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The Pentangle - Cruel Sister CD (album) cover


The Pentangle


Prog Folk

3.41 | 56 ratings

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3 stars A pleasant routine.

Sweet Sister is lovely and dreamy album. It is perfect by no means - but it's good enough to be enjoyable. I was somewhat disappointed, I must admit, but my disappointment is more in the fact that other PENTANGLE works are simply astonishing, while this one is not on the same level.

Why? Frankly, I don't know. First of all it's quite short - which is not necessary a bad thing, but after the last chord faded out, I felt something is missing. Complexity? Well, this one is not very complex, but that is not the issue. THE PENTANGLE were capable of writing very simple and yet highly enjoyable tunes. Diversity? How much diversity do you expect from a Celtic Folk? It's true, they used to cover medieval themes, classical miniatures, jazz and blues. This is not the case. But that shouldn't be a problem neither, or in the worst case, just a secondary reason why is this album less enjoyable than its predecessors. Perhaps the main reason is because songs are laking that instant catchy component, although after of listens I started to appreciate melodies. And structure. And musicianship. And the lyrics...

Anyway, it seems that I can't pin down what is missing in this enjoyable album, so let's have a word or two about the songs themselves: "The Maid That's Deep In Love" contains lovely, floating melody blessed by heavenly Jacqui's voice...the loveliest female voice in both prog and folk music ever (with all the respect to Sonja Christina and Sandy Denny and fans!). Main melody is repeat with guitar before (and after) Jacqui's singing. Okay, that was one lovely ballad.

A nice and quite rare example of unaccompanied vocal not only in prog but in rock music in general is "When I Was In My Prime". No instruments here, just Jacquie McShee with a little help of reverb. A strict, repetitive structure of the song is not making song less enjoyable or boring; actually it's giving a song a certain feel of ancient times. Lovely lyrics about a girl and her love compared to a rose of specific colour.

"Lord Franklin", sung by John (and he's got lovely and emotional voice too), is very quiet, mellow folk tune that was not appealing to me at the beginning, but after a half a dozen of listening, I started to appreciate the song. However, it's not very demanding or unpredictable for a prog rock fan, not even from a prog-folk point of view.

"Cruel Sister" is a little bit too long, maybe. Again, a simple pattern is followed all the time through the song (respecting the traditional structures, obviously) and although the song is lovely (that word again!), and melody catchy in a sing-long way, I feel that somehow song's length asks for a bit more things going on. Instrumentation is not very memorable, but the lyrics are. It's a whole story - a tragic story to be precise, even scary at the moments. The band actually took an old folk fairytale as a basis for a song.

Side-long "Jack Orion" is the only "real progressive rock" song here, not only for it's length; it utilises different parts, different instruments (including recorders and dulcimers) and their solos, and a nice vocal interplay(s) between Jack's and Jacqui's voice. Although the song is well-structured tapestry of different (but similar) variations, there are no really surprising or dramatic moments here, but the song is very well focused and mature.

The album itself is more than the sum of its parts...but somehow that is not enough to rise this album above the average-good level. But it will provide joy for any fan of folk and prog-folk if the lack of complexity will not raise an issue.

clarke2001 | 3/5 |


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