Recording of December 1970: The Pentangle

Pentangle: The Pentangle
Terry Cox (drums), Bert Jansch & John Renbourn (guitars), Jacqui McShee (vocals), Danny Thompson (double bass), Shel Talmy, prod.
Transatlantic TRA162 (English LP), Reprise RSLP63 15 (US LP). TT: 30:52.

The first "pop" recording we've ever reviewed in Stereophile may set a precedent for future reviews if there are others that sound like this. To this untutored ear, the material is rock out of raga, but it is beautifully done and, except for the larger-than-life singer, the sound is almost shockingly good. No filthy fuzzed-up guitars here, and the pickup of the double-bass simply has to be heard to be believed. Get it, at least as a demo.—J. Gordon Holt

dalethorn's picture

Is very good, but did anyone notice that the live (or alternate?) takes really sound more alive and spacious than the studio equivalents? I think it was Way Behind The Sun where the studio version sounded almost constricted compared to the live version. That's the impression I got, even allowing for different acoustics in the different recording venues.

dalethorn's picture

While I opined that some tracks are better than others here, I've continued listening and feel I should give this an unreserved recommendation. Not only is the sound good to great, but the music is wonderful. My personal collection is very shy on the 'folk' genres, but this album makes up for a lot of other misses.

John Atkinson's picture
From Allen Edelstein, a friend of Gordon's since the 1960s:

There is a sort of interesting side bar to Gordon's review of The Pentangle. On the basis of his review readers went out and purchased the LP. But he received letters asking him what he was listening to. They called the sound was at best so so. It turned out that the album was released on the Reprise label in the USA, not on the Transatlantic label from England, which was the album Gordon reviewed.

And it was remastered. I had a friend, Ken Subramanian who had both versions and he played them for me. It was my first lesson in how badly poor mastering can be. Dynamics were reduced. Transparency was poorer. Depth was gone. I could go on.

Gordon eventually realized what happened but I don't believe he reported it in the magazine.

Allen Edelstein

dalethorn's picture

Holt spoke often of the dismal state of affairs regarding LP's issued by U.S. labels such as Columbia, Capitol, etc., from the 60's through much of the 70's at least. His most frequent complaint was that they were shrill, probably to compensate for the average classical music consumer's limited gear.

For me in the 70's, a much worse problem arose: vinyl filler. I can't speak to the majority of classical LP's then, since we purchased Japanese, British, German, and MFSL LP's wherever we could get them. But American pop LP's sounded like they were made of sand. And that's not the worst - a few audiophiles got broken stylii on some very pricy cartridges when they encountered actual holes in the vinyl.

TG04's picture

That's funny, as a budding young audiophile in Europe at the time, I was repeatedly told to seek out the U.S. original issues as they were considered far superior to the european pressings (maybe because of generation losses in the latter)

dalethorn's picture

I have had some pressings from Germany and Japan that didn't sound like their masters were as good as some American pressings. Even the esteemed Mobile Fidelity issued a few albums that weren't as good as they should have been. Gordon Holt's main complaints about the sound, as best I remember, were about shrillness and other distortions in the 1960's pressings, some of that deliberate by the record co's. My impression of sound from the mid 70's on was much better than that, but the vinyl (if that's the right term) was often horrible, and never anywhere near what we got from Japan or the U.K. Fortunately we had dealers like Jonas Miller in Santa Monica Calif. who had a good selection of foreign pressings.