One More Road & Live 1994

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This two-CD set reissues the 1993 studio album One More Road on the first disc and the 1994 live release Live 1994 on the second, serving as a thorough document of Pentangle's concert and studio activities during this period. It wasn't, of course, one of the more celebrated periods of Pentangle's career, as only singer Jacqui McShee and guitarist Bert Jansch remained from the original late-'60s/early-'70s quintet, which was by far the most popular and creative of the band's lineups. Yet while One More Road isn't a record you would group with the best of the original Pentangle's efforts, it was pretty respectable on its own terms. McShee's voice was still as regally haunting as it had been in Pentangle's prime, and the newer members of the group at least had some similar roots in folk-rock music of the '60s and '70s, with drummer Gerry Conway having played in Fotheringay and Fairport Convention; bassist Nigel Portman Smith having been in the more obscure Magna Carta; and guitarist-singer Pete Kirtley having played with Alan Price, Alan Hull, and Kevin Coyne. Yes, the mood is more low-energy and mellow than the early Pentangle records, and lacking in the sense of risk sparked by the interaction among the original quintet. But it's still quality, somber British folk-rock, mixing newly penned group originals with a few revisitations of the past; "High Germany" and "Willy O' Winsbury" had been recorded in different versions by the original Pentangle on Solomon's Seal, while "Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?" had of course been made familiar to folk and pop audiences in the '60s by Martin Carthy and Simon & Garfunkel. There are some missteps, notably Pete Kirtley's lead singing on "Endless Sky," which is a big comedown in the midst of the vocal magnificence of McShee. But the use of African rhythms and a politically compassionate lyric on "Somali" demonstrates McShee and Jansch could still move into unexpected directions.

The less impressive Live 1994 was recorded during a German tour in autumn 1994. Most of the dozen songs selected for the album had originally appeared in different versions on numerous Pentangle and Bert Jansch solo records, including the Pentangle favorites "Bruton Town" (here retitled "Bramble Briar") and "Cruel Sister," though some of the most recent songs had first been recorded on Pentangle studio releases of the '90s. There's nothing seriously flawed with this record; the sound is decent though not great, and the performances are sturdy British folk-rock. Within the whole of Pentangle's discography, however, it has to be considered one of the less essential items, both because of the absence of three original members, and the existence of considerably more exciting recordings by that original lineup (and better versions of some of the songs by earlier lineups of Pentangle, or Jansch as a solo artist). McShee's singing is certainly the most attractive element of the record, and is heard to good advantage on an a cappella performance of a traditional tune "When I Was in My Prime." But while this two-CD set is not one of Pentangle's more notable compilations, it is well packaged, including both historical liner notes and lyrics for the One More Road songs.

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