en: Reflection (Pentangle album) [info]
Fresh, intimate, strangely funky, beautifully melancholic, Reflection sank like a stone in 1971. Now it's time to welcome it back. From their first release The Pentangle (1968) to their best selling Basket Of Light (1969), Pentangle carved out a unique sound shot through with jazz and blues, seamlessly grafting their native folk onto a more contemporary rootstock. But with declining popularity, personal problems, business shenanigans and fights within the band fuelled by alcohol, Reflection was begun.
Along with John Renbourne and Bert Jansch, both top-notch acoustic guitarists, stand Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, experienced hands on the blues and jazz scene (via Alexis Korner). This combination, set off by the beguiling vocals of Jacqui McShee, set Pentangle apart from the usual expectations of a folk act. While "Wedding Dress", "Omie Wise", "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" and "Rain And Snow" represent the more traditional Appalachian end of the album, they are freshly and compellingly interpreted.
On "Helping Hands", John Renbourne addssilky wah wah ad-libs to a sublime west coast hip(py) groove.On "So Clear", his sweetly understated vocal accompanies a picked guitar backdrop, before the songbuilds to a jazzier workout with Cox and Thompson pushing the groove 'till you're convinced it will fall apart. Bert Jansch's "When I Get Home" is reminiscent of Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side", coming a year before it and sharing the groove and atmosphere, if not the sentiment. Considering Reed's band of Brits (Herbie Flowers, Mick Ronson etc), its perhaps not so surprising.
For me, "Reflection" is marred only by the double tracking of McShee's vocal. Elsewhere her voice is warm and expressive. The track oscillates between straight-ahead one chord blues and a looser 12/8 swing, including a surprisingly tasteful drum solo. Nice to hear a snare drum with gravitas and not tuned up to within an inch of its life. I can hear within its rolling, mesmeric beats and motifs more than a hint of Chico Hamilton, and Renbourne's part may even be lifted directly from said jazzman.
With its sympathetic and transparent production (Bill Leader providing the safe pair of hands) this record still sounds great 30 years on.