Long before I ever heard of Richard Thompson by name, I was familiar with Fairport Convention. But I never owned any of the group’s albums until friends of mine, unloading their vinyl in favor of the shiny new technology called compact disc, gave me a few. I learned that he was the nifty guitarist.
I still only have one of his CDs. Or more properly, it was the last of several albums by Richard and Linda Thompson.
I’ve told the story before, back in 2011. I owned nine of the Top 10 on the “Rolling Stone – The 100 Greatest Albums Of The 80s”, as they were dubbed in the mid 1990s: London Calling. Purple Rain. The Joshua Tree. Remain In Light. Graceland. Born In The U.S.A. Thriller. Murmur. Shoot Out The Lights? Tracy Chapman.
I was given #9 on the list by co-workers for some occasion, Christmas or my birthday, and understood very quickly why it was so well-regarded.
I do have one other CD, which I recommend. Beat the Retreat: The Songs of Richard Thompson, is a 1994 compilation disc of covers by an eclectic roster, including Maddy Prior, June Tabor, David Byrne, X, and Los Lobos. As more than one critic suggested, fans of Thompson will disagree on which of the cuts they like/hate on the album. Here are the REM and Bob Mould cuts.
There’s one song in Richard Thompson’s oeuvre that continues to affect me greatly, the autumnal Dimming of the Day. I may have heard it first by Bonnie Raitt on her 1994 Longing in Their Hearts album. The Blind Boys of Alabama perform it on Beat the Retreat.
This old house is falling down around my ears
I’m drowning in a river of my tears
When all my will is gone you hold me sway
And I need you at the dimming of the day
You pulled me like the moon pulls on the tide
You know just where I keep my better side
Richard Thompson has a vast discography which I need to investigate.
More Richard Thompson here.