Sound — 10
Pentangle were formed in 1967 by Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox. Jansch and Renbourn were acoustic guitarists who had recorded albums both solo and as a duo - with their innovative fingerstyle techniques, they were leading figures in the '60s British folk revival. McShee was a singer who performed in London folk clubs, and had also run her own club (at The Red Lion in Surrey) where she met Jansch and Renbourn. "The Pentangle" is the debut of the English folk band Pentangle released in 1968. Terry Coxe (drums) and Danny Thompson (bass) had already played in Alexis Korner's band even before joining. Of course John Renbourn and Bert Jansch had recorded an album together previously and Bert Jansch would go on to achieve later of more fame, and both of them were alread well established guitar players. There is a fluent mixture of things here - "Bruton Town" and "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" are tradiitonal English folk, "Way Behind the Sun" is a blues, "Hear My Call," "Pentangling" and "Mirage" are kind of jazzy (sort of as if they're trying to do something like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks but that had a first class jazz rhythm section), Bells and Waltz are classic Jansch and Renbourn guitar duets and this is where they're really in their groove (and even Bells has a drum solo that doesn't fit properly but still gives a good impression of talent). The other styles have yet to be properly worked out.
Lyrics — 9
"Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" is a clever pun using a whole metaphorical lyrical setting to convey the depressing and cynical nature to the song about men and their lust again in a surprisingly depressive nature with that low drone bass opening in a traditional English Scottish folk setting. "Bells" is just a great jam overall featuring adroit jams, with more impeccable jazz percussion soloing and beings with impressive acoustic work. With the musicians I'll begin with Danny Thompson on bass, because, at least on this debut album, he really shines! He's got a great feel for jazz, and shows it. Then there's Jacqui McShee who puts in a really fine effort, and by the time "Way Behind the Sun" comes around. Renbourn and Jansch and just beautiful players all the way through. This is where my Pentangle journey began, and I can tell you that the album was good enough to make me hungry for more. And when you think about it, that's what debut albums are supposed to do. Jacqui McShee became the last piece of this intricate English puzzle, delivering high, expressive vocals that contrasted and merged so well with Jansch's deeper pipes. "Bruton Town" yet again offers standard melancholic setting in another greatly disturbing story full of death and bloodshed but great storytelling and a nice performance.
Overall Impression — 10
The debut offering from this well known UK folk/prog outfit is certainly promising. It's not their best, but far from their worst as well. On tap is some acoustic guitar driven, female vocal folk rock similar to the Fairport Convention although more emphasized on folk as Fairport was more rock driven at this point until their first solely folk album in a similar manner to this would be released called Leige and Lief and recorded in 1969. Pentangle really lets the more jazz oriented side of British folk arise here in prestigious form and are probably among the first to ever do such a brilliant combination. K group, but their use of four brilliant instrumentalists and strong flavours of jazz and blues gave them a unique sound which made them truly stand out from their contemporaries in the folk scene. They had signed with Transatlantic Records, and their debut album came out in 1968, which presented their innovative fusion of folk material (both traditional and original) with jazz-styled playing. They were not folk-rock (all their instrumentation was acoustic, and the drums were used more as percussion instruments than for laying down a rock beat), but they found a keen audience in the rock crowd, and indeed they helped break down the boundaries between the traditional folk and the rock/pop worlds.