Posts Tagged ‘Richard Thompson’

The Thompsons were without a record contract in 1980, when Gerry Rafferty offered to finance an album for them with his “Baker Street” producer Hugh Murphy. The sessions yielded 10 tracks – and Richard later rejected them all. Eighteen months later, though, he and Linda re-recorded six of the 10 songs with producer Joe Boyd as “Shoot Out The Lights”. Rafferty’s Folly, then, offers an alternative version of what became the couple’s final album.

It’s more polished, with more instrumentation – keyboards, Moogs, accordion, simulated strings – compared to the stark Shoot Out The Lights. Other surprises include “Wall Of Death” and “Don’t Renege On Our Love” with Linda on vocals, as well as a beautiful version of Sandy Denny’s “I’m A Dreamer” (later included on Linda’s 1986 comp, Dreams Fly Away).

Both Thompsons have since relaxed their attitude to the Rafferty sessions – Linda has admitted she prefers some of her vocals here. But it wasn’t bundled in with last year’s deluxe edition of Shoot Out…, and for now, it exists only in boot form, including this and Before Joe Could Pull The Trigger, which throws in demos from ’80-’82.

Tracklist:

Don’t Renege On Our Love, Back Street Slide , Walking On A Wire , The Wrong Heartbeat , Shoot Out The Lights , For Shame Of Doing Wrong, I’m A Dreamer Written By – Sandy Denny , Modern Woman , Just The Motion , Wall Of Death , Lucky In Life , How Many Times Do You Have To Fall? , Pour Will & The Jolly Hangman , Wall Of Death , Sword Dance / Young Black Cow , I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight .

  • Bass – Dave Pegg
  • Drums – Dave Mattacks
  • Fiddle – Dave Swarbrick 
  • Guitar – Simon Nicol 
  • Guitar, Vocals – Richard Thompson
  • Producer – Gerry Rafferty 
  • Vocals – Linda Thompson

Sound quality: Excellent
See also: One Brave Henry, live folk club gigs from 1973

Recorded September/October 1980, Chipping Norton Studios

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English folkie Nick Drake barely created a ripple during his lifetime. He recorded three albums of beautiful acoustic folk, but barely sold a copy during his lifetime. His acoustic music was sophisticated, with flourishes of jazz, and his acoustic guitar finger-picking was beautiful; he used alternative tunings to create tone clusters. Drake studied English literature at Cambridge and enjoyed the poetry of Yeats, Blake, and Vaughan; his lyrics have the same evocative spirit, with images drawn from nature.

Nick Drake passed away in 1974 from an overdose of anti-depressants, leaving a legacy of three studio albums. He didn’t enjoy playing live, and languished in obscurity despite his immense talent. The release of the “Fruit Tree” box set in 1979, shout-outs from famous fans like The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, and the use of his song ‘Pink Moon’ in a US car commercial all contributed to Nick Drake’s growing stature.

By the 1990s, Nick Drake’s work, overlooked at the time, had been reassessed. Drake’s three albums are now all critically acclaimed.

Each of Nick Drake’s three studio albums provide a different angle on his acoustic folk sound. His 1969 debut, “Five Leaves Left”, is a pretty mood piece, with Drake’s guitar often accompanied by the bass of Danny Thompson (from contemporary folk-rock band Pentangle) and by Robert Kirby’s string arrangements. 1971’s “Bryter Layter” is more detailed – Drake is accompanied by a rhythm section on almost every tune. 1972’s final album, “Pink Moon”, is stark, with Drake performing completely solo – it was recorded quickly in two late night sessions.

Additionally, Time of No Reply and Made to Love Magic are overlapping compilations that mop up Drake’s studio out-takes, most notably the four songs that he recorded in July 1974. It’s worth hearing one of them, but they’re not as essential as his studio records.

All of Nick Drake’s albums require some persistence to enjoy, as Drake’s songs are subtle and nuanced, but the diversity of Bryter Layter makes it the most accessible. The fuller sound also helps; the Fairport Convention rhythm section of Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks appear, while Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson plays lead guitar on ‘Hazey Jane II’. Robert Kirby reprises his role of orchestral arrangements from Five Leaves Left, although John Cale’s beautiful arrangements on ‘Fly’ and ‘Northern Sky’ are next level.

Choosing a favourite Nick Drake album is purely an academic exercise, as all three are essential, but it’s the magical contributions of the other musicians, particularly John Cale, that elevate Bryter Layter as Nick Drake’s best album.

“One of These Things First” On the gentle and jazzy, Drake is joined by a cast of American musicians – rhythm section Ed Carter and Mike Kowalski were both involved with The Beach Boys, while pianist Paul Harris later joined Stephen Stills in Manassas. The gently meditative song was later featured in the film Garden State.

John Cale, at a loose end after his dismissal from The Velvet Underground, was sent a demo from Drake. Cale was impressed by Drake, particularly his “sensuality”, and added his arrangements to two songs on Bryter Layter. The classically trained Cale is a terrific foil for Drake, adding an exquisite beauty to his songs without drowning them in sentimentality. ‘Fly’ is the more ethereal of Cale’s two arrangements, with his viola colouring Drake’s delicate song.

The other song arranged by Cale, ‘Northern Sky’ is a romantic tale of wistful longing. While the subject of the song has never been confirmed, it was reported to have been inspired by Linda Thompson. Cale augments the song with beautiful work on celeste, piano, and organ. None of Nick Drake’s records were popular upon release, and none charted.

A contemporary review of the compilation Nick Drake in Rolling Stone by Stephen Holden read: “An incredibly slick sound that is highly dependent on production values (credit Joe Boyd) to achieve its effects, its dreamlike quality calls up the very best of the spirit of early Sixties’ jazz-pop ballad. It combines this with the contemporary introspection of British folk rock to evoke a hypnotic spell of opiated languor.”

All three of Nick Drake’s albums are included in the original edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

“We had great fun performing the Live From London shows, that streamed online recently. We felt the audio quality was so good that we wanted to pick the best of those tracks, and release them on Bandcamp, I tried to pick an interesting and less obvious selection – hope you like the ones I chose!” Richard’s Live From London recordings from his livestream series in 2020 from Kore Studios in the UK.  This unique shows each with a completely different setlist and all professionally produced and as close to being at a live gig as we can possibly get it! The livestreams will be available for 48 hours after each show. The first show I will be playing my new EP, Bloody Noses, in full as well as classic hits. The second stream will be Fairport Convention Era music with a majority of songs from the 60’s and 70’s. The last show will be all requests so be sure to send in your requests ahead of time! I am very much looking forward to this series and I hope you can join me for one or all three shows

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Released February 5th, 2021

This is an all-acoustic EP recorded at home during lockdown. Surprised that this has not been mentioned yet, but a couple of months ago Richard Thompson released a new six song EP “Bloody Noses” on download / streaming (no physical release that I know of). Richard Thompson records 6 new acoustic tracks at home during lockdown and fires them straight onto bandcamp. His solo sets streamed from his living room have been most enjoyable for us fans. 
Here the songs cover topics like confusion, resilience and loneliness which echo in our current times for sure. Richard keeps the songs sparse with just acoustic guitars and mandolin, a little bit of percussion and his partner Zara on harmonies.

I’m especially fond of ‘If I Could Live My Life Again’ a slow blues with a wonderful vocal, ‘Survivor’ and ‘Fortress’ on the other hand shows the new guard of acoustic folkies like William Tyler and Ryley Walker they still have some way to go to get close to him. Not had the requisite six listens yet, but a couple of listens in and its very good – an acoustic EP with help from his partner on backing vocals. He also did a “launch party” on Facebook where it was played in full .  I regard Richard Thompson as not only one of the great singer song writers but also the finest guitarists ever. Acoustic or electric, he is simply brilliant. And “Bloody Noses” is an acoustic EP – sounds like Richard has multi – tracked rhythm & lead – at least on the first song “As Soon As You Hear The Bell” which is a terrific opener- the second track “If I Could Live My Live Again” – which rocks along nicely and is of course beautifully played.

“She’s A Hard Girl To Know” is one of Richard’s darker songs – actually for a chap who is so funny live, his songs tend to be dark. And it is quite brilliant. “Survivor” is more folky – I think that is a mandolin as well as guitar beautifully played. 

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All instruments played by Richard Thompson, some harmony vocals by Zara Phillips.

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Released July 3rd, 2020

Unhalfbricking front

1969 was a roller-coaster year for Folk Rock band Fairport Convention. In January of that year they released their second album “What We Did On Our Holidays”, the first one to feature singer Sandy Denny. In May they hit rock bottom with a tragedy that killed two people including one of its members. Miraculously they recovered and released the album that defines Fairport at that time, “Unhalfbricking” was released in July of 1969, several weeks after the fatal accident on the M1 that killed drummer Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklin (“Genie the Tailor”, who designed clothes for west-coast pop and rock elites), Richard Thompson’s recent girlfriend. The event questioned the band’s resiliency, and was followed by an amazing period of recovery that gave birth to Liege and Lief. Franklin was immortalized a month later when Jack Bruce dedicated his debut solo album Songs for a Tailor to her, and Elton John’s Tiny Dancer is likely about her as well with the telling lyrics “Blue Jean Baby, L. A. lady/Seamstress for the band”.

Unhalfbricking climbed to a respectable #12 in the UK album chart, its name penned by Sandy Denny who came up with the made-up word in a game of Ghost the band was playing while traveling in their beat up van to shows. Uncharacteristic for its time, the front cover features a single photograph with no indication of the band or album name. Two people, Sandy Denny’s parents, are standing in front of their house on Arthur Road, Wimbledon. In the background we can see the band lounging in the front yard. Clever positioning of the band members’ heads, one per rectangle in the fence. 

Fairport Convention 1969

Even more uncool is the back cover with a picture of the band engaged in the domestic task of having a meal. The whole package smells of looking back at days of yore, keeping a distance from current trends. A&M Records, who distributed the band’s albums in the US, found the album cover’s concept abnormal and instead decided in a curious creative burst that the average American consumer’s palate might appreciate a photo of three dancing circus elephants with a girl dancing (balancing?) on top. Underestimating the American record buyer’s tolerance for the unknown, the band and album titles were slapped on the US album cover.

The band was going through a Bob Dylan phase at the time, resulting with three covers of his songs on the album. Dylan’s version of Million Dollar Bash, later to appear on the Basement Tapes album but at that point not yet released, The song came to the band through producer Joe Boyd’s song publishing company which had access to Dylan’s new recorded materials. The great mandolin accompaniment is courtesy of Dave Swarbrick, who made a number of excellent recordings with Martin Carthy between 1965 and 1968, and was called by Joe Boyd to guest on a number of songs on “Unhalfbricking”.

Another Dylan cover was for a relatively unknown song, If You Gotta Go, Go Now. Dylan had recorded it in 1965 for his Bringing It All Back Home album but decided not to include it in the album, instead releasing it as a single in the Netherlands in 1967. Manfred Mann covered the song soon after Dylan recorded it in 1965. Fairport Convention gave it an interesting twist by singing it in French, translated to Si Tu Dois Partir.

Fairport Convention was playing a gig at the Middle Earth and thought it would be amusing to do Dylan’s song in French Cajun style, so the band called for volunteers from the audience to help with the translation. Richard Thompson: “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very Cajun, French or Dylan.” The studio version is a better attempt at the Cajun style, featuring Dave Swarbrick on fiddle, Richard Thompson on accordion and Trevor Lucas, who later formed Fotheringay with Denny, on triangle. The band was quite inventive when it came to producing interesting sounds in the studio. Joe Boyd, in his book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s recalls: “Martin created the Cajun washboard sound for ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ by stacking some plastic Eames chairs and running his drumsticks along them. The percussion break was supposed to feature an empty milk bottle lying on the topmost chair, but when the time came it fell and smashed on the floor. I signalled frantically to keep playing. The crash of broken glass was absolutely in time and worked perfectly, a good omen for the session.” The song was released as a single, reaching the UK singles chart, and got the band its first appearance at Top of the Pops on August 14th, 1969.

The B-side on the single Si Tu Dois Partir went unnoticed at the time but over the years became one of Richard Thompson’s favourite performance songs. It is also my favourite tune on the album, achingly sang by Sandy Denny. It is one of the first in Thompson’s career-long strike of beautiful melancholic songs, the album opener “Genesis Hall”. Thompson on the topic of the song: “Genesis Hall was the name of a building in London that was occupied by squatters. The police went in and were far too brutal in evicting the people. My father was a policeman at the time, and although he was not involved in this operation, I could see the situation from both the squatters’ and police’s points of view. This was conflicting for me, and I tried to express that.”
The August 1969 issue of the underground newspaper International Times mentions an incident that took place in the Drury Lane Bell Hotel involving police and squatters. It happened in March of that year, when Fairport Convention was in the process of recording “Unhalfbricking”:

Thompson covers the song from time to time on his live shows, giving it a fantastic acoustic version. A great example is from the first episode of the BBC Songwriter’s Circle series from 2010.
Several reasons why this song moves me: The lyrics, again so mature for a 20 year old who has not written too many songs up to that point. The sad yet somewhat detached mood in which Sandy Denny sings them. The part where the whole band is soaring with her when they sing “Oh, oh, helpless and slow”. The dual guitar work by Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. Martin Lamble’s drumming, sadly not discussed too often, demonstrating his ability to play very interesting patterns behind the melody as if he was playing a melodic instrument. Only a month after the band finished recording the album Lamble died in that car crash. The band went through a rough period of mourning and healing and came out on the other end with the album that defines British folk rock. 

The third of the Dylan cover’s is Percy’s Song, recorded by Dylan in 1963 for his third album The Times They Are a-Changin‘. The song did not make it into the album and was released some twenty years later on the Biograph collection. The song lyrics are a futile plea to a judge to reconsider a harsh sentence given to a driver in a fatal car accident. Sandy Denny sings a beautiful harmony with Ian Matthews who had left the group after their previous album, and her interpretation is the best I know for this lesser known Dylan tune. Guitar player Simon Nicol said this of Denny’s vocal on the song: “It needs a voice like Sandy’s to get the shades of emotion across, from moodiness to compassion to outright fury. There’s not many singers can do that.”

One song on Unhalfbricking points to the direction the band would take on their next album. A Sailor’s Life is a traditional song brought to the band by Sandy Denny. The song, indexed as Roud 237 in the English Folk Dance and Song Society, was previously covered by Judy Collins on her album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961 and by Martin Carthy on his second album from 1966.

Fairport Convention’s version is a milestone in British folk rock, maybe the first time a serious rock interpretation was given to an old ballad. Sheila Chandra, who was inspired by Sandy Denny’s delivery of the song and later covered it herself, found similarities to Indian music in Fairport Convention’s version: “The track is actually a microcosm of 2,000 years of Indian music – it goes from Vedic chanting on two or three notes right through to full improvisations on a fixed note scale. All in one take. The band have realized that all folk music is based upon a drone, and shares a common root. For instance, the way the violin comes in with an insistent repeat of the drone note is reminiscent of the Indian wind instrument the Shenai, and its distant relative the shawm in Irish music. It all connects.” That violin is played by Dave Swarbrick, his finest contribution to this album.

John Wood, who was the principal sound engineer in the studio, recalls the recording of the song: “Richard and Sandy came in and said ‘we really think we can only do this once’. They already got Dave Swarbrick in to play on it. We put Sandy in a vocal booth (she had an awful cold that day too) and everybody else in a big semicircle. When you want to cut that sort of track, its not easy for people to work if its all sectioned off, so it was very open and that was it, one take, done. No overdubs.” Dave Swarbrick was given no specific instructions as to what to play on the song other than to just come in when the singing stops. He had fond memories from the session as well: “Sandy had a great band to soar over and a great bunch of musicians who were sympathetic. Richard and Sandy worked closely together. Richard was awesome, of course. That should be his middle name. But the band was cohesive and so special, the chemistry worked and the line-up was sensational.”

I have two favourite songs on this album, and one of them is Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Denny wrote the song early in her career with the original title The Ballad Of Time. She was not yet 20 years of age when she wrote the mature lyrics about the passage of time. She sang it during her short stint with the Strawbs in 1967. Judy Collins gave the song an interpretation in 1968 on her album of the same name and as a B-side on her single Both Sides Now.
The song became one of Denny’s most enduring and beloved songs, and in 2007 it was voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners as their favourite folk rock track of all time. It was the last song to be recorded for Unhalfbricking, and the last drummer Martin Lamble would ever record with the band.

The album was recorded in the early months of 1969 at Sound Techniques and Olympic Studios in London. Sound Techniques was a go-to studio for many great psychedelic, rock and folk British acts of the time, including Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter), Incredible String Band (The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion), Jethro Tull (This Was), John Martyn (Solid Air), Pentangle (Cruel Sister), Pink Floyd (Arnold Layne), Steeleye Span (Parcel Of Rogues) and Fairport alumni Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. John Wood assembled a roster of first-class musicians who acted as the house band for a great variety of recording sessions. Not surprisingly, many of them were associated with Fairport Convention, including Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway on drums, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg and Pat Donaldson on bass, Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue and Simon Nicol on guitars.

Unhalfbricking back

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Marvin Country is Marvin Etzioni’s ambitious fourth album. The two-record set hits the streets on April 17, 2012 and features Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, John Doe, Richard Thompson, Buddy Miller, Maria Mckee, and more. Marvin Etzioni is an American singer, mandolinist, bassist, and record producer, Etzioni is best known as a founder of, and bassist for, the band Lone Justice.

In 2012, Marvin Etzioni released a double album extravaganza: Marvin Country! It featured guest appearances from folks including John Doe, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, The Dixie Hummngbirds, Murry Hammond, and Richard Thompson. Even old Lone Justice cohorts Maria McKee, Shayne Fontaine, and David Vaught were along for the ride. But, the origins of some of those songs go back two decades.

Marvin issued Marvin Country: Communication Hoedown himself, on cassette in 1992, saying “I was single-handedly trying to bring back cassettes at a time when the industry said they were done. I still liked the analogue sound versus the high glossy digitalness (to coin a new word) of CDs.” It has never had an official release until now.

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There’s country, there’s alt. country, and there’s Marvin Country. It’s a magical place, way off the map, populated by back-porch philosophers, hobos, brokenhearted lovers and spacemen and presided over by the man the L.A. Times called “one heck of a songwriter.” Grammy award winner Marvin Etzioni has been known over the years as producer (Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Peter Case), sideman (T Bone Burnett, Dixie Chicks, Grey Delisle) and songwriter (Cheap Trick, Victoria Williams) Even before there was No Depression, Marvin was a co-founder of the seminal roots-rockers Lone Justice. It’s safe to say Marvin is revered in Americana circles worldwide. “Marvin Country!” is his ambitious fourth album, and first in over a decade. The two-record set hits the streets on 16th April. The mandolin man is back. “(Etzioni’s) material ranges from stark folk-based tunes to raw Stone’s-like rockers.”

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This time around Marvin lacks his mind blowing poetry & almost makes up the CD set with simple repeatable blues refrains. Yet he is his normal playful self with analogue sound effects, inner jokes, & songs about death & salvation. I hear more Blues & a few Cajun songs than the number of any country style of music. Some other songs are beyond categorization. There are many references about past Country greats as with Pasty Cline & Gram Parson, even the death of Bob Dylan. Don’t worry Bob is still around, but Marvin is thinking about that day that all of us shall meet.

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This incarnation of Fairport Convention comprising lead vocalist Sandy Denny and newcomers Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks, together with founder members Richard Thompson on lead guitar and some vocals, Simon Nicol on rhythm guitar and Ashley Hutchings on electric bass, rehearsed and put together the album “Liege & Lief” over the summer of 1969 at a house in Farley Chamberlayne, near Braishfield, Winchester, launching its material with a sold-out concert in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 24th September that year. Liege & Lief  was the fourth album by the English folk rock band . It is often credited, though the claim is sometimes disputed, as the first major “British folk rock” album, It is the third album the group released in the UK during 1969, all of which prominently featured Sandy Denny as lead female vocalist (Denny did not appear on the group’s 1968 debut album). 

Gone were the covers of songs by Bob Dylan and others, replaced by electrified versions of traditional English folksongs (“Reynardine”, “Matty Groves”, “The Deserter”, “Tam Lin”), new compositions by band members but with a “traditional” feel (“Come All Ye”, “Farewell, Farewell”, “Crazy Man Michael”), and the first of a long line of instrumental medleys of folk dance tunes driven by Dave Swarbrick’s violin playing. The virtuoso fiddle and mandolin player Swarbrick, was a little older than the rest of the band, had already been in a successful duo with guitarist Martin Carthy. After his appearance on Unhalfbricking, he joined Fairport full-time. Much of the traditional material had been found by Hutchings in Cecil Sharp’s collection, maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, although Swarbrick has elsewhere claimed credit as the source of the traditional material used.

Also rehearsed and/or recorded, but omitted from the final album, were versions of The Byrds’ “Ballad of Easy Rider”, the traditional ballad “Sir Patrick Spens” with Sandy Denny on lead vocals, and “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood”, a Richard Fariña lyric he had set to a traditional Irish melody, the last two of which were to appear in different arrangements on later albums by Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, respectively.

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Liege & Lief is composed of two Middle English words: liege meaning loyal and lief meaning ready. The cover, a gatefold in grey and purple, featured cameo images of the band along with track listing and credits. On the inside of the original gatefold cover, a set of illustrated vignettes told the story of ten different aspects of English traditional music and folklore, including notes on customs such as pace-eggers and the Padstow hobby-horse, as well as collectors such as Francis James Child (of “Child Ballads” fame) and Cecil Sharp.

The band toured the UK for several months, also visiting Denmark, performing the Liege & Lief material before recording it in the studio (also including a performance recorded for BBC radio’s Top Gear). However, in November 1969, even before the album was released on 2nd December, both Hutchings and Denny quit the band: Hutchings to further pursue traditional music in a new band Steeleye Span, and Denny to form her new venture Fotheringay, with more emphasis on her own original compositions.

 “Liege and Lief” won the award for Most influential Folk Album of all time.

In 2007 a double album “Liege and Lief Deluxe Edition” was released; the second album consisted mainly of BBC radio live performances and two stylistically uncharacteristic outtakes, the great American songbooks standards “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Fly Me to the Moon”.

The Band:
Sandy Denny – vocals
Dave Swarbrick – fiddle, viola
Richard Thompson – electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Simon Nicol – electric, 6-string & 12-string acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dave Mattacks – drums, percussion

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In November 1986; the month that this Double Live album was recorded Erasure, Duran Duran, Kim Wilde and Swing Out Sister were topping the UK Pop Charts; yet Richard Thompson’s music has aged much better than any of them. It’s not that his music; in particular his songwriting hasn’t evolved in the intervening 34 years; but if he turned up at your local concert hall with the same band of musicians in tow and played this set note for note; you would still be thrilled and satisfied at an evening and money well spent.
Arguably recorded at the height of Thompson’s ‘Commercial success’ this album was originally a radio show so the production is far clearer than a bootleg or two that I own from the same era; and the intricacy of his sublime and inventive guitar playing shines through every song. Starting with a huge roar that greets Thompson, the first song Man in Need (from Shoot Out The Lights) gets the evening off to a fantastic start; combining as it does, Thompson’s trademarked Folk sensibilities with his Electric guitar ……. showing that Folk Rock really could and still can R.O.C.K!

Although promoting the “Daring Adventures album at the time Thompson also dips daringly into his back catalogue; breathing new life into the likes of “Calvary Cross, Two Left Feet” and a personal favourite of mine; “Tear Stained Letter” …… which are still regular parts of his current concerts.

As you’d expect from a Richard Thompson concert there are surprises around every corner; and just when you’re not expecting it he drops in the Whitefriar’s Hornpipe/Shreds and Patches medley; featuring the dexterous accordion playing of John Kirkpatrick; and while not my first musical love proves to be a real toe-tapper.
There’s plenty here for part-time fans most especially You Don’t Say with Richard and Clive Gregson trading verses and harmonising like Folk’s answer to the Everly Brothers; plus I’d totally forgot that Thompson supplied the theme tune to Life and Loves of a She-Devil; and Christine Collister’s vocals and Thompson’s spooky tune.

It’s a long time since I played the album; but I don’t remember Shoot Out The Lights or Al Bowly’s in Heaven sounding this dark and dangerous, here both sound almost Gothic in tone.
For a Favourite Track I’m not sure whether to go for the tried and trusted in Wall of Death  or something brand new to me; in this case The Angels Took My Racehorse Away (from 1972’s Henry The Human Fly) which blew me away the first time I heard it but I’m going to compromise with the fabulous Nearly In Love; a song I loved way back when, from the Daring Adventures because Thompson proves what a skilled craftsman he was with storytelling and song construction; plus his guitar playing throughout shows why so many people rate him as one of the most innovative guitars players of all time. Apart from Richard Thompson’s voice being a tad smoother and more excitable than it is today; these songs and the man himself don’t appear to have aged a single day in the intervening years on this marvellous live set from my hometown Nottingham.

Recorded Live At Rock City, Nottingham, November – 1986

Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards for Songwriting on both sides of the Atlantic – from the Americana Music Association in Nashville to Britain’s BBC Awards and the prestigious Ivor Novello.

In 2011, Thompson was the recipient of the OBE (Order of the British Empire) personally bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Most recently, the Americana Music Honors & Awards nominated him for ”Artist of the Year”.

Tracklist:
1. Man In Need (Live) ( 3:56)
2. When The Spell Is Broken (Live) ( 7:31)
3. Two Left Feet (Live) ( 3:53)
4. Jennie (Live) ( 5:28)
5. A Bone Through Her Nose (Live) ( 6:33)
6. Calvary Cross (Live) (10:23)
7. Al Bowlly’s In Heaven (Live) ( 6:33)
8. Whitefriar’s Hornpipe Shreds And Patches (Live) ( 4:53)
9. You Don’t Say (Live) ( 5:02)
10. Wall Of Death (Live) ( 3:53)
11. Fire In The Engine Room (Live) ( 3:54)
12. The Life And Loves Of A She Devil Theme Tune (Live) ( 7:46)
13. The Angels Took My Racehorse Away (Live) ( 4:41)
14. Shoot Out The Lights (Live) ( 6:46)
15. Nearly In Love (Live) ( 4:38)
16. Tear Stained Letter (Live) ( 7:56)

Was there really a time when guitar maestro Richard Thompson was still struggling to establish himself as a solo artist? Yes. Was there a time when he wasn’t a preternaturally commanding solo artist? Seemingly not.

As one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, Richard Thompson has played with some of the world’s most accomplished rock and folk musicians, starting, of course, with his first band, Fairport Convention. But of all the outfits Thompson has led during his sterling, post-Fairport, solo career, perhaps the finest was the unit he took out on the road with him for his 1985 tour supporting his then-current studio release (and first for the Polydor label), “Across A Crowded Room”. While the album’s recording sessions had featured Fairport Convention stalwarts Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks on rhythm guitar and drums, respectively. For the tour Thompson enlisted the considerable talents of Any Trouble leader Clive Gregson and his creative partner Christine Collister, whose haunting harmonies (and occasional songwriting contributions) beautifully fleshed out the band’s live sound.

The double live album “Across a Crowded Room – Live at Barrymore’s 1985” documents an electrifying Ottawa performance from a period when the world’s greatest living guitar stylist , not to mention one of the finest songwriters the 20th century ever spat out.  Thompson was still a relatively unknown quantity without his erstwhile musical and matrimonial partner Linda, at least outside his native England. There was an abortive first stab at a solo career represented by 1972’s commercial disaster Henry the Human Fly, but 1985’s Across a Crowded Room was only Thompson’s second post-duo album. And Thompson himself has stated that it wasn’t until he partnered with Capitol Records a few years later that his tours stopped hemorrhaging currency.

But even the most cursory of listens quickly reveals that Thompson’s touring band for these shows supporting Across a Crowded Room was a crack outfit capable of deftly supporting the boss man’s superlative material and mind-melting guitar work. Some of his old Fairport convention buddies pitched in on the album but were apparently unavailable for touring. Instead, another U.K. folk-rock stalwart, Gerry Conway of Pentangle and Fotheringay (and later Fairport) took the drum stool. Rory McFarlane stepped in on bass. But possibly the most important additions to the band were singer/guitarists Clive Gregson and Christine Collister.

Clive Gregson had recently disbanded his British power-pop band, Any Trouble; he and Collister were then just about to launch themselves as a duo more than a little influence by Richard and Linda. When they lent their well honed harmonies to Thompson’s tour, they gave him arguably the finest vocal blend he’s ever achieved onstage, giving the songs an extra push over the top.

Not that any band where Richard Thompson has a guitar in hand needs any extra assistance. Though his reputation as a guitar hero would grow even greater in the years to come, Thompson was already worshiped as a six-string superhero by his hardy cult following by this point. And he approaches his instrument with the requisite amount of magic here. “Shoot out the Lights,” which would become probably his most famous guitar showcase, was still a relative new song in his repertoire at the time, but Thompson brings as much danger, mystery, and mastery to it here as ever. With his instrument alternately rattling, roaring, murmuring, and howling, he leaps far outside the convention language of the guitar (or any other instrument, for that matter) to bring the gloriously creepy, foreboding tune to its climax.

Thompson brought the bulk of his new album onstage, which is an almost entirely positive development, since songs like the bittersweet “When the Spell is Broken,” the feverish “Fire in the Engine Room,” and the explosive “She Twists the Knife Again” are all in the top tier of his work. And while audiences in ’85 were forced to sit through the turgid, endless (and thankfully anomalous) “Love in a Faithless Country,” contemporary listeners can simply skip to the next track.

Besides all of the aforementioned plus sharpshooting versions of Richard & Linda staple classic’s like “Wall of Death,” “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight,” and “Withered and Died,” the Barrymore’s set includes a trio of tunes never heard on any other official Richard Thompson release that will catch the fancy of Thompson trainspotters (and you’d best believe he’s got his fair share of those in his audience).

Gregson and Collister each take a turn up front, the former singing “Summer Rain” from his contemporaneous solo debut album, Strange Persuasions and the latter delivering “Warm Love Gone Cold,” a song she recorded for a BBC TV adaption of Fay Weldon’s novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. But if hearing Thompson accompany somebody else doesn’t spark your plugs, the closing track undoubtedly will. Things end with a balls-out rockabilly rave-up on another tune unique to the Thompson catalog, a riotous cover of “Skull and Cross Bones” by little known ’50s rockabilly singer Sparkle Moore, serving as a reminder that in his impressionable years, the king of British folk rock spent his fair share of time soaking up American rock ‘n’ roll.

Across a Crowded Room—Live at Barrymore’s 1985 is an essential addition to the Richard Thompson discography and offers enduring testimony as to the kind of magic the man can conjure on stage.

words, thanks to rockandrollglobe.com

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This week my most awaited LP of 2018 thus far coming from the inimitable Low on their shadowy electronic masterpiece, ‘Double Negative’. There are synths akimbo on the new one from MCR up-n-comers Pale Waves, reminding me of a more youthful Kristin Kontrol (if only everyone loved that LP as much as I did), or a less saccharine Tegan & Sara. In fact, it’s a very electronic week on the heavy hitters, Those of you who love a good guitar can do FAR worse than The Goon Sax’s new outing on the ever-reliable Wichita Recordings, absolutely brimming with lyrical fire and melodic cleverness, and with the propulsive slacker vibes the Aussies do so well.

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Low  –  Double Negative

In 2018, Low will turn twenty-five. Since 1993, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker—the married couple whose heaven-and-earth harmonies have always held the band’s center—have pioneered a subgenre, shrugged off its strictures, recorded a Christmas classic, become a magnetic onstage force, and emerged as one of music’s most steadfast and vital vehicles for pulling light from our darkest emotional recesses. But Low will not commemorate its first quarter-century with mawkish nostalgia or safe runs through songbook favorites. Instead, in faithfully defiant fashion, Low will release its most brazen, abrasive (and, paradoxically, most empowering) album ever: Double Negative, an unflinching eleven-song quest through snarling static and shattering beats that somehow culminates in the brightest pop song of Low’s career.

To make Double Negative, Low reenlisted B.J. Burton, the quietly energetic and adventurous producer who has made records with James Blake, Sylvan Esso, and The Tallest Man on Earth in recent years while working as one of the go-to figures at Bon Iver’s home studio, April Base. Burton recorded Low’s last album, 2015’s Ones and Sixes, at April Base, adding might to many of its beats and squelch and frisson beneath many of its melodies.

This time, though, Sparhawk, Parker, and bassist Steve Garrington knew they wanted to go further with Burton and his palette of sounds, to see what someone who is, as Sparhawk puts it, “a hip-hop guy” could truly do to their music. Rather than obsessively write and rehearse at home in Duluth, Minnesota, they would often head southeast to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, arriving with sketches and ideas that they would work on for days with Burton. Band and producer became collaborative co-writers, building the pieces up and breaking them down and building them again until their purpose and force felt clear. As the world outside seemed to slide deeper into instability, Low repeated this process for the better part of two years, pondering the results during tours and breaks at home. They considered not only how the fragments fit together but also how, in the United States of 2018, they functioned as statements and salves.

Double Negative is, indeed, a record perfectly and painfully suited for our time. Loud and contentious and commanding, Low fights for the world by fighting against it. It begins in pure bedlam, with a beat built from a loop of ruptured noise waging war against the paired voices of Sparhawk and Parker the moment they begin to sing during the massive “Quorum.” For forty minutes, they indulge the battle, trying to be heard amid the noisy grain, sometimes winning and sometimes being tossed toward oblivion. In spite of the mounting noise, Sparhawk and Parker still sing. Or maybe they sing because of the noise. For Low, has there ever really been a difference?

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Toy  –  The Willo

Since 2010, Toy have earned a reputation as a band of integrity, virtuosity and taste, with Tom, Maxim, Dominic, Charlie and (joining in 2015) Max creating a sound that is embedded in the underground tradition, yet distinctly their own. Now here comes a two-track twelve-inch on Tough Love, a foretaste of a forthcoming album in January 2019, which marks a new dawn for this most singular of bands.

‘The Willo’ is a dreamlike, seven-minute glide, redolent of a forest at sunset and just as pretty, but not without hints of malevolence. Maxim’s fingerpicking acoustic melds with electric twang from Dominic, and a whirling organ from Max Oscarnold gives this elegant creation an extra layer of disorientation and depth. “People appear to have seen Will-o’-the-wisp, a mysterious green-blue light, over the centuries. It generally means something ominous is about to happen”, says Tom.

Then there is ‘Energy’, which lives up to its name with thunderously metronomic drums from Charlie Salvidge and a ferocious guitar from Dominic O’Dair. The lyrics, culled from a story written by Max about a nighttime ritual, are obscured by the barrage-like forward momentum of the music.

The twelve-inch, recorded and mixed by the band between Oscarnold’s Stoke Newington flat and a south London studio, is the first release for Toy on their new label Tough Love, representing the latest stage in the evolution of the band. Since their inception, they have released the acclaimed albums Toy (2012), Join The Dots (2013) and Clear Shot (2016), and toured everywhere from Serbia to China, while holding onto that youthful, magical moment of discovering strange new worlds of innocence and experience.

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The Goon Sax

The Goon Sax are James Harrison, Louis Forster and Riley Jones from Brisbane, Australia. Still in high school when they made their first album Up To Anything in 2016, their brand of awkwardly transcendent teenage guitar pop took earned them wide-spread critical acclaim.

For album number two, they flew to Melbourne to record with James Cecil and Cameron Bird, respectively former/current members of Architecture In Helsinki, and ‘We’re Not Talking’ shows how much can change between the ages of 17 and 19. It’s a record that takes the enthusiasms of youth and twists them into darker, more sophisticated shapes. Relationships are now laced with hesitation, remorse, misunderstanding and ultimately compassion.

Drummer Riley Jones really comes to the fore here, joining Louis and James in singing lead and writing songs for the first time, making the band the musical equivalent of an equilateral triangle (the strongest shape in physics).

Delivering brilliantly human and brutally honest vignettes of adolescent angst, The Goon Sax brim with personality, charm and heart-wrenching honesty. ‘We’re Not Talking’ is a record made by restless artists, defying expectations as if hardly noticing, and its complexity makes ‘We’re Not Talking’ even more of a marvel.

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Dilly Dally – Heaven

Heaven highlights Dilly Dally’s rough edges in all their ragged glory, drawing every potent ounce of energy from the foursome’s swampy tones, raspy vocals, and volatile rhythm section. While the music is undeniably ferocious, there’s uplift woven into the fabric of every track. The album opens with the dreamy “I Feel Free”, which begins as a floating, untethered soundscape before transforming into a soaring anthem for a world that’s ready to finally turn the page on all the darkness and disillusion the last few years have wrought. The inexorable “Believe” insists on self-confidence, while the driving “Sober Motel” celebrates the lucidity a clear mind, and the lilting “Sorry Ur Mad” makes a case for releasing yourself from the prisons of anger and resentment. Heaven carves out its own atheistic religion to get through the day, a faith that validates our pain as real but responds with a beaming light of hope. [Limited white colored vinyl pressing also available.]

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Slothrust  –  The Pact

Slothrust is principal songwriter, guitar player and unrepentant aesthete Leah Wellbaum, with drummer Will Gorin and bassist Kyle Bann. On their fourth full-length album The Pact, Slothrust constructs a luscious, ethereal cosmos perforated with wormy portals and magic wardrobes, demonstrating more clearly than ever the band’s deft shaping of contrasting sonic elements to forge a muscular sound that’s uniquely their own. Bizarre and mundane, tender and confident. The awkward duality of the forever outsider, rightly reclaimed as power. This is The Pact. Produced and engineered by Billy Bush in Los Angeles (the band’s new home base), Slothrust’s new album is a confident journey across 12 songs that oscillate between a quietly reflective tenderness and a slick, sleek confidence; balancing playful innocence with ballsy swagger. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had making a record,” Wellbaum confirms. “We were able to take risks. I’m saying yes more than no these days.”

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Pale Waves  – My Mind Makes Noises

After signing a record deal with Dirty Hit in 2017, Manchester’s Pale Waves released their debut single “There’s a Honey”, followed by “Television Romance”. The following year, the band were ranked fifth in the BBC Sound of 2018 poll and won the NME Under the Radar Award at the NME Awards. They now return with their debut album which features the singles ‘There’s A Honey’, ‘Television Romance, ‘Kiss’, ‘Eighteen’ and new single ‘Black’.

Pale Waves are Heather (vocals, guitar), Ciara (drums), Hugo (guitar) and Charlie (bass).

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Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

Richard Thompson’s new album is his first self-produced record in over a decade. It’s a minimal and spacious recording which, according to Thompson, is a projection of current events in his life. “This has been an intense year for myself and my family, getting older doesn’t mean that life gets easier! There are surprises around every bend. I think this reflects in the immediacy of the stories, and the passion in the songs. Sometimes I am speaking directly about events, at other times songs are an imaginative spin on what life throws at you. The music is just a mirror to life, but we try to polish that mirror as brightly as possible.” 13 Rivers spans thirteen tracks. It is an album as much about growth as it is about reflection. Says Thompson, “I don’t know how the creative process works – I suppose it is some kind of bizarre parallel existence to my own life. I often look at a finished song and wonder what the hell is going on inside me. We sequenced the weird stuff at the front of the record, and the tracks to grind your soul into submission at the back.” [Limited black and cream colored vinyl pressing also available.]

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First Aid Kit – Tender Offerings

“Technically, Tender Offerings are the four songs that did not make it onto Ruins. For these ladies, these precious songs did not fit the bombastic folk-nature of the album. Instead, they truly felt like tender offerings; too sweet and soft in scope to be fluidly aligned with their other tracks. Once, you hear such gorgeous tracks like, “I’ve Wanted You” and “All That We Get” you will understand their point. Instrumentally, you feel every hook, melody, and chorus was precisely and clearly made as a cloud creates a raindrop. This duo turn their guitar melodies into field of amber strings dancing in the suns of their voices like grains move with daylight.”

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Paul Weller – True Meanings

To put it simply, True Meanings, the fourteenth Paul Weller solo album and the 26th studio album of his entire career, is a record unlike any he has ever made before. It’s characterized by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration: an aesthetic to which Weller’s better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words, is perfectly suited. A dreamy, peaceful, pastoral set of songs to get lost in, it’s both an album that his faithful audience has been wanting him to make for a long time, and an album that many new people outside of that audience will relate to.

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The Doors – Waiting For The Sun [Reissue/1968]

50th Anniversary reissue. This double-CD and single-LP collection features a new version of the album’s original stereo mix on both CD and 180-gram vinyl LP, which has been newly remastered from the original master tapes by Bruce Botnick, the Doors’ longtime engineer/mixer. The CD set also includes a second disc of 14 completely unreleased tracks: nine recently discovered “rough mixes” from the album recording sessions and five live songs from a 1968 Copenhagen show.

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Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now: Live at The Isle of Wight Festival 1970 DVD

Directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Murray Lerner, Both Sides Now: Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 features new interviews with Joni, discussing her recollections of the event intercut with festival footage, both onstage and behind the scenes, offering a fascinating insight into a now legendary concert from the artists point of view and putting the events of the day into context.