Basket of Light


album cover

Inventive Music, Woven from Sturdy Folk Stock

Pentangle came together in 1967, at a time when cross-genre experimentation was rampant in rock and cherished traditional musics were routinely being upended. Even so, the quartet's collages of swaying blues, British folk song, hard-swinging jazz, and psychedelic guitar tapestries seemed, to some, preposterous. It was, to be sure, a radical lunge: No act had blended styles (or philosophies) together quite so brazenly before. Just the notion of opening up a sea chantey for renegade jazz soloing was exotic.

By the time of this third effort, Basket of Light, Pentangle had distilled its various influences into a clear, potent brew. The focal point is vocalist Jacqui McShee, who doesn't merely sing lead; she adds multitracked harmony parts, creating vocal cascades that have a willowy, sometimes haunting grace. Behind her are subtle, and surprisingly volatile, musical conversations—"Once I Had a Sweetheart," for example, is enlivened by a trippy transatlantic-blues exchange between John Renbourn on sitar and Bert Jansch on the guitar. An entirely different musical extreme is reached on "Light Flight," the nominal single, which juxtaposes jerky odd-meter instrumentals against McShee's placid singing.

The half-live, half-studio Sweet Child, which features bold reimaginings of songs by jazzman Charles Mingus and blues singer Furry Lewis, is often named as the pinnacle of Pentangle. But Basket of Light is the group's most fully realized statement—a journey in which hallowed traditional material is reborn in a tangle of wild and wondrous sounds.

Genre: Folk
Released: 1969, Translantic
Key Tracks: "Once I Had a Sweetheart," "Light Flight"
Catalog Choice: Sweet Child. John Renbourn and Bert Jansch: John Renbourn and Bert Jansch
Next Stop: Fairport Convention: Liege and Lief
After That: Ruthann Friedman: Constant Companion
Book Page: 590

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