John Renbourn


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The bottom line is that Music Club does the very best budget compilations, with the finest track selection and best sound anywhere. Included in this set, like all of the Music Club selections, are complete -- if in miniscule typeset -- liner notes by Alan Robinson, wonderfully transferred sound, and a track selection from Renbourn's seldom-celebrated middle period from the early '70s to the mid-'80s (for no good reason). There are 13 cuts, ranging from his devastating rendition of "John Barleycorn" to "The Nine Maidens" to the knotty slip of the jazz and R&B slide that makes up the 11 minutes of "Black Balloon." Most of the tracks are taken from albums of those same names. Material has also been selected from the 1996 release of The Lost Sessions, a collection of outtakes and rejects from the same period. In addition, Renbourn's compilation also features a fine vocal performance from Jacqui McShee on "The Maid From the Shore." But the kicker on the whole set is the closing track, with Renbourn covering Dock Boggs' "O Death," with a double-tracked Renbourn vocal with cello, recorder, and guitar that lends an entirely different emphasis to Boggs' bitter and fearful rant. It takes the song back to an original not even Boggs could have fathomed, somewhere in the Anglo-Celtic folk tradition from the 16th or perhaps early 17th century and places it in a speculative, almost occult-like context. This compilation is a fine introduction to one of the most talented guitarists ever to come out of England or perhaps the 20th century, and will highlight certain nuggets that have been overlooked by fans.

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