Friday, March 27, 2015

the lady and the unicorn

John Renbourn took his folk baroque to the next level with his modern renderings of early medieval classical music.    Born in London to a musical family, his studies of classical guitar at the Kingston College of Art led to a fascination with medieval music as well as the London folk scene.  He became a regular player at clubs like The Roundhouse, The Black Horse, Les Cousins, and The Troubadour where he met collaborators like American blues and gospel singer Dorris Henderson (they recorded There You Go together in 1965 and Watch the Stars in 1967)  and Scottish guitarist Bert Jansch (they made Bert and John in 1966) with whom he started folk jazz outfit Pentangle along with singer Jacqui McShee, violinist Sue Draheim, bassist Danny Thompson, and drummer Terry Cox.   Pentangle had recorded three albums together (The Pentangle and Sweet Child in 1968 and Basket of Light in 1969) by the time Renbourn started work on his third (after John Renbourn in 1965,   Another Monday in 1967,  and   Sir John Alot of Merrie Englandes Musyk Thyng and ye Grene Knyghte  in 1968) solo album 'The Lady and the Unicorn' in 1970.  

The sessions were produced by Bill Leader for Transatlantic Records and featured  John Renbourn on guitars and sitar;   Terry Cox on hand-drums and glockenspiel;   Don Harper on viola;   Lea Nicholson on concertina;   Tony Roberts and Ray Warleigh on flute;  and  Dave Swarbrick on violin.   

'The Lady and the Unicorn'
full album:

1.1."Trotto" (Anonymous) – 0:40
1.2."Saltarrello" (Anonymous) – 1:53
2.1."Lamento Di Tristan" (Anonymous) – 1:58
2.2."La Rotta" (Anonymous) – 0:55
3.1."Veri Floris" (Anonymous) – 0:44
3.2."Triple Ballade (Sanscuer-Amordolens-Dameparvous)" (Guillaume de Machaut) – 2:00
4.1."Bransle Gay" (Claude Gervaise) – 1:13
4.2."Bransle De Bourgogne" (Robert Johnson)– 1:34
5.1."Alman" (Anonymous)– 1:25
5.2."Melancholy Galliard" (John Dowland) – 2:47
6."Sarabande" (Johann Sebastian Bach) – 2:41
7."The Lady And The Unicorn" (John Renbourn) – 3:21
8.1."My Johnny Was A Shoemaker" (Traditional) – 4:16
8.2."Westron Wynde" (Traditional) – 1:25
8.3."Scarborough Fair" (Traditional) – 7:22

liner notes:  

This record contains a variety of instrumental pieces including medieval music, folk tunes and early classical music. The oldest are probably the English dance tune 'Trotto' and the Italian 'Saltarello', to which I have added a drone accompaniment, tuning the guitar to DGDGCD. 'Lamento di Tristan' and 'La Rotta' are fourteenth century Italian pieces played originally on vielle. They too are without harmony but have the tune doubled either on sitar or glockenspiel.

The three part conductus 'Veri Floris', composed during the Notre Dame period, is a setting for the words 'Under the figure of the true flower which the pure root produced, the loving devotion of our clergy has made a mystical flower constructing an allegorical meaning beyond ordinary useage from the nature of a flower".
This is followed by the triple ballade 'Sancuer-Armordolens-Dameparvous' of Guillaume de Machaut.

'Bransle Gay' and 'Bransle de Bourgogne' are from the danceries of Claude Gervaise, composed in about 1550. The first is played on solo guitar but the second uses flute, fiddle and has a second guitar line added. The anonymous 'Alman' is taken from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and is followed by 'Melancholy Galliard' by the English lutanist John Dowland. The sequence concludes with the 'Sarabande' in B Minor by J. S. Bach.
The album ends with two short guitar pieces, 'The Lady And The Unicorn' and an arrangement of the sixteenth century song 'Westron Wynde', and arrangements for flute, viola and guitar of two folk songs: 'My Johnny Was A Shoemaker' and 'Scarborough Fair'.
I have not presumed to reproduce early music as it would originally have been played, but hope nevertheless that the qualities of the music can be enjoyed, though interpreted on more recent instruments.

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