The Pentangle: Basket Of Light Page 2

Other prestigious appearances followed, including a spot on the bill of the Isle Of Wight Festival and, with a deal with Transatlantic Records in the bag, they made a couple of cracking albums: The Pentangle and Sweet Child – both released in 1968 – before embarking upon the masterpiece we're here to enjoy today, 1969's Basket Of Light.

It was produced by Shel Talmy, the American already famous for doing all those great early Kinks singles, plus The Who's My Generation, and presented in a gatefold sleeve depicting the group onstage at The Royal Albert Hall. Basket Of Light was their artistic and commercial zenith, reaching No 5 in the UK album charts and yielding their highest entry in the singles chart, a dizzying number 43!

Taking Flight
The single was 'Light Flight', a lovely Swinging London thing and a little like The Seekers' marvellous 'Georgy Girl' from 1966, which was greatly helped by being employed as the theme tune to a very groovy 1960s BBC TV show about newly liberated career lasses making their youthful way in the big smoke. The show was Take Three Girls and the song suited it to a mini-skirted T. After all, it was a skipping down a suburban street on a sunny spring morning kind of number.

The rest of the album is somewhat darker in tone. 'Lyke Wake Dirge', for example, is their modish take on a traditional piece about keeping watch on the soul as it ascends on the tricky trip from the grave to purgatory. 'Sally Go Round The Roses', while based on a hit for a 1963 girl group from The Bronx called The Jaynetts, was popularly thought to have been based on the nursery rhyme 'Ring Around The Rosie' – the inspiration for which some scholars traced to the sneezing, rash and necessary cremation associated with the Great Plague of 1666. 'The Cuckoo', another British traditional number that had crossed the Atlantic and back, dealt with cruel infidelity, the migrant bird who lays its eggs in others' nests a symbol of the unfaithful chap sowing his seed hither and thither then scarpering on.


'Once I Had A Sweetheart' kind of speaks for itself, its melancholy underpinned by some beautiful sitar work, but stark and saddest of all, at least to these ears, is 'House Carpenter', another trad-based tear-jerker about a woman who is seduced away from her husband and kids by the promise of a fleet of ships laden with treasure, only to discover that her lover is, in fact, the devil. In the throes of mournful regret, she glimpses heaven before the demon drowns her and she descends into hell.

Not exactly joyful stuff, granted, but certainly a joy to listen to. There's a rare exuberance to the performances, a celebratory and exploratory tone, five bright skill-sets harmoniously focused to one excellent aim – to treasure, reclaim and refashion the past rather than dump it in wild pursuit of the novel and new. Of course, the coalition didn't last, as nothing does. There were a couple more very good albums (1970's Cruel Sister is definitely worth checking out), a reunion or two, highly acclaimed, and a few partial re-assemblies, Renbourn passing on in 2006, aged 70, victim of a heart attack.

Still, Basket Of Light stands as a brilliant example of the '60s willingness to experiment and embrace other times and cultures, and it's the disc that positions Pentangle, alongside The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention, as an exalted member of the Holy Trinity of British folk rock groups.

Re-Release Verdict
The Pentangle's third LP, the 40-minute Basket Of Light, was recorded at IBC Studios, Portland Place, London W1, and released in a gatefold sleeve on the Transatlantic label in October 1969 [TRA 205]. The first track, 'Light Flight', was reissued as a single on the subsidiary Big T label the same year. The high-quality 180g vinyl release reviewed here is on the Music On Vinyl imprint [MOVLP2353] and also comes in a gatefold sleeve with the original artwork and brief explanatory notes on each of the album's nine songs. HFN