Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[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
I 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 guitar 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.