Thursday, February 09, 2006

First of all, though you can't tell it, I wrote the short Supergrass thing at the bottom of this page. UPDATE: It looks like they eventually remembered the bylines.

Second, here's the latest column -- a review of the new six CD Richard Thompson boxed set. And, as a supplementary piece, here's the low-down on the mix CD I made of selected favorites from this box.

1. Meet on the Ledge (2003): RT solo acoustic revisiting one of his very first compositions, originally from the second Fairport Convention album, What We Did on Our Holidays.

2. Oops! I did it Again (2002): A Britney Spears song, obviously. I put this as track two in case I ever were to play this CD for someone – I figure they’d want to hear this sooner rather than later.

3. I Misunderstood (1992): As the article says, thematically this is strikingly similar to “Oops! I did it Again.”

4. Drowned Dog, Black Night (1997): A long song with a long guitar solo.

5. The Great Valario (1972): An incredibly lo-fi recording of a Richard and Linda song. Despite the iffy sound quality, it sounds like the guitar and vocal arrangement was determined very early on. And even now, I can’t imagine how it might have been improved on. Also, after the second line, you can hear Linda clear her throat.

6. Walking on a Wire (1982): A song originally from the alleged divorce album, recorded on the tour where they actually fell apart. Again, this song seems to already exist so fully formed in its arrangement, you can’t tell if they’re pushing the song into raw territory, or the song is pushing them.

7. Substitute (1992): Is it just me, or are most covers of Who songs pretty lame? Here’s an exception.

8. Now Be Thankful (1994): Another revisiting of a Fairport song. Guitar, upright bass, drums, mandolin, harmony vocal. I like this a lot better than the original version, which was sung by fiddle player Dave Swarbrick in a manner that makes twee sound robust.

9. Calvary Cross (1986): This song has gained a reputation for being seldom performed in concert. Which is a little odd, since this is the third live recording to surface on an RT compilation. Still, he performs it like it’s still a mystery or a curse being drawn out of him (giving credence to Greil Marcus’ mythmaking, I suppose), and the band hits especially hard in return. The song leads to another long solo, one with phrases that seem to only contain two or three notes at time, but it all adds up to something staggering and epic. Also, at the 6:39 point, it really sounds like my cell phone’s ringing.

10. I Feel So Good (1991): RT on acoustic guitar, Danny Thompson (no relation) on upright bass.

11. Lucky in Life, Unlucky in Love (1982): RT accompanying himself on mandolin, so non-folky ears such as mine have to be in the mood for something like this. This track does highlight his ability to craft a tune that seems to have existed for ages.

12. For Shame of Doing Wrong (1979): Live Richard and Linda, at a tempo that’s a little faster than I prefer for this song. But the guitar brings it all home.

13. Time Has Told Me (1981): The Nick Drake cover. It’s really quite something.

14. Genesis Hall (2004): Another solo live version of a Fairport song. I really think his days in that band are so integral to understanding his greatness. I interviewed RT once before I heard those albums, and I really didn’t know shit and it shows.

15. Wall of Death (1985): One of my favorite songs ever. On paper, the idea of the song sounds so polite and jangly. But executed in a manner like this rendition, it sounds so strong and so intense. Check that interview I did with him to find out why.

16. Shoot Out the Lights (1991): And that’s exactly what he does.

17. Meet on the Ledge (1969): Ah, full circles. An actual Fairport recording. The liner notes don’t make it exactly clear whether this is a demo, rough mix or what. This is from the CD you have to send away for, and it’s the only time you really hear the voice of Fairport’s best singer, the late, great Sandy Denny. I think her vocals are especially crucial to the RT saga (as well as to post-Beatles, pre-punk British popular music), so I’m a little miffed she got short-changed on this particular boxed set (and I didn’t have room to say so in the actual review).


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