Wednesday, 3 August 2016

"I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" by RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON (2004 Island Remasters 'Expanded Edition' CD) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...A Butterfly For A Day..."

There's an argument that 'anything' on Island Records (no matter which decade) has musical value and should be in your collection as a matter of necessity - and a real man (that's me) would shed a big girl's blouse full of puffy Laura Ashley tears if this were not the case (I’m baring my gorilla-like chest as I type this). Sat proudly amidst those wise musical decisions would of course be the first two albums from 1971 and 1972 by Fairport Convention and Fotheringay's vocalist Sandy Denny - and Richard Thompson's own "Henry The Fly" from 1972.

But somehow the three albums this staggeringly good British guitarist and songwriter made in the mid Seventies with his then wife Linda (nee Peters) - "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" (1974), "Hokey Pokey" and "Pour Down Like Silver" (both from 1975) – weren't so much publicly overlooked at the time of release - but as I recall - almost outright ignored - and on both sides of the pond. As with the two LPs that followed "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" - the critics raved about them but the public just stayed away...

But time has changed all that - seeing both the influential and terminally hip Mojo and Rolling Stone magazines including "Bright Lights" in their '100 Greatest Albums Ever Made' lists. And returning to it and Island Records in general in the sunny halls of 2016 - a full 42 years after the event - I'm down with those retro-periodical assessments. I'd truly forgotten just how good "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" is as an album. And it has to be said this 2004 'Island Remasters' CD Reissue has done that criminally overlooked LP a proper solid on all fronts (a big audio improvement too on the March 1993 version).

Let's wipe away the condensation - here are the details...

UK released April 2004 - "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" by RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON on Island Remasters IMCD 304 / 981 790-7 (Barcode 602498179079) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of the 1974 10-track LP with Three Bonus Tracks added on and plays out as follows (53:24 minutes):

1. When I Get To The Border
2. The Calvary Cross
3. Withered And Died
4. I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
5. Down Where The Drunkard's Roll
6. We Sing Hallelujah [Side 2]
7. Has He Got A Friend For Me
8. The Little Beggar Girl
9. The End Of The Rainbow
10. The Great Valerio
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 2nd solo LP "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" - released April 1974 in the UK and USA on Island Records ILPS 9266. Produced by RICHARD THOMPSON and JOHN WOOD - it failed to chart in either country.

BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased):
11. I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (Live)
12. Together Again (Live)
13. The Calvary Cross (Live)
Tracks 11 to 13 recorded live at The Roundhouse, London on 7 September 1975. As well as Richard & Linda Thompson - the band included John Kirkpatrick, Pat Donaldson and Dave Mattacks.

Musicians:
RICHARD THOMPSON - All Guitars and Lead Vocals (Backing and Duet Vocals on "Down Where The Drunkards Roll" and "The Little Beggar Girl")
LINDA THOMPSON - Lead Vocals on "Withered And Died", "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight", "Down Where The Drunkards Roll", "Has He Got A Friend For Me?", "The Great Valerio" and Duet Vocals with Richard on "The Little Beggar Girl"
SIMON NICOL - Dulcimer
JOHN KIRKPATRICK - Anglo Concertina and Accordion
BRIAN GULLAND and RICHARD HARVEY - Klummhorn
PAT DONALDSON - Bass
DAVE MATTACKS - Drums
ROYSTON WOOD, TREVOR LUCAS and CWS (Manchester) SILVER BAND - Backing Vocals

Original April 2004 issues of this CD came in a natty-looking card slipcase (reissues just have the jewel case) - both issues have a 12-page booklet with the lyrics from the original LP's inner sleeve, musician credits and short but heartfelt and informative set of liner notes by DAVID SUFF of Fledg'ling Records - a reissue label with a long Fairport Convention history. The only slightly stupid and obvious glitch is the Pink Island label with the Black and Orange ‘Eye’ logo on the CD itself – a label variant that's only found on late Sixties Island LPs in the UK - it should be the Pink-Rim Palm-Tree Island records logo to repro the original 1974 LP. It doesn't say who did the remaster (maybe Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering) or where - but my God is it good. Every track on this Folk-Rock masterpiece feels new and in your face for all the right reasons. Tons of presence and a huge sound...

It opens with the upbeat Folk-Rock of "When I Get To The Border" - Thompson's guitar chopping and chiming like a goodun as the melody ambles on. The magnificent "Calvary Cross" has the most amazing warbling electric lead guitar - a sort of tremulous English Blues Folk-Rock chug that feels so heavy as it plays - ten-ton bricks in its hurting guts (hardly surprising to see a live cut of this fan-fave included as a Bonus Track). "Withered And Died" is beautiful and sad - a butterfly for a day tale. Not surprisingly this lilting song was chosen as the album's representative on the 2006 Island Records Folk-Rock 3CD Box Set "Meet Me On The Ledge". Those Klummhorns provided by Royston Wood and Trevor Lucas on the title-track "I Want To See The Bright Lights" gives it a colliery brass band feel – it’s rhythm playfulness - like it’s a debutante at a ball itching to dance. It's also at this point that you notice the lyrics - earthy, fun, working man observant - they floor you. Side 1 ends with such a feeling as the gorgeous "Down Where The Drunkards Roll" with Linda on Lead Vocals. I’ve always thought it a masterpiece – lonely yet moving.

Thompson opens Side 2 starts with a very Fairport vocal on "We Sing Hallelujah" - a rowdy-dowdy old-fashioned melody that feels hundreds of years old (very clever doubled voices). In direct contrast comes the 'Saturday night and I'm all alone' sadness of "Has He Got A Friend For Me" where Linda sounds like a lost teenager rather a happily married woman. With big acoustic guitars and a concertina as its base - the song has a sound Paul Brady would get on his magnificent Irish Folk LP "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" (September 1978 on Mulligan Records) - another winner when it comes to melodies. "The Little Beggar" At times BL feels like the great album Fairport Convention should have made in 1974 but never did. Taking money off snobs sings "The Little Beggar Girl" - the most Traditional Folk song on the album - mandolins and jaunt abound. Another one of the album secret gems is the desperately bleak social commentary of "The End Of The Rainbow" - a song sung by Richard about a child subject to a brutish father - only half protected by a mother who is trying her hardest - but Richard only sees an inevitable hurting future for the kid. The album ends with Linda doing the ballad "The Great Valerio" - a high-wire walker - we the people watching from below as this balancing hero keeps his eye on the target of the other side.

Amidst the three Bonus Tracks is a sharply recorded ten-minute version of "Calvary Cross" – the live band in fine form as Richard stretches out on those solos to the clear delight of the crowd. But even better is Linda's lusty vocal on the Buck Owens Country classic "Together Again" – her Patsy Cline vocals followed by great guitar playing from RT - these two alone making the extras feeling like real bonuses and not just reissue filler...

I've always thought that Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" was part Fairport Convention on top form combined with that second album Fotheringay never made - and that's a combo I'll take any day of any week. 

And at under a fiver online in 2016 - "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" by RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON is a big old classic for very small change...

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