The Pentangle: Sweet Child (1968)
The Pentangle sure wasted no time following their great debut with a followup album, in fact, their second album was released later the same year (1968) as their self-entitled debut, and they went way further than you expect a band that barely got started. This second album, Sweet Child was a double album, the first have being a live album, recorded June 29, 1968 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and the second half a studio effort, recorded at IBC Studios in London, August 1968. This ends up being a rather diverse album, showing the folk, jazz, and blues influences. On many cuts, it’s just vocalist Jacqui McShee with guitarist Bert Jansch, or Bert Jansch with guitarist John Renbourn, or a stand-up bass solo from Danny Thompson, and of course, full group interaction. It’s without a doubt their most daring album and I remembered having to listen to it a few times to “get it”.
OK, let’s start with the live half. Well, it’s common belief that their 1970 album Cruel Sister was their first album to use electric guitars (from John Renbourn), even I stated that in my review of that album on this site. Well, no, it was Sweet Child, as several cuts on the live half of this album features some unmistakable electric guitar from Renbourn, including the opening song, “Market Song”, where Bert and Jacqui share vocals. “No More My Lord” is a great cover of a spiritual, done in a rather nice bluesy fashion with Jacqui’s heavenly voice! “Turn Your Money Green” is the group doing a blues song, showing a more humorous side of the group. Danny Thompson takes on his version of a Charles Mingus song, “Haitian Fight Song”, which is largely a bass solo from Thompson, although drummer Terry Cox is there. Bert Jansch does “A Woman Like You”, perhaps one of the finest songs The Pentangle did without McShee’s voice. I can’t but be failed to be amazed whenever I listen to this! Another Charles Mingus cover is next, “Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat”, which, unsurprisingly, is jazzy, where John Renbourn and Bert Jansch duel on guitar. “Three Dances” are a collection of Renaissance-era songs played on guitar, with Terry Cox on glockenspiel. These three songs are “Brenzel Gay”, from 16th century French composer Claude Gervaise, a 14th Century Italian estampie called “La Rotta” (a song I am quite familiar with from a cover done by a Swedish psychedelic/prog act called Älgarnas Trädgård), and 16th composer William Byrd’s “The Earle of Salisbury”. This latter piece sounds familiar like I’ve heard it somewhere else, whatever the case, it sounded like it was originally intended for lute, but works just great on guitar here. “Watch the Stars” is John and Jacqui singing an American children’s song, which has a rather lullaby feel. Jacqui does an unaccompanied Scottish traditional song, “So Early in the Spring”, and I find it just as stunning as “When I Was In My Prime” from Cruel Sister, proving she can hold her own without any band interaction. Bert and John does a remake of a song that appeared on their 1966 album Bert and John called “No Exit” which is obviously a duet. All the live material is brand new, aside from “No Exit”, and most importantly, “Bruton Town”, which appeared on The Pentangle’s self-entitled 1968 debut. This is a traditional English folk song, and it’s a highlight here live, just like it was the highlight on the studio original from their previous album.
Now comes the studio half. The band is back to being all-acoustic, but still being quite eclectic, starting off with the title track, with Bert and Jacqui singing, and John taking lead acoustic guitar. Bert shines on the Scottish traditional “I Loved a Lass”. This ain’t exactly a happy song, because the lyrics don’t have a happy ending, but it’s quite effective. The band experiments with three-part counterpoint, with Bert and John taking on guitar, with Danny Thompson bowing his double-bass this time on “Three Part Thing”. There’s a couple more great covers of traditional English folk songs, including “Sovay” and “The Trees They Do Grow High” with Jacqui’s great and lovely voice. “Moon Dog” is Terry Cox’s number, a percussive piece with him doing vocals. The album closes with an instrumental piece, an instrumental take on Ewan McColl’s “The Big Hewer” which they entitled “Hole in the Cole”, which has a rather jazzy feel and a nice way to end this album.
The gatefold of the original LP includes photos of the band members, including whatever kids they have, or who they’re married to. Danny Thompson is with (I presume) his wife, and a (then) 5-year old son named Danny Thompson, Jr., this Danny Thompson, Jr. would be known for Hawkwind fans as being a drummer for that band in the mid to late ’80s on such albums as The Chronicle of the Black Sword (1985) and The Xenon Codex (1988) (nice to see father and son pursue musical paths, even if they were drastically different).
The back of the LP gives a description of each and every song, making my review all that much easier.
It’s truly a wonderful collection of songs, to demonstrate that The Pentangle was not an ordinary folk act, to say the least!
– Jacqui McShee: vocals
– Bert Jansch: guitars, vocals
– John Renbourn: guitars, vocals
– Danny Thompson: double bass
– Terry Cox: drums, glockenspiel, vocals
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