In 1976, John Renbourn was commissioned to record an album of instrumentals for use as what is called "library music" in the U.K. (i.e., soundtrack music that can be plugged into numerous films and television programs. Unknown even to most serious Renbourn fans in its original incarnation, The Guitar of John Renbourn wasn't released commercially until 2005, when Castle issued it on CD with a historical liner note. With occasional help from Tony Roberts and fellow ex-Pentangler Jacqui McShee, Renbourn created a series of pieces designed to accompany certain moods. That's apparent from both the titles (such as "Introspection," "Summer Song," "Deserted Streets," and "Passing Time") and the "remarks" column on the back of the original sleeve, whose pithy summaries -- "gentle pastoral," "relaxed, carefree," "wistful, thought-provoking" -- were presumably intended as shorthand aids for pros looking for specific musical backgrounds. By its very nature, of course, this couldn't be considered one of Renbourn's more essential works. That noted, however, it's really quite good, and is performed with great care and genuine musical feeling. There's a soothing (but wholly non-sappy) quality to most of the material, particularly the numerous pieces that also feature recorder, and McShee adds some delightful (if a little faintly mixed) scat vocals to "Portrait of a Village" and "Summer Song." Renbourn's guitar work is excellent and varied, usually in the placidly bittersweet British folk-rock style, though there's some edgy strumming in "Light Traveller," jazz blues on "Freedom Road," and some pleasingly haunting spiky high reverberating notes on the guitar duet "Reflections (1)" (though it's not made clear whether those are the work of Renbourn or his accompanist). Not at all a superfluous entry in the Renbourn discography, it's heartily recommended to both Renbourn admirers and those who enjoy quality instrumental folk guitar music in general.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger