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John Renbourn Group - 2016 - “A Maid In Bremen"

(78:00; Made in Germany)


Just seeing the name John Renbourn immediately casts one back to those heady days of the late Sixties when the guitarist/singer formed Pentangle with Jacqui McShee (vocals), Bert Jansch (vocals and guitar), Danny Thompson (double bass) and Terry Cox (drums). After the original line-up broke up, he and Jacqui stayed working together, and this 1978 concert includes both Tony Roberts on flute, oboe and vocals and Keshav Sathe on tablas from the studio recording ‘A Maid In Bedlam’, while Sandy Spencer (cello) takes the place of Sue Draheim. Although Pentangle had their roots firmly in folk, they never liked the term “folk rock” and instead felt they were more “folk jazz”. This group then took it in another direction with the use of tablas making them more “folk world”. Although this recording, made by Radio Bremen on February 14th, 1978, has been made available previously, it has now been licenced by German record label MiG (Made in Germany music), which means it is easily available again, and is an absolute treasure from beginning to end. Jacqui has always been one of our finest and most prized singers, and by this time she had been singing and recording with John for more than ten years, appearing on his album ‘Another Monday’ prior to the formation of Pentangle, while performing concerts together as long ago as 1966. This quartet finds her and John coming at the music from a folk area, while Tony and Sandy are much more from the jazz idiom while tabla master Keshav has a far more Indian approach, and the combination of these different sources make for a very distinctive and powerful sound indeed. Five of the songs are from the album of the previous year, while they also feature some from the next album as well as looking back to songs played by Pentangle but given a very different arrangement indeed. I am not sure how many times I have heard “John Barleycorn” over the years, and prior to hearing this if I had been asked who did the best rendition, I would have probably gone for Fairport Convention, but there is no doubt these guys have taken it in another direction. It is no longer a bawdy drinking song but instead is something incredible, with singing in the round, wonderful harmonies from all three singers, and the tabla and cello moving the music in a very different direction indeed. The production is wonderfully clear, the performance stellar, and if one ever wanted an introduction to any of these amazing musicians then this is it. I fell in love with this the first time I played it, and it just keeps getting better.

Progtector: December 2021

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