Saturday, August 31, 2013

Music Library: Richard Thompson 1999-present (The Later Period)

And then there's the Richard Thompson of today, a statesman of sorts, an emissary of respectable music, and hardly the cult artist of yore. He can still tear it up on guitar, but his songs tend to be less surprising and more crowd-pleasing than ever. It is a natural course for a guy in his 60s, but I still have hopes, even if they are destined to be dashed, that Thompson will, like Neil Young, tell his fans to fuck off while he makes a noisy, crazy, surprising album.

1999: Mock Tudor and Semi-Detached Mock Tudor (live). Mock Tudor is Thompson's last great album, a concept album of sorts about suburban London. He got rid of Froom in the producer chair (although Froom stuck around on keyboards) in favor of the more straightforward sound of Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, who produced Elliott Smith's XO and Either/Or. It is a great album, and the supporting tour, documented here on yet another private-label live release, featured one of Thompson's best live bands, with Danny Thompson (who is, I should mention at some point, no relation) on bass, his son Teddy on guitar and backing vocals, jack-of-all-trades Pete Zorn on guitar, sax, mandolin, and anything else he could get his hands on, and the astonishing Michael Jerome on drums.

2000: "Sights And Sounds Of London Town" from KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 8 and "Woodstock" and "Black Crow" from An All-Star Tribute To Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell's not someone I'd normally associate with Thompson, but the man can kick the shit out of her music.

2001: "Persuasion (Live)," "Mr. Rebound," and "Fully Qualified To Be Your Man" from Action Packed: The Best Of The Capitol Years. Three nonalbum tracks that popped up on this best-of.

2002: "Les Flammes D'Enfer" from Evangeline Made: A Tribute To Cajun Music and "Persuasion (Live)" from Live at the World Cafe: Volume 14 - The Next Decade.

2003: The Old Kit Bag, Tracks EP, 1000 Years Of Popular Music, Ducknapped (live), and several loose-end live tracks. I do not love The Old Kit Bag, although some of the songs are great and the performances are pretty good. As a whole, though, it intensifies the conservative, backward-looking nostalgia of Mock Tudor into some very folk-friendly, crowd-pleasing places, which just does not please me. And yet "Outside Of The Inside" is, in particular, an amazing track, an attempt to get into the head of jihadists. The Tracks EP has a couple of live songs from Ducknapped and a couple of 1000 Years tracks that did not make the CD. 1000 Years of Popular Music is fairly well-known by now (and, to be clear, there are two versions of it, so this is the first) as Thompson's attempt to rework songs both inside and outside of the rock era. It is a fun and fascinating experiment that culminates in a ripping cover of Britney Spears' then-popular "Oops I Did It Again." Ducknapped is yet another live, private-label release, and probably the least of all covered to this point.

2004: The Chrono Show (live) and two live tracks. Building on the Celtschmerz idea, Thompson released The Chrono Show, which features acoustic versions of many of his classics and favorite songs over time. It is pretty good, but definitely a fan-only album.

2005: Front Parlour Ballads, Grizzly Man Soundtrack, and Live From Austin TX. I couldn't be at the Live From Austin ACL taping in 2001 because I had a hearing at my work that ran late, and here, 12 years later, it still seems like bullshit. Anyway, it was recorded in the Mock Tudor era, but Thompson plays songs from as far back as Shoot Out The Lights. Excellent stuff. Many of the instrumentals that comprise the Grizzly Man Soundtrack seem based on "Andalus/Radio Marrakesh" and "The Knife-Edge" from Strict Tempo!, and they are wonderful. Weirdly, with a touch little more distortion, they wouldn't be that out of place on an Earth album. There's a truly excellent documentary about the making of the soundtrack attached to the Grizzly Man DVD that has Herzog directing Thompson and his collaborators (including Jim O'Rourke) as if they are actors in his movies. It is a fascinating mash-up of how cinema and music are created. Front Parlour Ballads has a lot of creative potential in that it is a completely home-recorded Thompson album, with Richard himself playing everything but the percussion. My problem is that the songs don't sing for me at all. There's not even the one I can point to as the brilliant standout. They all seem not fully realized. It's a shame.

2006: RT: The Life And Music Of Richard Thompson, including RT On FR bonus disc (compilation), 1000 Years Of Popular Music (2006), "The Coo Coo Bird" (with Eliza Carthy) from The Harry Smith Project, "Mingulay Boat Song" from Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, & Chanteys, and "Red Wine Promises" from Shining Bright: The Songs of Lal & Mike Waterson. The Thompson box is a boon for Thompson fans, full of live performances and demos stretching back to 1969. There's one whole disc dedicated to epic guitar workouts, the disc I play most often. I also have the RT On FR mail-away bonus disc, which features even more covers and rarities. This was also the year of the second release of the 1000 Years Of Popular Music, this time a DVD with audio release and a handful of different songs. The earlier one is better.

2007: Sweet Warrior, Live Warrior (live), and "Harlan's Bounce" from Dreams With Sharp Teeth. Sweet Warrior is much, much better than Front Parlour Ballads, anchored by the anti-war anthem "Dad's Gonna Kill Me." Live Warrior is another private-label live release documenting the supporting tour. It's generally excellent, although the man needs to drop "A Bone Through Her Nose" immediately and forever.

2010: Yep, a three-year jump. My book dropped in 2008. I was a little devastated by the cold shutout from the Thompson camp while I was working on it. The only person in the man's inner circle who would speak with me was Pete Zorn, who is a mensch of the first order. I went to talk with Thompson at a show, sent him a few letters, contacted agents for him and for Linda (who was going to speak to me, but then she suffered a death in her family), and I got a whole lot of nothing. One blanket refusal and then I was fucked. Anyway, I got through the book, but I was so put off by the unfortunateness of meeting and being summarily rejected by my idol that I could not muster much enthusiasm for his work. I'm trying to put this behind me now so that I can move forward, and I can listen to the guy again. But it took time.

Right, 2010, then: Dream Attic and Dream Attic Acoustic Demos. Dream Attic is another respectable, if also predictable, Thompson album. This time, the recordings were live following a brief period of practice. The demos were available as a bonus when this first came out. On the tour that followed, Thompson played the whole of Dream Attic in the first set, then stomped out a bunch of killer songs in the second. I vastly preferred the second set. But still, man, those double-stops in this solo.

2011: Live At The BBC (collection). Three CDs and a DVD compiling a bunch of BBC in-studio performances between 1973 (with Linda, natch) all the way to 2009. Freakin' excellent.

2013: Electric. Thompson's most recent album is a pip. Again, nothing too surprising, but the man does what he does better than anyone else. He recorded this one with Buddy Miller in Nashville mostly as a stripped-back trio, and I sort of love it that those two guys are friends. Anyone reading this far: I've never heard Cabaret of Souls (a 2012 private-label release). Should I get it?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Music Library: Richard Thompson 1982-1998 (The Middle Period)

Continuing with Richard Thompson following his break-up with Linda. This is Thompson's middle period, when he was experimenting with his sound and figuring out the rest of his career.

1982: Live at Hunt's (September 22, 1982), Alone With His Guitar (September 29 and 30, 1982), and Nocturnal Emissions (1980-82) (all bootlegs). After sending Linda back to England at the end of the SOTL tour (which wrapped up in June or July), Thompson undertook a solo tour a few months later. The first two of these bootlegs showcase a man trying to put together a solo career. His voice strains to hit some of the notes. His acoustic playing lacks the incredible grace and fluidity that his solo shows will eventually become known for. However, these bootlegs are interesting. Thompson is working towards his solo persona, with the affable between-song patter punctuating the crackerjack emotional fireworks of his songs. Nocturnal Emissions, despite the frankly gross title, collects a number of interesting radio broadcasts, some with Linda, and some demos Thompson made for the Sugar Hill bluegrass label (and thank god he did not sign with them because they would have put his output into a literal wooden box).

1983: Hand of Kindness. Bringing in a horn-heavy big-band approach and a pub-rock vitality, Thompson's first proper solo album in over a decade features some killer songs, such as the Cajun-stomp "Tear-Stained Letter" and the fun audience-pleaser "Two Left Feet." And wow, this video is amazing. That's Thompson's secret weapon Pete Zorn as first sax. Plus a cigar-box guitar!

1984: Small Town Romance. Featuring live performances from the solo acoustic tour at the end of 1982, Small Town Romance has all of the uncertainty I mentioned above. It was out-of-print for many years. Not the worst thing in the world, but certainly not the best, either.

1985: Across A Crowded RoomAcross A Crowded Room Live (bootleg), Faithless (live), and "When The Spell Is Broken (Live At Park West Club, Chicago, March 28, 1985)" (the "You Don't Say" B-side). Crowded Room is Thompson's last album with Joe Boyd. The songs are excellent and the production more expansive than on the last two. The boot and the live album are both from the support tour, and both are blisteringly great. The bootleg is the audio from a live video that can be easily found on YouTube, while Faithless was an official release by Richard's label.  The B-side is a vinyl rip from either the same show as Faithless or nearby, as both were recorded in Chicago. Let me say a special word for "She Twists The Knife Again," which is almost post-punk in passion and approach.

1986: Daring Adventures and Live At the Bayou, November 2, 1986 (bootleg). Mitchell Froom took over as producer for Daring Adventures, and the result is, sadly, just flabbier. The songs have less crackle (the semi-racist "A Bone Through Her Nose" needs to be put down forever), although there are still some excellent works. The bootleg cooks pretty well, but the sound quality is a bit muffled.

1988: Amnesia, "Turning Of The Tide (Live)" (from Ben and Jerry's Newport Folk Festival '88), More Guitar (live), The Reckless Kind 7". With Amnesia, Thompson and producer Mitchell Froom fell into sync. The songs are excellent and Froom's production serves them far better than on Daring Adventures. Amnesia is one of my two favorites of Thompson's middle era. The version of "Turning Of The Tide" from Ben and Jerry's folk thingy is acoustic and pretty great, but, y'know, it's a fantastic song. More Guitar is another fan-club/private-label Thompson release consisting of tracks taken from a couple of shows in Washington DC in 1988. Thompson's buddy Henry Kaiser picked the tracks out and they focus on his guitar work, which was leaping into the "untouchable virtuoso" range around this time. The two Reckless Kind 7" B-sides are from the same shows as More Guitar. This version of "Can't Win" is from those DC shows, too. It originally surfaced on the Watching The Dark compilation and contains, as the video suggests, one of the most astounding guitar solos ever recorded.

1989: Loose ends, no album. "Here Without You" and "Hickory Wind" from Time Between: A Tribute To The Byrds. This is Thompson performing a Gene Clark song and a Gram Parsons song, which could be nothing but awesome.

1990: Loose ends, no album. "Two Left Feet" and "The Choice Wife" from Ben and Jerry's Newport Festival Vol. 2, "The May Day Psalter" (with Danny Thompson) from Circle Dance, and "Time To Ring Some Changes," "Mrs. Rita" (with June Tabor), and "Oh, I Swear" from the Hard Cash soundtrack. All I have from this year are loose ends.

1991: Rumor and Sigh. My first Richard Thompson album and favorite from this era. Like Henry The Human Fly, Rumor and Sigh jumps genres with aplomb, excelling at all. There's a pub-rocker ("Read About Love"), Stax soul ("Why Must I Plead"), a polka ("Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands"), and, well, you get the picture. This is also the album that introduced the sublime "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," which Thompson has probably played at least 200 times in each of the 22 years since he wrote it, and I daresay that it is a song that Thompson would be happy to never have to play again. He rushes the damn thing so fast now that it is starting to lose all meaning, although the audience still eats it up. Still, it's his biggest "hit," and he's a pro. Here's a version from before he started to hate the song.

Loose ends from 1991: "She Moves Through The Fair" from Ben and Jerry's Newport Folk Festival, "Shoot Out The Lights" from The Best Of Mountain Stage Live, "Dimming Of The Day" (with Mary Black and Dolores Keane) from Bringing It All Back Home BBC Soundtrack, three radio tracks, five live tracks on the I Misunderstood promo disc, "Heartbreak Hotel" (with John Cale, Shawn Colvin, David Sanborn, and Jo-El Sonnier) from Night Music With David Sanborn, two live tracks from the Read About Love single. I'm a bit obsessive, ok?

1992: Even the album is a loose end. Sweet Talker: Original Music From the MovieLive In Flushing October 4, 1992 (bootleg), "The Job Of Journey Work" from Ferrington Guitars, "I Feel So Good" from In Their Own Words. Sweet Talker is nothing great, although it has the music for the song "Persuasion," which will eventually become a fan favorite. The bootleg has decent sound quality and is a cooking acoustic show similar to the first one I saw in this same year. The two loose ends are both fine.

1993: Watching The Dark (compilation), King Of Bohemia (bootleg), Live At Crawley (bootleg), "Two Left Feet" from Live In Basingstroke, "Skull and Crossbones" from Medium Rare (XRT Radio) and Persuasion 7" (with Tim Finn). Watching The Dark was such a phenomenal compilation album for a cult artist like Thompson, combining album tracks with astonishing live versions and utter rarities impossible to find in the pre-Internet days. King Of Bohemia collects two live-in-the-studio radio shows, and Live At Crawley showcases Thompson's collaboration with the excellent Danny Thompson from Pentangle. I bought this as a bootleg in 1993, but Thompson later released it as an official live album on his private label. Of the loose tracks, the "Persuasion" single has the song with Finn's lyrics in the form that Thompson's fans know today.

1994: Mirror Blue, Doom and Gloom (fan compilation), Two Letter Words (live), "I Can't Wake Up To Save My Life" from ONXRT, two live tracks from the BBC. I was so excited when Mirror Blue came out and so disappointed with the actual album. It has some great songs ("Mingus Eyes" is my favorite) and some that never should have seen the light of day ("Fast Food," anyone?). Doom and Gloom was a fanclub release that collected rarities and live tracks between 1968 and 1994, and Two Letter Words was a Thompson private-label release that captures his live band in action in 1994. The live performances were far better than the versions on Mirror Blue.

1995: "Beeswing" from Live At The World Cafe, Vol. 1. One loose end for this year and that's all. I'm not as crazy about this song as some of Thompson's fans. To me, it is pretty, but it mythologizes a hippie relationship in a "weren't we all crazy?" way that I utterly fail to connect with. I mean, yes, she ends up a junkie, but the song is chock-full of unfortunate nostalgia. Makes a lot of Thompson's Boomer fans happy, though, so there's that.

1996: You? Me? Us?, A Rare Thing (bootleg), "Who Were You Thinking Of/96 Tears" (with David Byrne), four more live tracks. You? Me? Us? was Thompson's last album with Mitchell Froom producing, and I'm of mixed mind about it. See, I don't like this album much at all, but it's not really Froom's fault. Many of the songs are only half-cooked, which is on Richard. I hear from Thompson's fans don't like the Froom period, which I think is because they don't like the experimentation. They don't want Thompson to do anything other than play clean because I think that they are fundamentally conservative about the man and their music. They want him to be a certain person, and he has been happy to comply for pretty much the whole of his later period. But I think the experimentation of his middle era was good for Thompson, and I wish he would do it again. When he popped up on the Grizzly Man soundtrack working with Jim O'Rourke, I was hoping that they would collaborate on something. O'Rourke has an excellent ear for folk music and some excellent intuition for interesting production. But no. Anyway, You? Me? Us? is split into an acoustic side and an electric side, which is an interesting experiment, even if it doesn't fully work here. The best songs are the rockers "Put It There, Pal" and "Bank Vault In Heaven," both of which are screaming out for epic guitar solos. The folkier songs ("Burns Supper" in particular) are not quite finished, but most are built around solid foundations. A Rare Thing is an acoustic recording from the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, and I was there.

1997: Industry (with Danny Thompson), "Beat The Retreat" from Folk Live From Mountain Stage, and "From Galway To Graceland" from Live At The Iron Horse. Industry was an interesting collaboration with Danny Thompson which veered between Richard's Woody Guthrie-esque working class anthems and Danny's jazz stylings with his band Whatever.

1998: The Bones Of All Men (with Philip Pickett) and Celtschmerz (live). The Bones Of All Men is an early music collaboration and I hate it like I hate all early music. Celtschmerz is another live private-label release taken from a tour where Thompson played a lot of fan favorites with his son Teddy for accompaniment.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Music Library: Richard Thompson 1972-1982 (mainly Richard and Linda Thompson albums)

I first saw Richard Thompson in a small bar in Baton Rouge in 1992. My friends Mike and Tommy had caught him in New Orleans a couple of nights before and had been so blown away that they convinced me and two other friends to drive down for the show, which amounted to a de facto quitting of my job. It was a lousy delivery job. The show changed my life.

I've tried to describe what it was like, but there's nothing more accurate than what it actually was: seeing the finest guitarist of the classic rock generation - who, by definition, is one of the greatest guitarists who has ever lived in the world because that generation bred ample numbers of actual guitar heroes - rock the shit out of a mid-size bar in a sleepy Southern college town on a Tuesday night.

I've since seen Thompson in concert a couple of dozen times. I've collected everything I could get my hands on. I wrote a goddamn book about Shoot Out The Lights, which one of his most transcendent albums. There's something about his music that is literally extraordinary, so full of wonder and surprise that it seems both superhuman and wholly human.

All of which is saying nothing new. Because it is exactly that sort of transcendence that all Richard Thompson fans feel. Thompson himself has pointed out that when he's really on, he's having an out-of-body experience of sorts. But Thompson is also such a consummate pro at this point that this listener, who has seen the man play live nearly 20 times and owns many bootlegs, can't tell the difference between a good night and a bad night.

Case in point: I saw Thompson play two consecutive nights in 2010, first in Nashville in a sit-down theater where I was right up front, then in Asheville in a crowded stand-up place where I ended up near the back being constantly bumped by an overenthusiastic greybeard. I thought the first night was insanely great and the second mediocre, but when I chatted with the soundman after the show, he felt the exact opposite. He'd been on board for the whole tour, so presumably he had a better insight into when Thompson was letting loose and when he was just hitting his marks. But I felt that I had some insight, too, which maybe just had a lot to do with my own comfort zone.

Anyway, here's my review of the music from the first part of Thompson's career.

1972: Henry The Human Fly (solo). Thompson's first solo outing is quite a departure from the seriousness and focus of Fairport Convention. Henry The Human Fly, notoriously the worst-selling album in Warner Brothers history (a claim that is surely apocryphal), has twelve songs, all in different flavors of folk-rock, most pointing a direct line to Elvis Costello's own genre-defying debut. Particularly great is "The Angels Took My Racehorse Away."

-- Richard and Linda Thompson era --

1972: Kew Bridge Folk Club October 1972 (bootleg).  Linda Peters was one of the backing singers on Henry, which came out in April 1972, but by time of this October 1972 gig, she was sharing a billing and Thompson's last name. This boot has a number of fun nonalbum songs like "Shady Lies," "Dragging The River For You," and "Once Brave Napoleon," but the sound quality is utterly terrible.

1973: Once Brave Henry: Live At The Memphis Club 1973 (bootleg). Similar to the previous boot, this gig features a number of nonalbum songs, more songs from the about-to-be-released Bright Lights album, and an excellent cover of Hank Williams' last song "Angel Of Death."

1974: I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight. Bright Lights is a sublime album, a pinnacle of British folk rock. Every song bristles with energy, intelligence, and passion. It is also quite dark, with most of the songs contemplating a life haunted by death, drunkenness, and despair, which is pretty heavy for a guy who was 24 when it was recorded. There are ten songs on the album and not a clunker in the bunch. I couldn't say which are the best, although I admit that I love "We Sing Hallelujah" and "The Little Beggar Girl," which are, incidentally, the least dark songs on the album, a little less than the rest. Here's the final track, "The Great Valerio," a song of such astonishing otherworldly beauty that I'm willing to believe it sprang whole from the head of a forgotten Celtic deity. Note the coda, the Satie composition "La Balançoire."

1975: "Hokey Pokey (Live)" (from Over The Rainbow: Live at The Rainbow, March 16, 1975, a compilation album), Hokey Pokey (April), Pour Down Like Silver (November), and In Concert November 1975. 1975 was a big year for the Thompsons. Having released their debut as a duo the prior year, they opted to release two stellar albums and then, in December, disappear to live on a compound with their Mullah for the next two years. This was a hectic time. The couple converted to Islam (and Sufism, in particular) in early 1974, just before the release of Bright Lights, and found themselves spiritually drawn to retreat from the world. The first track here was from a compilation where the Thompsons, playing acoustic, shared a stage with such dissimilar artists as Procul Harem and Hatfield and the North. The Hokey Pokey album dropped the next month. While not as brilliant overall as Bright Lights, it featured several truly great songs, including the Thompsons' much-loved "A Heart Needs A Home." It should be noted that, for my money, the best version of this song is not on the album, but on the out-of-print best-of Watching The Dark. The version on In Concert is a close second. The studio versions out there, though, are much too sappy. Thanks to YouTube, here's the best version.

In November, the Thompsons released their third duo album, Pour Down Like Silver, an austere and icily beautiful album mostly about their newfound religious beliefs, which was made more stark by the lack of rhythm guitar. They had intended to have their friend Simon Nicol record the rhythm guitar parts, but he was unavailable and Richard simply never got around to overdubbing the parts himself. What is left is a collection of songs both majestic and remote. Even the ones that veer into power-pop territory ("For Shame Of Doing Wrong" and "Jet Plane In A Rocking Chair") have a solemnity to them that undercuts the happiness of the melody. The album ends on "Dimming Of The Day," a song so gorgeous that Linda tells a story about meeting the Everly Brothers, who held her hand and sang it to her.  Instead of that, though, I'm going to link to the first studio guitar workout track that Thompson recorded since his Fairport days.

In Concert November 1975 is an official live album that came out a few years ago. As with the bootlegs from the previous years, there are a few covers and a nonalbum track, but the sound quality is excellent, as is the performance. Here's their cover of Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me" attached to a fairly literal-minded video.

1976: (guitar, vocal) (compilation). With the Thompsons holed up in their Maida Vale Sufi commune, their label, Island, threw together this compilation of live tracks, outtakes, and Fairport studio outtakes. The Fairport tracks are actually pretty wonderful, as is the live cover of "The Dark End Of The Street," but the other tracks are better served elsewhere.

1977: The Madness Of Love (bootleg). By 1977, the Thompsons were growing weary of the life in their retreat. Apparently, the women did all the work while the men sat around discussing their faith. As Linda put it, the mens' room was full of English guys sitting around in flowing white robes while the ladies' room looked like a scene from a Kurosawa movie. Richard had been forbidden to play guitar by his Mullah, which is much like taking paintbrushes from Picasso. This bootleg is from the infamous Sufi tour, where the Thompsons decided to compromise by taking to the stage with a semi-competent all-Sufi band. The band is not terrible. But they're not good, either, and that makes all the difference. You'll note, too, that there is an awful lot of electric piano on this track. Weirdly, a part of the Thompsons re-emergence into the music scene involved attempts to incorporate more contemporary sounds from the late 70s, which dates the next two albums in a way unusual for the duo.

1978: First Light. Some of these songs are pretty good, especially "Don't Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart" (which later was a hit for the Pointer Sisters, if you get my point), but the production is so blah-disco-bullshit that I find this album a chore to listen to. Thompson needed to sell some albums after his self-imposed exile, but this was absolutely the wrong path. He sounds unengaged and the pseudo-Arabic flourishes cheapen his deeply-held beliefs. That said, First Light at least sounds like an  experiment of sorts, unlike...

1979: Sunnyvista. This is the nadir of Thompson's career. There are some revisionists out there who will try to tell you that this is a good album. They are lying, possibly to themselves. There are, as always, some good songs, but the production is terrible. The songs that are naked attempts to ingratiate with a mass audience are terrible.  "Civilisation," which is arguably Richard Thompson's response to punk music, is a godawful mess of poorly-articulated misanthropy. The best you can get here is "You're Gonna Need Somebody," which is thematically similar to Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" from the same year.

Incidentally, my book tells this same story, but it's much better than this post. Figured I should say something about that.

1980: Before Joe Pulled The Trigger, Rafferty's Folly, and Strange Affair (bootlegs, all). The first two of these are more or less the same album with varying sound quality between them. The Thompsons were basically at a point where they needed a hit or to accept that they were washed up, so they contracted with Gerry Rafferty to produce their next sessions. Rafferty liked big, fake-sounding productions, and both of these bootlegs, the forerunners to Shoot Out The Lights, sound like Rafferty productions. They are as fixed in time as the sound of the late 70s as Rafferty's own 1978 album City To City. The Strange Affair bootleg collects several tracks from the 1977 Madness of Love concert along with some radio tracks recorded in 1980. Sound quality is suspect and the material is lackluster.

1981: Strict Tempo! (Richard solo). Linda's pregnancy in 1981 was difficult and their marriage was strained. They were working on the sessions that would become Shoot Out The Lights, but those were slow-going. To pass the time Richard recorded Strict Tempo!, an all-instrumental album where Richard recorded all the non-drum tracks himself. It's pretty entertaining. Here's a British folk version of Duke Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm."

1982: Instead of doing this whole year, let's just hit the Richard and Linda Thompson duo parts and save the solo dates for the next post. Shoot Out The Lights was a tough session for the Thompsons, and then Richard embarked on a solo tour of the US between the recording of the album in 1981 and the release in early 1982. During that tour, he met and fell in love with another woman. There's a pretty good book in the 33 1/3 series that details this part of the story. Let's just jump to the music.

Shoot Out The Lights. Like Bright Lights, SOTL is a perfect album. Eight songs with minimal overdubs, as raw as any album ever recorded. The greatest is "Walking On A Wire," a devastating look at things falling apart. I don't know that I can say more about this album (I mean, you know there's a book with some 100-odd pages about what's great about this album, right?). It is perfect. Anyone who likes rock music should know it intimately. Which goes without saying, actually, because one can only know this album intimately.

May 19, 1982: Live at the Paradise, Boston and May 20, 1982: Live at Hunt's, Burlington (bootlegs, both). When he got back from his tour, he told Linda it was over and then they embarked on a club tour of the US together. This was less an opportunity for hijinks than an emotional hell-ride across thousands of miles of heartache. Funny thing about working on songs of death and despair: the hate, hurt, and confusion really worked in their favor. These bootlegs sound amazing.

Next time: Richard dusts himself off and picks up his solo career.

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