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Renbourn's Brandenburg Concerto
on 2 August 2009
This is where you really need those five rosettes or golden stars, because of all John Renbourn's many brilliant albums this is the best. It is often compared to "The Lady and the Unicorn" and "Black Balloon", which are both fantastic records, but there is a difference, not so much in technical approach and consistency as in the material. Stylistically it is pure Renbourn with its unique and seemlesly blended mixture of folk, blues, early music, ragtime, and classical, yet it possesses an immediate appeal unparalleled in any of his other releases. Quite simply, every single track on "The Hermit" is saturated in astonishing melodic taste and inspiration, whether written by the man himself or derived from the works of Thomas Robinson and Carolan. It is like a Beatles or Abba album, or Bach's Brandenburg Concertos for that matter, where every lick, riff, verse, chorus, bridge and phrasing is singing straight to your soul and, moreover, will continue do so for the rest of your life, performed by just one man and his acoustic guitar (in fact, the only two tracks that don't shine quite so brightly are the ones where he has invited another guitarist to participate). The question "does it still stand more than 30 years after its first release" seems almost absurd. This is music out of time and place made by one of the great composers and musicians of our time, who should by now have been granted at lifetime achievement award.
The reissue sounds about as good as a CD can get, meaning that some of the warmth of the original vinyl is missing but you avoid and crackles etc. that may have developed over the years. The sleeve notes are a bit rudimentary and suffer from lack of background history so I assume JR must have declined from making personal comments. A shame, because there seems to be some more information worth revealing as the title suggests. The song-by-song comments, some of them a bit technical (nothing wrong with that), are taken from the original LP. The bonus tracks are interesting, of course, but tend to ruin the concept a bit. It's better to stop the disc where the album really ended and listen to the rest some other day. Still, it isn't the first time we see this album on CD and Sanctuary needed some argument for putting it out again. They've done a fine job altogether. This release won't make anyone a big profit but it is crucial to keep it available.