rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 03/24/2007
Pentwater - The Return of a Northern Illinois Progressive Rock Legend
by Gary Hill

Those of you who think the name Pentwater sounds familiar might very well be right. These guys were pretty frequent visitors to the Rockford area in the 1970's and might have seen them live at such places at The Great Illinois Purchase. The group broke up in the late 1970's after only releasing one album. The good news is, they are back together and just released Ab-Dul - the official follow up to that release.

Formed in the early '70's the group played progressive rock that had elements of classical, jazz, pop rock and other sounds. As opposed to their European counterparts, Pentwater's music was often times infused with dark themes and a sense of humor. These elements, along with a quirky sense of musical exploration, and a good deal of psychedelia, gave the band a sound that was uniquely their own. While comparisons to more prominent bands like Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Gentle Giant were justified, Pentwater took that basis in directions that other groups didn't. Their music was (and is) full of complex time signature, unorthodox instrument choices and intriguing vocal arrangements. The combination made them a recognizable force in progressive rock.

Their self-titled album was released in the latter part of the 1970's on vinyl. The band broke up the next year and that might have been the end of the story. What actually happened, though, was that (largely due to the Internet), the group's reputation for creating exceptionally interesting music grew amongst fans of progressive rock. In fact, the desire for their music became so immense that copies of that LP have been known to sell on ebay for up to 800 dollars!

With a following like that, it would have been impossible for them to go unnoticed. Indeed, they were contacted by a small independent record label in the 1990's and released a compilation of Pentwater music that had previously been unavailable. This disc was entitled Out of the Abyss. It helped to extend both the musical catalog of the band and their legendary status.

They eventually decided to reissue their debut release on CD and both that one and Out of the Abyss have been available for a while. A few years back they decided it was time to create a new Pentwater album, and they set to work. In a quest to revisit their original sound they began to dig through old recordings and sheet music of their compositions. It was decided that since they had a wealth of original material that had not been released, this would make up the majority of their new disc.

That disc is Ab-Dul. It brings back all the classic members of the group. Pentwater is represented on Ab-Dul by Ron Fox (guitars and backing vocals), Phil Goldman (guitars and backing vocals), Ken Kappel (keyboards, theremin and backing vocals), Mike Konopka (guitars, various other instruments including violin, flute fife and Indian bells and lead and backing vocals), Ron LeSaar (bass, percussion and backing vocals) and Tom Orsi (percussion, vibes and lead and backing vocals).

With all the parts in place, Pentwater has risen from the ashes so to speak. Area fans who might have seen them in their appearances at The Phoenix, Lyran Hall, Waverly Beach or the Great Illinois Purchase should really find this interesting, and perhaps a blast from the past. Those who missed them the first time are now granted a second chance to check out this group. A true legend in progressive rock, it's amazing that such a talent is from this general area (OK, the Chicago burbs). Stop by their website to sample some music, read more about them and in general get to know these guys. If you sign their guest book you'll be registered to win a copy of the new album. Pentwater is back, and it's about time.

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