As you’ve hopefully seen now, this month’s issue of Uncut has a revealing piece about Richard & Linda Thompson’s “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight”, timed to tie in with that great album’s 40th anniversary and its vinyl reissue, plus a burst of Thompson activity that includes a show at the End Of The Road Festival at the end of the month. “It is what it is and I like what it is,” he calls the album in the piece, somewhat self-effacingly, “and there’s a lot of stuff out there that I’ve done that I like less. That being said, it sold about 30 copies.”
Also out there this month, “Acoustic Classics” is a new solo album – a completely solo album, as it happens, and one which finds a gap to be exploited in Thompson’s meticulously thorough catalogue. Given his sometimes intimidating virtuosity, Richard Thompson’s discography is surprisingly light on solo acoustic albums: even 2005’s “Front Parlour Ballads” features a little percussion and electric guitar.
“Acoustic Classics”, though, is a useful update on the 1984 live album “Small Town Romance”, with Thompson this time attacking his back catalogue in a studio environment. “Attack” is the operative word, such is the belligerence with which he tears into the opening “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight”. The clutch of old Richard & Linda songs fare especially well, with the stripped-back treatments enhancing “Walking On A Wire” and “Dimming Of The Day” and Thompson’s austere, even stentorian brand of tenderness. It all adds up to a courtly, forceful rethink of a masterful back catalogue
I was thinking about another, more electrified, side of Thompson’s history the other day, though, while editing a tremendous live review of Television that will appear in the next issue of the mag. “As with Richard Thompson,” John Robinson writes, “Verlaine’s talent is a balancing act between jagged expression and endless sustain, the kind of music that will remain irresistible in whatsoever form he should supply it, for as long as he makes it.”
The tangled business of whether Verlaine had ever heard Fairport Convention’s “A Sailor’s Life” before embarking on “Marquee Moon” remains one of rock’s thornier issues of influence. Plenty of artists, though, have subsequently embraced both. One of my favourite current guitarists Chris Forsyth, for example: the new album he’s just made with the Solar Motel Band, “Intensity Ghost”, is a fantastic showcase of how he’s running with that idea, folding those influences into other ones (The Grateful Dead, for instance) and jamming on them to a point of transcendence.
Forsyth was among the wise contributors who contributed to a Youtube playlist of songs in the ” Sailor’s Life”/”Marquee Moon” interzone, that I compiled last year on Twitter with the help of, among others, Tom Carter, Cian Nugent and Nathaniel Bowles, writers Richard King and Tyler Wilcox, and the guys at the Paradise Of Bachelors label. It turned out so well that it seems worth running the whole thing again. If you’d rather check it out on Spotify, I remain indebted to Matt Poacher, who bundled a lot of the songs onto a Spotify playlist that you can find here: https://play.spotify.com/user/thepoacher/playlist/2H7BJ98TG2dkupkyklbYyA
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