Rumor and Sigh: An Appreciation of Richard Thompson’s Solo Albums

(via Allmusic) By Daniel de Visé 

Fifty years ago, in June 1972, Richard Thompson released his first solo album, the magnificent Henry the Human Fly. It sounded like a record of British folk standards, but Richard had written the songs himself.

Several lazy months later, Warner Brothers issued Henry the Human Fly in the States. A handful of folkie “weirdos” – Richard’s term – snatched up copies. It may be the poorest-selling record in Warner history.

“As rare as hen’s teeth,” Richard said, in an interview with AllMusic. “Promoted zero, and not a suitable record for the American audience, really, because it’s far too parochial, far too British. Worst-selling ever, in which I take great pride.”

Read more:

Video of the Week: Richard Thompson Performs ‘I Feel So Good’ on Letterman, 1991

Songs You May Have Missed #307


Richard and Teddy Thompson: “Persuasion” (2001)

This pretty tune has a pretty convoluted history. Written by Richard Thompson with keyboardist Peter Filleul as an instrumental for the 1991 film Sweet Talker, it originally sounded like this:

Tim Finn (of Split Enz and Crowded House) loved the melody and wrote words to accompany it, releasing his version as a British single (which is now unavailable so I can’t reproduce it here).

Then Thompson liked Finn’s lyric so much that he re-recorded it as a vocal version with his son Teddy. Not the typical writing process for a song, but the end product is a thing of beauty.

A performance from a Scottish TV show

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Recommended Albums #21

Rumor & Sigh

Richard Thompson: Rumor and Sigh (1991)

For the uninitiated, Richard Thompson is, quite literally, a legendary British singer, songwriter and guitar god. His renown is somewhat limited outside circles of fans of British folk rock, but catalog is rich with musical treasures waiting for those of eclectic tastes to explore.

Thompson was the teenage lead guitarist and contributing songwriter with the iconic folk rock band Fairport Convention, where he made a huge impact despite his limited time with the band. Shortly after going solo, he made a series of highly regarded albums with his then-wife Linda, herself a leading light of the English folk rock movement. Two of their albums, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and Shoot Out the Lights made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the Top 500 Albums of All Time.

After his early 80’s breakup with Linda, Richard again recorded alone, and Rumor and Sigh is a highlight of his solo career. There’s lots to like here, from RT’s twisted, acerbic outlook, often presented through the point of view of a made-up character (a la Pete Townshend) to catchy almost radio-friendly hooks, to his incredible virtuosity on acoustic and electric guitar, to songwriting of the highest caliber.

“I Feel So Good” is sung from the viewpoint of a newly-freed inmate looking to make someone pay for the time he lost. “Keep Your Distance” is an acknowledgment of weakness in the face of an old love (with us it must be all or none at all). And “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” is nothing short of a modern folk classic–the tale of an ill-fated relationship between a red-headed girl, a hell-bent boy, and his prized bike–featuring some of Thompson’s finest acoustic picking.

If you appreciate intelligent rock with an English flavour and aren’t yet familiar with this man’s work, allow me to hold the door for you: you’re about to enter a dark wonderland…

Listen to: “I Feel So Good”


Listen to: “Keep Your Distance”


Listen to: “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”

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