KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – RICHARD THOMPSON “DARING ADVENTURES”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]

Artist: RICHARD THOMPSON
Album: DARING ADVENTURES

richard-thompson-daring-adventuresI knew the name Richard Thompson for several years but I didn’t hear his music until 1991’s Rumor & Sigh, his critically-acclaimed breakthrough album. Although I was already a fan of his first band, legendary British folk-rock legends Fairport Convention, and was blown away by his guitar work, it took some time for me to appreciate his solo recordings. Initially, that deep voice and his penchant for moody ballads disguised a unique songwriting talent with a wicked (and dark) sense of humor. In 1993 I bought the 3-CD career-spanning Watching The Dark anthology and after a few listens something clicked. I quickly became a big fan. Within months I owned his entire discography and I’ve never looked back. Any new Richard Thompson album is an automatic purchase on the day of release. Daring Adventures, his second & final release for Polydor, is not the ideal entry point for newcomers, since the songwriting is spottier than his best albums and the production (by Mitchell Froom, who would go on to produce his next four albums, all of which are highly recommended) lacks the punch that his songs deserve, but more than half of its 12 songs are winners. A few of them have gone on to become concert staples.

I previously discussed the infectious “Valerie” in my FROM AMY TO ZAPPA – I’m Waiting For Valerie post earlier this year. This remains one of my favorite RT songs, with its hilarious lyrics and driving rhythm. Album opener “Bone Through Her Nose” is another fun track that showcases his twisted sense of humor. “Long Dead Love” is a dark, brooding waltz with a great richard-thompson-photo-circa-1987guitar solo and wonderful harmonies from Christine Collister and Clive Gregson. The jangly “Dead Man’s Handle” has hints of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in the Hammond organ and propulsive beat. The country shuffle “Baby Talk” features some of his best guitar playing on the album, but then again nearly every song features impressive fretwork.  While not a classic, the pretty acoustic ballad “How Will I Ever Be Simple Again” is a good example of his heartfelt vocals & subtle approach on acoustic guitar. Album closer “Al Bowlly’s In Heaven” is a slow, jazzy shuffle that references the titular bandleader from the ‘30s. I’ve seen him perform this song in concert a number of times and it’s always an audience favorite. If you haven’t heard Richard Thompson before I can recommend a number of albums to start with, but Daring Adventures deserves some recognition in spite of its thin digital sound, due to a number of excellent songs and stellar musicianship.

For some reason it’s hard to find audio clips from the album on YouTube, but I did manage to locate a couple of fan-created clips which are embedded below, along with a scorching live version of “Valerie” by the Richard Thompson Band from 1994.

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27 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – RICHARD THOMPSON “DARING ADVENTURES”

  1. Phillip Helbig
    September 8, 2016

    I saw Fairport Convention (but, this year, not Richard Thompson, though my sharp wit did cause Ashley Hutchings to laugh at a pun at the Village Hall) last August in Cropredy, as most years. I usually buy some CDs, from the tent at the festival and from car-boot sales in the village. Owning only Rumours (I know, I know, it’s their 15th album or whatever and there is other good stuff and the one before it, I bought a 2-CD “best of” out of curiosity. Track 7 is “I’m so afraid”, which sounds, to me, just like Richard Thompson, as far as the vocals go, while the guitar work could be from Gilmour.

    Here’s a video with a longer version than on the CDs (though it is one of a couple of live songs on the CDs).

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    • Phillip, you lost me with the leap from Fairport Convention to Fleetwood Mac. Both great British bands, of course. I have the DVD of the concert from that YouTube clip and it’s fantastic. Lindsey Buckingham continues to be an unsung guitar god. Sure, people know who he is, but many don’t appreciate just how great…and unique…a player he is. I don’t hear the Thompson similarity in his voice, but maybe some Gilmour in his fret work.

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  2. Vinyl Connection
    September 8, 2016

    ‘Watching the Dark’ is indeed a fine anthology and excellent intro to Richard Thompson, and you are so right – his music does take a little application before it ‘clicks’. You may recall that I recently wrote about his 1984 album ‘Across a Crowded Room’ which was my first exposure the the man many rate as one of the premier guitarists alive. Also worthy of consideration is ‘Rumour and Sigh’ – would you agree Rich?

    https://vinylconnection.com.au/2016/07/15/twisting-the-knife-away/

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    • Hi Bruce. Glad we agree about the Watching The Dark anthology. I love how it jumps from solo to Fairport to Richard & Linda, and between studio, live, unreleased, etc. By the end you really get a good picture of his career up to that point. As I mentioned in this post, Rumor & Sigh (surprisingly “Rumor” with the non-British spelling) was the first RT album I heard, and it is certainly one of his best. Few fans would argue that “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” is among the best things he’s ever done, but there’s so much more on that record to enjoy. Occasionally, Mitchell Froom’s production on that album and the two that followed obscured the songs a bit, but I still love those records. I missed your post on Across A Crowded Room the first time but I will check it out this weekend. Thanks for the link.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin
    September 8, 2016

    I am glad you posted this, Rich, as for a long time now, I have been meaning to re-examine this guy’s work. I owned Shoot Out The Lights when I was a teenager, but it never sunk in. I know he has a lot to offer, and I have to start paying more attention.

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    • Hi Kevin. RT is definitely one of those artists who’s an acquired taste, and even if you appreciate some of his music you may never become a huge fan, but if/when you do get into him, it’s hard not to get obsessed. Seeing him live also enhances the experience, whether it’s solo acoustic or with a full band. He’s equally impressive on acoustic & electric. Shoot Out The Lights is worth a revisit. Hopefully you’ll be in the right frame of mind when you do. I also highly recommend Hand Of Kindness, his wonderful album from 1983.

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  4. Jeff Kempin
    September 8, 2016

    Another great post, Rich. I am a fan of Thompson too. I first got into his music with the Rumor and Sigh album, and I followed him for a couple more albums following that one (Mirror Blue and You? Me? Us?) and I caught a show in the mid 90’s. He’s a sharp songwriter, a great singer and a fantastic guitarist. He’s anotrher one of those musicians that should be way more famous than they are.

    Have a good week!

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    • Thanks for the kind words, Jeff. I’m glad you’re also an RT fan. Sounds like we got into him at around the same time and appreciated the same albums. I saw him a few times in the ’90s, a couple of times in the next decade, and then again as the opening act for Glen Hansard last year. Every one of those shows was excellent (with a few being mind-blowing). I agree that he deserves more mainstream success, but I’m not sure he would even want that.

      Hope you’re having a great weekend.
      Rich

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  5. Neil
    September 8, 2016

    Daring Adventures is one of those albums that gets lost in the Thompson canon, it;s one of my favorites and that may because Froom is less Froom on this one, if that makes sense.

    Nice choice and was it really that long ago it came out.

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    • Hi Neil. I agree that this album is lost in his canon, but that might have something to do with the excellent albums that followed as well as the thin production. I was amazed that Froom was involved in this record, considering how much his sonic stamp was all over the next three.

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  6. J.
    September 9, 2016

    I have this one and it’s a winner. It was recommended by a friend a few years ago – one of his favourite albums – and I was hooked right away. Great review.

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    • Glad you enjoy this album too. How many other RT albums do you own? Do you have any other favorites?

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      • J.
        September 17, 2016

        I only have two, Rich – this one and Mirror Blue. Again, that was recommended by a friend. Another fine album!

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      • Mirror Blue is an excellent album, but its predecessor (Rumor & Sigh) is probably a little stronger. Well worth seeking out.

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      • J.
        September 20, 2016

        Thanks, Rich – added to the ever expanding list! You lot will be the ruination of me! 🙂

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      • That’s what we’re here for…to make you frivolously spend your money on music. It’s a public service. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  7. keepsmealive
    September 9, 2016

    Awesome post, Rich!

    Ashamed to admit that, since our last talk about this guy ages ago (and Scott, our HMO recommended the same thing – that I should get into this guy post-haste), I still have not gotten to his music. It’s like so much other stuff comes up and I alwyas mean to delve and then get distracted… I only have record of his here (The Old Kit Bag), but get the feeling he’s one of those guys that once you start you cannot stop…

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    • Nothing to be ashamed about. There are so many artists out there, old & new, and who can keep track of them all. Even with a collection of 8,000-9,000 titles on various formats, I still occasionally feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s out there. If only I could live to 200 (and keep my hearing) I might eventually get to most of what I want to hear in my lifetime. The Old Kit Bag is decent but it’s a bit RT-by-the-numbers for me. That’s hardly a complaint, as anything he records is usually at least “very good,” but he’s done enough amazing albums to make it easy to distinguish between the more average ones. If you ever feel like diving in, there are plenty of good albums to start with, as well as a lot of very good compilations that have popped up on the market over the years. I hope you do that one day.

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  8. Sarca
    September 10, 2016

    Sadly, I don’t own any of his albums, nor Fairport, but have appreciated him on YouTube (not the same, I know…) and most definitely in Werner Herzog’s Grizzy Man – Thompson did the music, which is just MAGICAL. I saw the extra feature from this film that had Herzog explain to Thompson when a tune wasn’t working for him that a particular opening note needs to “sound like a mighty foot has landed on the ground” (to paraphrase). Richard gets it right away and plays it. AMAZING. He truly is a MUSICIAN worthy of attention.

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    • I never say Grizzly Man but I have the soundtrack and there’s lots of good material on that record. I can’t say it’s among my favorite RT releases because he has so many amazing studio & live records, but I like hearing anything he releases. I’m not surprised that he managed to give Herzog exactly what he was requesting. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. SbE
    October 21, 2016

    Hi Rich – thanks for writing that.

    You reminded me of Richard Thompson finding a ’16th century chord structure in ‘Oops, I did it again’. If you don’t know it already, you might enjoy it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4WGsMplGxU&ab_channel=LaurieGirling

    I think Mr Thompson’s a bit snitty about the song itself. The songwriters are both Swedish, which resulted in the wonderful use of ‘oops’, which I don’t think a native English speaker would ever have imagined placing so prominently in a song sung by a young, modern woman, except in the deepest of deep irony. To somebody Swedish, I imagine, ‘oops’ is pure onomatopoeia.

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    • Thanks for the link to that performance, SbE. I was fortunate to see one of Thompson’s first US performances of 1,000 Years Of Popular Music and this song was included near the end of his set. It’s hard to tell how snitty he is about the song since he has a typically dark British sense of humo(u)r, but he clearly enjoys performing it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SbE
        October 21, 2016

        It’s funny how we Brits are allowed the invisibility cloak of our well known ‘dark’ humour to excuse discourteous behaviour. ‘Reading’ Mr Thompson, as one Brit reading another, in that video he’s being disdainful of Ms Spears and all her works. His tight lips give it away. I’d guess he knows his audience will share his attitude – though, strangely, since the audience seems to be in agreement on the ‘low’ level of ‘Oops, I did it again’ they seem to know all the words and are quite happy to sing along.

        I think the disapproval serves to draw his audience towards him in a “we all agree on what’s good music here, don’t we?” He’s far more generous about ‘Oops’ when he appears on NPR in 2003 (about 9 minutes in) http://n.pr/2dvriZG

        Sometimes it’s hard to see the health of the bare bones when a song’s wrapped up in such a sparkly robe.

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      • I guess I’m basing my opinion of his feelings about that song on the live performance I attended more than a decade ago. He seemed genuinely impressed by the songwriting, hence its inclusion in the show. I didn’t get any sense that he was being condescending, although if he was it’s likely about Ms. Spears’ public persona and not the music that was written for her.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SbE
        October 21, 2016

        Thanks for that reassurance, Rich. Really glad to hear that he could hear the Swedish songwriters’ work through the layers of her public persona. Videos are such partial pictures, aren’t they? My son saw Mr Thompson touring in Brighton and found him to be a gentleman: http://bit.ly/2eBCoxB

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      • Phillip Helbig
        October 21, 2016

        I don’t know what, if anything, his lips give away. Like Chuck Berry inventing the duck walk to hide the wrinkles in his suit, Thompson adopted his method of speaking to counteract stuttering. You have to correct for that. Having seen Thompson on numerous occasions (mostly at Cropredy), he always talks like that.

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      • Very interesting. Didn’t know about his stutter and methods for correcting it. Thanks for letting us know, Phillip.

        Like

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