Musical palate cleanser, guitar god edition

I mentioned in passing the other day in my Dave Swarbrick MPC that Richard Thompson was due for one.  Most of you are probably asking who the hell Richard Thompson is.

Well, I’ll tell you.  He’s a brilliant songwriter who was a founding member of British folk-rock’s greatest band, Fairport Convention.  Two of Thompson’s albums that he put out with his first wife, Linda, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight and Shoot Out The Lights, are among the finest rock albums ever produced, regardless of genre.

Thompson is also likely to be the best guitarist you’ve never heard of.

Back in my college days, I’d have friends who would dismiss my love for folk-rock, calling it wimpy and boring.  In response, I’d pull out a couple of albums and play some of RT’s work.  Invariably, I’d get reactions like, “hey, man, that’s good”, “I had no idea” and, of course, “got anymore?”.  (The highlight for me was when I caught one of my fourth-year roommates making the same demonstration to someone else.)

Anyway, here’s an example of his stellar work.  It’s a song he wrote in the late ’80s, “Can’t Win”.  It’s always been a guitar vehicle when he’s performed it live.  This is my favorite version of that.  The song takes a while to build, so be patient.  The fireworks start after the four-minute mark.

If you can’t say “wow” after that…

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Musical palate cleanser, guitar god edition

  1. Chapindawg

    You are correct sir, Wow. But not just wow, more like “holy crap Batman” and the crowd did not go bonkers, I didn’t get that? Only One person stood up, heck I stood up in my living room!

  2. Noonan

    I’m a big fan of RT. His solo live album “Small Town Romance” is amazing. I play a lot of acoustic guitar, and I am blown away by his technique.

    • I love Small Town Romance. His version of “Never Again” on it is stunning.

      Funny thing is Thompson hates that record and didn’t want Hannibal to release it.

      • Noonan

        He probably thinks the vocals are lacking, and some would agree. I love his vocals, but then again I love Dylan, Prine, and Tom Waits.

  3. rchris

    I saw him twice at the Variety Playhouse. His gig there with a band was outstanding, but his solo appearance was for the ages. He is so good that a backup band actually lessens the effect. He played one solo where his thumb played bass, his ring and small fingers played rhythm, and his index and big fingers played a lead. Amazing. As good as he is as a guitarist, he’s even better as a songwriter. From “Meet on the Ledge” to “Devonside” to “How Will I Ever Be Simple Again” to “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me” he’s written more hits that never became hits than anyone I’m familiar with. His arrangement of “Tam Lin” with Fairport was awesome as well. You have excellent musical taste, Senator.

    • I do not exaggerate when I say this, but in the course of more than forty years, the greatest concert I’ve ever seen, bar none, was Thompson’s first show in Atlanta, at the Moonshadow. He was solo and he had the audience totally entranced – it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a performance where the crowd was so wrapped up in it that I could actually hear the club’s ventilation system working.

      I saw Randy Newman two weeks later at the same place and it was a little bit of a letdown, compared to RT. And I never thought I would say that.

  4. David K

    I caught a documentary on the making of the Grizzly Man soundtrack that Richard Thompson did that was great. His soundtrack on that movie is sublime and it’s really cool seeing him in the studio taking direction from Werner Herzog and creating the soundtrack with other amazingly talented people like Jim O’rourke.

  5. hassan

    1952 Vincent Black Lightning is as good as it gets for me. I’ve been lucky enough to see him and he’s even more impressive live. He plays so effortlessly.

  6. Ed Kilgore

    Ah, RT!

    I should have mentioned in the thread on Swarbrick that he and RT co-wrote one of the most touching songs ever: Fairport’s “Now Be Thankful.” I used to play it every Thanksgiving Day. when I had my own blog.

    But “Shoot Out the Lights,” recorded by a couple on the brink of ending their marriage, is one of the most agonizingly powerful albums ever (only Uncle Green’s “Book of Bad Thoughts” rivals it as mood music for a divorce). Every track is wonderful, but “Walking on a Wire” is my favorite, and “Wall of Death” is a close second.

    I’m beginning to really enjoy GTP as a music as well as a football blog.

    • CLT Dawg

      I agree. I thought I knew a good bit of music, but I continued to be impressed with the gold the Senator turns me onto.

  7. Eldawg

    Those are some good chops.