The Time Has Come 1967-1973

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Like many large CD box sets, The Time Has Come is not quite a best-of or a rarities compilation, but something in between. That warning given, it also has to be added that as such things go, this four-CD, 65-track set -- drawn exclusively from their 1967-1973 recordings, and ignoring any reunion efforts -- is one of the best. For one thing, it does include quite a bit of rare material that serious Pentangle fans will want to have, including an entire disc of previously unreleased live, television, and film recordings from 1970-1973; a few more unreleased soundtrack bits and studio outtakes; and BBC sessions and B-sides that, while previously issued on CD, might not be in every Pentangle admirer's collection. Yet it doesn't lose sight of their strongest and most popular material. Most of their most essential songs are represented in either the familiar studio form or as a live/BBC/TV recording, although the absence of a few standout tunes like "Lyke-Wake Dirge" and "I've Got a Feeling" hurts a bit. The journey's also made more interesting by the inclusion of a few tracks from solo albums that John Renbourn and Bert Jansch issued during the 1967-1973 period. The devotion of the entirety of disc three to all 19 songs officially issued from their Royal Festival Hall concert of June 29, 1968 (12 of which were first released as part of their 1968 Sweet Child album, the remaining seven of which showed up on a 2001 expanded CD reissue of that record) might seem to give that material inappropriate weight. But even those tracks have been re-sequenced with (in the words of the liner notes) "much of the lengthy applause, between-song banter, and tuning up edited out," creating a more compact listening experience for those interested in re-experiencing the cuts in such a fashion.

It's the rare material that the most ardent fans of the group will want to hear most, of course, and while the rarities are a little uneven in both performance and sound quality, they dig up some worthwhile oddities. Foremost among those are a couple extracts from their soundtrack for the obscure early-'70s movie Tam Lin, including a musical adaptation of "Tam Lin" that uses an entirely different melody than the much more celebrated version that Fairport Convention put on the Liege & Lief album. "The Best of You," also from Tam Lin, was Pentangle's deepest venture into pop/rock by far, and quite a nifty one, sounding rather like the theme to a '60s mod TV adventure series with its cinematic orchestration. "Pentangling," whose seven-minute length was bold enough when it appeared on their debut LP, gets stretched out to 20 minutes in the 1970 live version here, and while it's not entirely successful in that form, it's interesting to hear the quintet improvise at such duration. Also in the interesting-but-not-great category is the bluesy "Poison," a previously unreleased August 1967 outtake from their first studio session of a song that Jansch would re-record for his 1969 solo LP, Birthday Blues. Live early-'70s television versions of two songs never included on their official releases of the period in any form, Johann Sebastian Bach's Sarabande and the American shape-note hymn "Wondrous Love" (performed with the early music group the David Munrow Ensemble), are outstanding examples of their ability to take pieces from unlikely sources and make them their own. The main attraction of this sumptuously packaged box, however, is the exhilarating interplay between the group members as they blend folk, jazz, blues, and a little rock, pop, classical, and Indian music over the course of five or so years, whether on classics like "In Time," "Light Flight," "Basket of Light," "Travelling Song," and "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" or less celebrated songs. Plus, the 56-page liner notes, dominated by Colin Harper's historical essay, contain a more detailed overview of the band's career than anything else that has ever been published.

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