Tag Archive | "Richard Thompson"

Richard Thompson – Still

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Richard Thompson – Still

Posted on 19 June 2015 by Joe

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy freely admits that his role as a producer is made easier by working with some of the music industry’s best talents. Those he has produced or collaborated in recent years, from Bill Fay to Low to Mavis Staples probably don’t need much producing. They just need to turn up, play their stuff, Tweedy presses some buttons and everyone goes home. Of course there’s more to it than that, but you get the sense with his latest production credit, working with one of his guitar heroes Richard Thompson, that as with Low and others he was happy to let the talent play their stuff and not really interfere.

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That is probably the smartest move a producer can make when dealing with someone like Thompson. Hand holding and nurturing is more for newbies who are lost in the studio (see John Leckie’s work with The Stone Roses).

The result here is that thanks in part to Tweedy Thompson has delivered another high point in an enormously long career that is now in its sixth decade.

The key to this album’s success is some quality songs. In fact some of Thompson’s best of his career, in particular Patty Don’t You Put Me Down, which is sure to be a live favourite for years to come.

This is firmly an electric guitar album. It’s an important distinction as Thompson excels at both acoustic and electric guitar driven tracks. It’s not rock but its up their with Front Parlour Ballads in terms of great recent Thompson albums.

The recording in Tweedy’s Chicago based Loft Studio and familiar personnel including Thompson and John Cale’s tour drummer Michael Jerome, also give the album a warmth and intimacy. This is further shown through Thompson’s low key playing. To say he’s a good electric guitarist is one of the biggest understatements it is possible to make. But here he is far from over the top, he keeps the guitar as one ingredient to the songs, rather than overshadow them.

This allows She Never Could Resist A Winding Road to build up momentum nicely. On the almost prog rock-like Pony in the Stable some of the guitar playing is eye wateringly good, but still the song remains king.

So while Tweedy may have underplayed his input its clear that his less is more approach is still key to this album’s strengths, as he successfully brings out the best of one of modern music’s most enduring figures.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Richard Thompson – Acoustic Classics

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Richard Thompson – Acoustic Classics

Posted on 02 July 2014 by Joe

The last time we reviewed a Richard Thompson compilation one response we got was ‘oh, not another one.’ There’s been over 10 collections so far, including 2011’s expansive CD and DVD live at the BBC collection which we reviewed, so it’s easy to see why fatigue may have set in among his fans.

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So here we are with another, but this time the focus is not on creating a large collection like the BBC release, this time the premise  is simple and works a treat; just Thompson belting out many of his key tracks with an acoustic guitar.

The premise behind this was to collect the feeling of his acoustic shows that run parallel to his full band and electric guitar focused concerts. With Thompson, who is a master of both electric and acoustic guitar,  this feels like a release that is worth doing, with solid versions of some of his most well known songs such as Valerie and Wall of Death. There’s a good pacing too here that showcases his skill at a number of styles. While Valerie is churned out at speed like he’s strumming on a street corner, Shout Out the Lights shows off his more intricate guitar style.

For hardcore Thompson fans it’s a nice addition to the collection but is not essential. There’s no version that feels like a radical departure from any full band versions. For those new to Thompson though this may actually be a good place to start as it showcases some of his most important tracks and sounds like he’s having fun playing them in this intimate way.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

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Richard Thompson – Live at the BBC

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Richard Thompson – Live at the BBC

Posted on 20 June 2011 by Joe

There are a lot of firsts for this box set, featuring three CDs and one DVD of Richard Thompson’s BBC sessions and live recordings from the early 1970s through to 2009.

It’s the first CD release for around 18 songs of his songs, and the first ever release of a range of acoustic and different arrangements, including a newly released version of  ‘Meet on the Ledge’ from his Fairport Convention days.

It is the first collection of BBC recordings to be sanctioned by Thompson and the DVD is the first approved by him that spans the bulk of his solo career and to feature his decade long work with his former wife Linda.

But while this box set, packaged rather nicely in a book, is certainly a must for Thompson fans it provides a more than welcome introduction to one of the UK’s greatest musicians, a true folk rock pioneer and certainly one of England’s most accomplished guitarists.

In essence the 3CDs of sessions and live recordings can be broken up nicely into three stages: his work with Linda covering the first disc, the second looking at the highs and lows of his 1980s solo work and the third focusing largely on his role as a folk music legend in the new century.

With over 80 tracks there’s a lot to take in so this segmenting works well allowing the listener to dip into say his 1980s electric guitar rock work or countrified twang of his work with Linda when the mood takes.

Among my highlights are the Andy Kershaw session from 1987 with just Thompson and his acoustic guitar on the second disc. This offers some wonderful versions of in particular ‘Valerie’ that showcases his acoustic guitar playing talents.

This segment on the second CD also follows the worst part of this collection, but that is down to my taste and dislike for this 80s rock phase. The offending two sessions are  tracks from a 1986 concert at the Hammersmith Palais that sounds like dated middle of the road rock , a little bit Waterboys, a little bit Dire Straits.  The problem is that while his fender strat work is a marvel, this type of music was not his strength. The other offender is a 1985 session for Kershaw in which tracks such as ‘You Don’t Say’ just sound like a poor man’s Police.

The first CD is also with faults. The production on the earliest sessions for John Peel is a bit ropey. Also towards the end of his partnership with Linda their performances suffer from some dated chorus effects on the guitar. Nevertheless this first disc has some of this box set’s most interesting moments, in particular versions of ‘”Dragging The River” and the excellent “Modern Woman” which have never been released before.

Perhaps the best CD for me is the third focusing on the last ten years and  featuring his renaissance as a folk legend amid a growing popularity for folk music in the new century.

This CD shows the breadth to his appeal as it features sessions for the BBC’s new music station 6Music alongside sessions for long time fan  Kershaw and veteran DJ Bob Harris. His versions of ‘Old Thames Side’ and ‘Let It Blow’ from Front Parlour Ballads, recorded for Tom Robinson on 6Music, are among my highlights. ‘Meet On The Ledge’ also provides a fitting end, originally a 1968 Fairport Convention single it is given a breath of fresh air on his Hub Session for the BBC in 2009.

What is perhaps most interesting about this box set is it shows how Thompson is such a bizarre mix of contradictions. While peculiarly English he has a distinct global outlook  and is happy to embrace different styles. He has expertly revisited and reworked traditional,  pastoral folk  but feels curiously urban and intrinsically influenced by his own London upbringing. It’s a prolific career that is far from over and given the high quality of the more recent BBC sessions in this box set, clearly still has much to offer.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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