Album Review: Acoustic Rarities by Richard Thompson

Posted by Gig Junkies on Thursday Sep 14, 2017 Under Album Review

Review by John Bentley.

Legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson is certainly a workaholic and is prolific in his recorded output. As well as frequent touring and producing new work on studio albums he has recently started to revisit some of his past work. Following the release of ‘Acoustic Classics Vol. II’ to great reviews in August, Richard Thompson will release ‘Acoustic Rarities’ (Beeswing via Proper Distribution) on October 6, just ahead of his UK tour. ‘Acoustic Rarities’ is new recordings of some of the more obscure songs in the Thompson catalogue, some previously existing only as cover versions.

Richard Thompson was recently named by Rolling Stone as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time and is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters.

Richard Thompson Electric Trio @ Birmingham

He has received multiple awards, including Lifetime Achievement Awards at the BBC Folk Awards and the US and UK Americana Music Association Awards, as well as Mojo’s Les Paul Award and an Ivor Novello Award for song writing. Thompson was appointed OBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List. Robert Plant, REM, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and many others have recorded his songs.

Thompson was a founder member of the iconic folk-rock band, Fairport Convention, and played on their first five albums, including the seminal ‘Liege and Lief’.  Leaving the band in 1971 he produced a series of acclaimed albums with his then wife, Linda, notably ‘I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight’. Since 1983 he has pursued a solo career, releasing a string of albums containing many more classic songs. Like some other major singer-songwriters, notably Neil Young, Thompson works either with a band or solo with his acoustic guitar.

Richard Thompson Electric Trio @ Birmingham

So this is an interesting new album in which Thompson, in acoustic mode, revisits and re-records some of his (mostly) lesser known old songs. Some of the songs are previously unreleased or were recorded only as covers by others. Others are from his days with Fairport Convention, Richard and Linda Thompson or from his solo career. One of the best songs on the new album is not an obscurity, but a classic reworking of Fairport Convention’s ‘Sloth’.  The original band version was a lengthy epic featuring Thompson’s electric guitar duelling with Dave Swarbrick’s violin. On the new recording, at a more restrained pace, Thompson elegantly picks his way through the tune with his acoustic guitar. Beautiful!


Other particularly enjoyable re-workings include ‘Poor Ditching Boy’ (with very effective accordion accompaniment) from his first solo album, ‘Never Again’ and ‘End of the Rainbow’ (two sad songs from his Richard and Linda Thompson days) and the previously unreleased ‘She Played Right Into My Hands’. Then there’s some interestingly off-the-wall stuff like ‘I Must Have A March’ (which sounds like something from the Brecht and Weill songbook) and ‘Alexander Graham Bell’ (where Thompson turns into Django Reinhardt). In fact it’s all pretty good. However, it’s probably an album for the long-term fans. Given Thompson’s massive and diverse output it’s difficult to know where to start for those wishing to check-out his work. Good starting points would be the Fairport Convention and Richard and Linda Thompson albums listed above along with his 1991 solo album ‘Rumor and Sigh’.

***John Bentley reviewed Richard Thompson for Gig Junkies at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham in 2013. Pictures featured on from that night’s gig.

‘Acoustic Rarities’ will be released on the 6th October 2017 on Beeswing.

What If (unreleased)
They Tore The Hippodrome Down (unreleased)
Seven Brothers (covered by Blair Dunlop)
Rainbow Over The Hill (covered by the Albion Band)
Never Again (released in 1975 on Richard & Linda Thompson album Hokey Pokey)
I Must Have A March (unreleased)
I’ll Take All My Sorrows To The Sea (from the orchestral song suite Interviews With Ghosts)
Poor Ditching Boy (released in 1972 on Richard Thompson album Henry The Human Fly)
Alexander Graham Bell (unreleased)
Sloth (released in 1970 on Fairport Convention album Full House)
Push And Shove (unreleased)
End Of The Rainbow (released in 1974 on Richard & Linda Thompson album I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight)
Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman (released in 1970 on Fairport Convention album Full House)
She Played Right Into My Hands (unreleased)

Thompson is also embarking on a UK tour in October:
Wed 11 October Brighton Dome
Thu 12 October Guildford G-Live
Fri 13 October Poole Lighthouse
Sat 14 October Bristol Colston Hall
Sun 15 October Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre
Tue 17 October Edinburgh Usher Hall
Wed 18 October Gateshead Sage
Thu 19 October Salford Lowry  SOLD OUT
Sat 21 October Saffron Walden Saffron Hall
Sun 22 October Coventry Warwick Arts Centre
Mon 23 October London Cadogan Hall *EXTRA DATE*
Wed 25 October Sheffield City Hall
Thu 26 October Leicester de Montfort Hall
Fri 27 October Basingstoke Anvil
Sat 28 October Norwich Theatre Royal
Mon 30 October London Bridge Theatre  SOLD OUT

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