Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Pick up any of his from the early
Eighties or even the late Seventies and they make as much sense today
as they did then. Yet after more than 45 years in the game, he's
still not a household name . . . and that's surprising.
His guitar playing can be terrifyingly
good (“if Neil Young has a rival it is he,” said Q magazine, and
that was in the late Eighties, he's got better) and his songwriting puts
him effortlessly in the Costello/Moore category. Even today his
dedicated followers still talk in hushed tones about albums like the
1973 l Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (with then-wife Linda)
and Shoot Out The Lights (a decade later as they were breaking up).
From his days with Fairport Convention
in the Sixties, which was in the vanguard of a particularly British
kind of folk-rock, through to tours with The Pogues and Costello or
recording with Crowded House, this very unphotogenic, enormously
talented gentleman – who has a rather unfair reputation for being a
sourpuss – remained one of the best-kept secrets in British rock
outside of the critical community and dedicated band of loyalists.
So to say Rumor and Sigh was another
Richard Thompson album is to say be prepared for doses of unnerving
genius and an album with a lot of plays in it from here on out.
Ironically the immediate grabbers --
the chill atmosphere of Mystery Wind like J.J. Cale on valium and the
jokey Don’t Sit on My Jimmy Shands about his passion for Jimmy
Shands 78s – are the two tracks which pall the fastest. But it is
aces all the way on the other 12.
Grey Walls is a harrowing, brittle
account of psychiatric committal (Thompson has known his dark days),
God Loves A Drunk has the tone of an Irish lament yet lyrically
acknowledges the nonconformity of the alcohol-impaired, and 1952
Vincent Black Lightning acclaims all the right things -- redheads,
motorcycles and live-fast-die-young. Curiously enough it has become
something of a standard on the bluegrass circuit after it was covered
by Del McCoury.
Producer/keyboard player Mitchell Froom
(Crowded House) lets the Celticness of Thompson‘s music breathe as
easily as it rocks out or veers off into a John Cale-like monologue
And the musicians on call (Jim Keltner, Alex Acuna and Fairport friend Simon Nicol among them) understand intuitively the underlying tensions and humour in Thompson's music.
It was also an accessible Thompson album – some can be rather grim – and cuts a path from folk to harder rock.
Footnote: Because this was such a great Thompson album I interviewed him and put him on the front cover of the newspaper entertainment section alongside uber-fan Bob Mould. I fully expected this ploy would hook in the Mould fans and the Thompson interview would be the one which took him to middle New Zealand. I would make him the mainstream star he deserved to be. For weeks afterwards a friend of mine at EMI would call with an update: "123 copies sold so far Graham" . . . the next week ""156 copies so for" . . . and so it went. It sold maybe 250 copies if I recall.
These Essential Elsewhere pages deliberately point to albums which you might not have thought of, or have even heard . . .
But they might just open a door into a new kind of music, or an artist you didn't know of.
Or someone you may have thought was just plain boring.
But here is the way into a new/interesting/different music . . .
The deep end won't be out of your depth . . .