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JOHN RENBOURN "Sir John a lot of Faro Annie"
Castle Communications CMRCD597 - CMRCD534

Wizz Jones once described him as a musical chameleon and it's easy to see why. These discs may have been recorded in 1968 and 1971 respectively but the content could hardly have been different. Both albums are part of Castle Communications timely overhaul of the much sought after Transatlantic catalogue of recordings from the late sixties and early seventies.

To give its full title (only once I promise!) Sir John A lot of Merrie Englandes Musyk Thyng & ye Grene Knyghte was released at the height of Renbourn's creativity with the folk 'supergroup' Pentangle. Like his work with Pentangle this recording explored his love of early pastoral music, but his approach to this instrumental set was different. Whilst Pentangle recorded very quickly in the studio, this album would be elaborately crafted over multiple takes of each track. Sometimes as many as 13 takes would be completed before the final version was chosen. To allow comparison three alternate takes have been added to this re-issue. The result is a fine collection of tunes that doesn't appear to have aged a day since it was first set to tape.

Three years pass and Pentangle have all but reached the end of the road. Faro Annie is almost a swansong release for the group featuring a few guest appearances by Peter Dyer, Terry Cox, and Danny Thompson. This collection explores Renbourn's love of the blues in the greatest extent of his career to date. Gone is the painstaking attention to detail, this is the guitarist letting go. In fact the albums nearest kin is his self-titled debut. "(with Faro Annie) I felt this was an appropriate way to say 'this is where I came in, and I'm going out this way too'. A special mention should go to the vocal accompaniment of his 'then' girlfriend Sue Darheim, and the gifted Doris Henderson. Sadly this was the last appearance on any recording by Doris as she drifted into obscurity.

Renbourn fans will already understand the importance of these two albums, and the attention to detail of the remastering process throws a new light on familiar territory. If you're new to the guitarist's catalogue I can recommend no better introduction than Faro Annie.

Keith Whitham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.