capturing a notable Celtic summit

Wheel of Fortune (Flying Fish)

John Renbourn & Robin Williamson

By John Goodin

We can each construct our own list of recordings by "supergroups" that looked great on paper but were disappointing in reality. I'll spare you mine. Wheel of Fortune, however, belongs on that shorter list of all-star projects that produce memorable results.

Robin Williamson and John Renbourn are Big Time Guys in the world of Celtic and English traditional music. Williamson's Incredible String Band as just that, leaving a dozen or more albums as proof. Renbourn's Pentangle combined folk and jazz better than any band before or since. Years later, both men are master "folk" musicians, and Wheel of Fortune documents a series of concerts they presented in the U.S. during May of 1993.

Judging from the recorded evidence, these shows must have been a great good time. Renbourn plays guitar throughout and sings three songs. Williamson is featured on Celtic harp, pennywhistle and guitar. He sings four numbers in his distinctive style and also displays a gift for storytelling on "Finn and the Old Man's House."

There are no weak cuts. Highlights include Renbourn's version of Randy Weston's "Little Niles" and the opening medley of "South Wind/Blarney Pilgrim" with Williamson first on harp and then whistle. The music sounds prepared but not over-rehearsed and gives the listener the impression that a couple of Druidic bards have just dropped 'round the castle for the evening.

Wheel of Fortune is a winner. Hopefully, this will not be the last collaboration between these two brilliant players.