Richard Thompson: More Guitar

It’s become something of a ritual for critics to start their reviews of Richard Thompson’s work by scratching their heads over why he is not a household name on a rank with John Lennon or Neil Young (or even, one might add, John Denver or Christopher Cross). At this point, though, it seems better simply to celebrate the fact that Thompson has managed to eke out enough commercial success to see him through a career that has been musically, if not financially, stellar. Thirty-five years after his start with Fairport Convention, Thompson continues to release album after album of outstanding music, long after many of his contemporaries have seen fit to retire (or, sadly, to keep churning out music that has little to no appeal. Paul McCartney, I’m looking in your direction).

More Guitar is a live fan club release on Thompson’s own Beeswing label. The performances are from 1988’s Amnesia tour, featuring the crack backing performances of John Kirkpatrick, Clive Gregson, Pat Donaldson, Kenny Aronoff, and Christine Collister. Hardcore Thompson fans will recognize “Can’t Win” as the same version on the three-CD compilation Watching the Dark, complete with one fan’s frenzied “Yeeeeooooo!” at the beginning. That tune, according to Dark’s liner notes, was recorded on Nov. 7, 1988, in Washington, D.C. It’s unclear how much of the rest of More Guitar was recorded at the same concert. The CD’s liner notes are sadly lacking, providing only performing and engineering credits and the information that the tracks were recorded some time during 1988.

Subsequent cuts reflect the band’s ability to create an atmosphere that is both grim yet ultimately hopeful, treating pain as inspiration for creativity rather than as an excuse for self-pity.
Much of More Guitar features songs from Amnesia as well as Thompson’s then-recent Daring Adventures and Across a Crowded Room. Thompson and his band showcase their ability to bring real power and excitement even to lesser songs such as “A Bone Through Her Nose.” The performance of “Don’t Tempt Me” that starts off the CD thrills almost as much as “Can’t Win,” with a solid punch from the rhythm section and outstanding guitar playing by Thompson. Subsequent cuts such as “Gypsy Love Songs” and “Shoot Out the Lights” reflect the band’s ability to create an atmosphere that is both grim yet ultimately hopeful, treating pain as inspiration for creativity rather than as an excuse for self-pity.

Thompson connoisseurs will be especially interested in the covers of “We Got to Get Out of This Place” and Gene Clark’s “Here Without You,” as well as the fine performance of RT’s own “The Angels Took My Racehorse Away,” from his first solo album Henry the Human Fly. Given the high quality of the playing on this CD, I was briefly tempted to wonder why Richard Thompson has never released a live album on a major label. Presumably, one can blame this on the lack of mainstream recognition I mentioned at the start of the review. Luckily, the existence of fan club releases such as this do something to remedy that unfortunate situation — that is, if the fan can figure out how to find the fan club. Barring that, we’ll just have to hold out hope that eventually Thompson will get a fraction of the fame he so richly deserves.

Link: www.richardthompson-music.com