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Interview: Jacqui McShee

PUBLISHED: 12:41 22 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:39 29 October 2010

Pentangle pictured in 1969 .

Pentangle pictured in 1969 .

Abigail Saltmarsh

Pentangle were one of the most unusual and innovative bands of the 1960s. Fresh from a reunion of the original line-up, vocalist Jacqui McShee is preparing to appear in Norwich. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to her.

Pentangle were one of the most unusual and innovative bands of the 1960s. Fresh from a reunion of the original line-up, vocalist Jacqui McShee is preparing to appear in Norwich. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to her.

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Sixties folk rockers get ready for the sounds of your youth. Singer Jacqui McShee is bringing her version of the famous Pentangle to Norwich.

McShee, who has performed in Norwich in the past with original band members John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, will be appearing at the Norwich Playhouse on September 25.

“This is my version of the original band and we perform a lot of the original songs that I brought with me,” McShee explained.

“People still love these songs these days, they have such wonderful melodies.

“They remember the traditional songs like Cruel Sister and Once I Had a Sweetheart but they also enjoy the material from my last album, Feoffees' Land.

“It still surprises me what a wide range of people turn up to hear us - those who remember us from the late 60s and early 70s as well as people who like listening to the music of today.”

McShee's extraordinary vocals are currently backed by Gerry Conway on drums and percussion, Spencer Cozens on keyboards, Alan Thompson on bass, and Gary Foote on saxophone and flute.

But this year has also seen the reforming of the original 1968 line-up - Jacqui with Danny Thompson, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Terry Cox.

“It was heart-warming and nostalgic to be playing all together again and to see our old audiences,” she said. “It was also wonderful to revisit stuff we haven't done for years and to find it was still fresh.”

Pentangle formed in 1967. They band were always an oddity - not quite a folk band, although they included two folk heroes in Jansch and Renbourn, and not quite a jazz band, despite their lengthy improvisations and jazz rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox.

Renbourn and Jansch were already popular musicians when they became friendly with McShee, who ran a folk club and were then joined by Thompson and Cox.

From humble beginnings at the Horseshoe Hotel in Tottenham Court Road, the heart of swinging 60s London, Pentangle's first concert appearance as a band was at The Royal Festival Hall on May 27, 1967.

For six relentlessly active years spanning 1967-73 they were one of the most exciting and innovative groups in the world, genuinely pushing boundaries and exploring new musical avenues.

Their debut LP, Pentangle, was released in May 1968, and was followed by albums such as Sweet Child, Basket of Light and Cruel Sister. They quickly became both stars of the underground and darlings of the mainstream.

They enjoyed unprecedented degree of success worldwide for an acoustic band, performing regularly at the Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Fillmore East, alongside Canned Heat and Rhinoceros, The Fillmore West, alongside The Grateful Dead), as well as the Newport Folk Festival and two Isle of Wight Festivals.

The band split in 1973 but has seen subsequent incarnations, including Jacqui McShee's Pentangle, which was formed in 1995.

“Some things have changed,” said McShee. “These days we talk about our aches and pains rather than what we are going to do after the show.

“But it's nice to think we have been performing since the 60s and people still enjoy our music today.”

Further listening: www.jacquimcshee.co.uk, www.myspace.com/pentangle

t Jacqui McShee's Pentangle play at the Norwich Playhouse on September 25. Tickets £17.50/ £15 cons. 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk

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