When McShee sings ‘Hunting Song’ they sound much better
and the presence of Danny Thompson’s bass and Terry Cos’s glockenspiel
underscores the wonderful vocal.
Not surprisingly some material sounds cluttered and muddy, ‘Name Of The
Game’, for example, but that could be due to the age of the tapes and the
recording techniques of the day. In all, these two CDs capture the band as a
balanced unit, fusing their diverse influences cohesively.