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Sunday, February 28, 2010


WALKING ON A WIRE: 1968-2009 (2009)
256-320 KBPS

Richard Thompson has never had a for-real hit record (at least not in America) over the course of a career that's spanned five decades, but there are few musicians who are better respected by their peers or have a more devoted fan base, and not without reason — he's a fine singer, a superb, inventive guitarist, and a truly masterful songwriter. This may explain why Thompson, a man who could best be described as a "cult figure," is being honored with his third multi-disc box set. The 1993 set Watching the Dark was a brilliant overview of Thompson's body of work that included classic songs from all phases of his career along with rare live material, unreleased studio sessions, and even a few new songs. Released in 2006, RT: The Life and Music of Richard Thompson took a very different approach, instead collecting five discs' worth of unreleased material drawn from Thompson's own tape archives, which seemed designed to please obsessive fans at the expense of those who wanted a reasonably clear picture of the arc of his career. And now, Walking on a Wire: 1968-2009 takes the opposite extreme — it's a four-disc set that offers a carefully edited and intelligently compiled chronological summary of Thompson's recorded repertoire, from his early recordings with Fairport Convention to his 2007 solo album, Sweet Warrior. However, it doesn't feature a single recording that hasn't been released before, and the few tracks that could pass as rarities come from "authorized bootlegs" Thompson has released through his fan club and website (nearly all still easily available).
For many artists, this wouldn't be quite such a severe failing, but with rare exceptions a four-disc box set is most likely to be purchased by an artist's most loyal fans, and there's almost nothing on Walking on a Wire that wouldn't already be in the collection of a serious Richard Thompson aficionado, making this anthology seem both beautiful and redundant. But if you're looking for a convincing argument for Thompson's status as one of the great treasures of British rock and folk, Walking on a Wire succeeds beautifully. The programming gleans many of the most satisfying and significant moments from Thompson's recordings, and the material flows beautifully from one great track to the next, clearly reflecting the path his music has followed. The remastering is excellent, particularly on the earlier solo material, and Patrick Humphries' liner notes offer a superb thumbnail sketch of Thompson's life and music, while the booklet is filled with great rare photos. As the biggest and most comprehensive "Best of Richard Thompson" album ever, Walking on a Wire succeeds beautifully, and it's a wonderful and loving presentation of his art. But if you're already a fan, this will all seem very familiar, and while this is a splendid starting point for the uninitiated, persuading them they should start their Richard Thompson collection with a four-disc box set will probably be an uphill battle — though it's hard to imagine anyone who appreciates music that speaks honestly to the heart and soul not falling in love with this.

Disc 1
1. Time Will Show The Wiser - Fairport Convention
2. Meet On The Ledge - Fairport Convention
3. Genesis Hall - Fairport Convention
4. Crazy Man Michael - Fairport Convention
5. Sloth - Fairport Convention
6. Roll Over Vaughn Williams
7. The Poor Ditching Boy
8. The Angels Took My Racehorse Away
9. The Great Valerio - Richard & Linda Thompson
10. When I Get To The Border - Richard & Linda Thompson
11. Withered And Died - Richard & Linda Thompson
12. I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight - Richard & Linda Thompson
13. Down Where The Drunkards Roll - Richard & Linda Thompson
14. The Calvary Cross - Richard & Linda Thompson
15. I'll Regret It All In The Morning - Richard & Linda Thompson
16. Old Man Inside A Young Man - Richard & Linda Thompson
17. For Shame Of Doing Wrong - Richard & Linda Thompson
18. Night Comes In - Richard & Linda Thompson
Disc 2
1. Dimming Of The Day/Dargai - Richard & Linda Thompson
2. A Heart Needs A Home - Richard & Linda Thompson
3. Don't Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart - Richard & Linda Thompson
4. Strange Affair - Richard & Linda Thompson
5. Sunnyvista - Richard & Linda Thompson
6. Sisters - Richard & Linda Thompson
7. Rockin' In Rhythm
8. Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed - Richard & Linda Thompson
9. Man In Need - Richard & Linda Thompson
10. Shoot Out The Lights - Richard & Linda Thompson
11. Wall Of Death - Richard & Linda Thompson
12. Walking On A Wire - Richard & Linda Thompson
13. Tear Stained Letter
14. How I Wanted To
15. Hand Of Kindness
16. Beat The Retreat (Live)
17. I Ain't Going To Drag My Feet No More

Disc 3
1. Little Blue Number
2. She Twists The Knife Again
3. Valerie
4. Turning Of The Tide
5. I Still Dream
6. Waltzing's For Dreamers
7. Read About Love
8. I Feel So Good
9. I Misunderstood
10. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
11. Put Your Trust In Me
12. From Galway To Graceland (Live)
13. I Can't Wake Up To Save My Life
14. MGB-GT
15. Mingus Eyes
16. Beeswing
17. Taking My Business Elsewhere
18. King Of Bohemia
19. Don't Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes At Me (Live) - Richard Thompson with Danny Thompson
20. Razor Dance

Disc 4
1. Hide It Away
2. Last Shift - Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson
3. Big Chimney - Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson
4. Lotteryland - Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson
5. Persuasion (Live
6. Cooksferry Queen
7. Bathsheba Smiles
8. Hard On Me (Live)
9. G ethsemane
10. A Love You Can't Survive
11. A Legal Matter (Live)
12. Main Title From Grizzly Man
13. Al Bowlly's In Heaven (Live)
14. I'll Never Give It Up
15. Dad's Gonna Kill Me
16. She Sang Angels To Rest

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!