Tag Archives: Richard Thompson

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention August 2017

This review was also published by Get Ready To Rock here

Fairport Convention’s festival at Cropredy has been an annual fixture for almost four decades now but the big celebration this year was marking the fiftieth anniversary of the band’s formation. In the eight years since I have been going it has always been quite an eclectic bill, straddling folk, rock and retro pop. This year it leaned more towards the folk-rock end than normal because, it being the fiftieth anniversary, a number of sets from ex-Fairport members and close associates were on the bill. This meant there were lots of acts that I was really looking forward to, this time, even if there was perhaps a little less variety in the festival line-up than normal.

Before we got to the three-hour set from Fairport Convention on the Saturday night, therefore, there were plenty of highlights over the three days: including the ever-impressive Show of Hands; last year’s festival darlings, The Pierce Brothers, who returned for a repeat performance; and the Gigspanner Big Band (where Peter Knight’s trio join forces with folk duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin). Of the Fairport friends and family spin-offs we had Ashley Hutchings’ recreation of Morris On, a stunning solo set from Richard Thompson and original Fairport vocalists, Judy Dyble with her Band of Perfect Strangers and Iain Matthews with Plainsong. Lots of highlights there.

And niggles? With a three day festival and three days of camping and drinking and music we normally choose an act we’re not too bothered about for a bit of early evening down time back at the camp-site. On the Friday, the Trevor Horn Band drew the short straw for us this time. I’ve never been too bothered about either ’80s Yes or Buggles I figured. But sadly it meant missing a surprise guest appearance from Russ Ballard. ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ (Ballard’s hit for Rainbow) and ‘God Gave Rock n Roll To You’ (the Argent classic). Both sounded great from the comfort of our gazebo anyway…

Marillion sounded good but they did a dedicated fans’ set rather than a festival set. I’ve got my one greatest hits album and was really hoping to hear a few more songs I was familiar with that I could sing along to. To me, Marillion not doing ‘Kayleigh’ at a festival is as daft as Petula Clark not doing ‘Downtown’. Happily the latter obliged. Would I pay to go and see a Petula Clark gig? Probably not. But was singing along to ‘Downtown’ in a field with several thousand others one of those not-to-be-missed life-affirming moments? Absolutely!

While it might not have been my favourite Cropredy line-up ever, it was definitely, without a doubt my favourite Fairport performance of all time. Fairport Convention are a band that never knowingly pass over the chance to celebrate an anniversary and they certainly pulled out all the stops for this one.

Things began with a couple of songs from the modern-day Fairport and then suddenly, magically we were transported back to 1967 with all of the surviving members from the first album reconvening on stage for a stunning recreation of the first track on the first album ‘Time Will Show The Wiser’, followed by ‘I Don’t Know Where I Stand’ and ‘Reno, Nevada’. It completely captured the magic of that first album and was really special seeing Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Richard Thompson, Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews sharing a stage together. When early Fairport reconvene like this I am always reminded of when groups of old school friends get together they often seem to slot back into the roles and pecking orders of decades ago. Even though he has not been a member of the band for 48 years, Ashley Hutchings effortlessly slots back into the role of band leader, doing all the talking and introducing the songs.

Tragically, it is now increasingly challenging to reconvene some of the later later line-ups of the band and more and more stand-ins are required. Nevertheless, Chris While does a superb job filling in for Sandy Denny and likewise Chris Leslie for Dave Swarbrick’s fiddle parts, in renditions from the iconic Liege & Lief album. Songs from other classic albums Full House, Nine and Rising From The Moon (with Sally Barker on vocals) also get a good airing.

The set-list is heavily weighted towards the band’s first eight years or so, with only a smattering of songs from later eras but considering Fairport’s outstanding legacy of truly groundbreaking from this period that seems entirely appropriate.

Having seen Fairport Convention on stage some twenty-five times now and never once failing to enjoy them, for me this has easily been the best. A stunning way to celebrate fifty years.

Fairport Convention set-list:
Bottom of the Punchbowl / East Neuke of Fife / Ye Mariners All
Summer By The Cherwell
Time Will Show the Wiser
I Don’t Know Where I Stand
Reno Nevada
Suzanne
Farewell, Farewell
Crazy Man Michael
Come All Ye
The Deserter
The Lark in the Morning Medley
Tam Lin
Walk Awhile
Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman
Sloth
Now Be Thankful
Sir Patrick Spens
Fotheringay
The Ballad of Ned Kelly
Talk About Money
Rising for the Moon
White Dress
A Surfeit of Lampreys
The Hiring Fair
The Hexhamshire Lass
Jewel in the Crown
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
Our Bus Rolls On
Dirty Linen
Matty Groves
Meet on the Ledge

http://www.fairportconvention.com/

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Other recent reviews:
Come All Ye box set – album review
Fairport’s 50th anniversary concert at Union Chapel

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Rock/folk: album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘Twangin’ ‘n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited’

My review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Twangin’ ’n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited is a celebration of the music that first captured Ashley Hutchings’ imagination. Not English folk but rather the instrumentals of the pre-Beatles era from the likes of The Shadows, The Tornadoes and Duane Eddy.

Hutchings has reissued the album, originally released in 1994, and added three new tracks in what he hopes will lead to a reappraisal of what he calls this “misunderstood and undervalued work.”

Officially credited to The Ashley Hutchings Big Beat Combo, the juxtaposition of musical styles is evident, not only in the choice of material, but in the cast of supporting musicians too. Joining Hutchings are Simon Nicol, Simon Care and Richard Thompson from the folk rock world, but also original Tornadoes drummer and legendary session man, Clem Cattini, along with Georgie Flame and the Blue Flames guitarist, Colin Green.

It’s certainly not going to appeal to every folkie but, this being Ashley Hutchings, the folk influence is never that far away. The Tornadoes’ Telstar is radically reimagined as a gentle traditional-flavoured somewhat pastoral tune, with Simon Care on melodeon and Richard Thompson on penny whistle. In a nod to the heritage of the original, though, Clem Cattini, again takes up the drum kit, just as he did when it was a number 1 hit for the Tornadoes back in 1962.

Versions of other classic instrumentals of the era, such as F.B.I. by the Shadows and Walk Don’t Run by the Ventures, whilst staying more faithful to the originals, are still fascinating to hear because of the choice of instrumentation and unexpected mix of musical sounds.

Meanwhile, other tracks like Horsin’ Around and Spinnin’ Jenny/Soldiers’ Spree are traditional tunes that have been given the drum patterns and instantly recognisable twanging guitar sounds of one of those early ’60s instrumentals. Think Hank Marvin giving a helping hand at a morris gig…

Besides the 1960s cover versions and the traditional tunes there are also a number of self-penned tracks from Hutchings himself, which again draw on both folk influences and the rock ’n’ roll instrumentals of the era.

This is not a simple reissue, however, and three new songs have been added to what was originally an album of instrumentals. Two of these have vocals from the Velveteens, a young female singing trio whose vocal delivery along with the evocative period lyrics perfectly capture teenagerdom in late ’50s/early ’60s Britain. The third of the new recordings, and the final track of the album, is Welcome to The World, Hutchings’ very personal reflection on growing up in that era.

For those wanting an introduction to Ashley Hutchings’ considerable back catalogue, this is certainly not the album to start with. Unlike some of Hutchings’ most notable output, it’s always going to be an interesting curiosity rather than a genre-defining classic. But a re-release is long overdue. It’s simply fascinating to hear the sounds that first inspired the teenage Hutchings to want to be a professional musician, melded with the folk influences that have been the mainstay of his long and celebrated career.

Released April 2015

http://ashleyhutchings.com/

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Related review:
Ashley Hutchings – From Psychedelia to Sonnetts

Rock/folk: album review – Richard Thompson ‘Acoustic Classics’

My review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Richard Thompson is rightly ranked as one of the world’s greatest guitarists and is also recognised as an outstanding songwriter. There is no mystery behind the title of his latest CD. Acoustic Classics does exactly what it says on the tin, offering acoustic recordings of classic Thompson tracks. The question is does anyone with even a passing interest in Richard Thompson really need re-recorded versions of I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning?

Surprising though it may seem, however, there is no product out there that properly represents Thompson’s latter-day acoustic shows. “I really wanted to have something that would reflect the acoustic shows,” he explains, “But we didn’t really have anything like that. Just some old, slightly scratchy recordings of solo sets that I wasn’t really happy with.”

Listeners will come across a number of re-recorded versions of songs made famous by the renowned Richard & Linda Thompson albums of the 1970s, songs like Walking on a Wire, Down Where the Drunkards Roll and Shoot Out the Lights. Wonderful though those original Richard and Linda recordings are, with their full instrumentation and lush vocals, it is also good to hear those songs stripped back to Thompson’s stunning guitar and mournful voice.

Other songs on the album come from Thompson’s later solo career but, again, stripped back to the very basics in a way that shows off the beauty of the songs and Thompson’s guitar work, although the aforementioned 1952 Vincent Black Lightening differs little from the un-improvable original. It wouldn’t have been right to have missed out such a classic, however. Some particular personal favourites have been missed out, of course, but it was never going to be possible to get everyone’s favourite Richard Thompson songs on to a 14-track CD.

For anyone catching one of his excellent acoustic shows this summer, who comes away wanting a more permanent reminder, this album is ideal; and for those less familiar with Thompson’s voluminous back catalogue this is a pretty good introduction.

Released July 2014

http://www.richardthompson-music.com/

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Related reviews:

Richard Thompson live at Folk by the Oak

Richard Thompson at Royal Festival Hall

Richard Thompson at Royal Festival Hall 20/9/15

With countrified acoustic folk from his daughter, Kami, and son-in-law, James Walborne, forming the excellent support act The Rails (“nepotism gets you everywhere” quips Richard Thompson as the two take the stage once more to accompany Thompson for his first song), That’s Enough, a track from the Thompson clan’s recent “family album” kicks off tonight’s Richard Thompson performance. It shows that even several decades into his career, he is still writing really memorable songs. However, the acoustically driven start soon gives way to a full throttle electric performance. Thompson is joined by drummer, Michael Jerome, and Davey Faragher on bass, both excellent and hugely energetic musicians.

Much as I enjoyed his solo acoustic tour last year, Thompson is one of those guitarists who is equally brilliant and equally entertaining whether he’s playing acoustic or electric. The power trio format works well for Thompson’s material (they even do a brilliant version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Hey Joe as an encore to prove just how much of a power trio they really are) and we get a nice mix of songs, old and new. The great thing about Thompson is that, in spite of his technical brilliance on the guitar, it’s never just about virtuoso wizardry. His undoubted skill as a songwriter means he’s always able to deliver memorable tunes and meaningful lyrics as well as incredible guitar playing.

The band leave the stage at one point, leaving Thompson on his own to do a lovely Meet on the Ledge. A song that Thompson wrote when he was just 17, I’ve seen it performed many times by Fairport Convention as their traditional set-closer. But it’s a nice change seeing it performed as an understated heartfelt ballad rather than the anthemic communal sing-along that it’s normally associated with these days. After a similar acoustic performance of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning it’s back to more from the electric trio: old classics like Wall of Death and new material like Guitar Heroes.

It says a lot for Thompson’s versatility as a performer that regardless of whether it’s a folky laid-back acoustic set or a rocking all-out electric set, I’ve never come away from a Richard Thompson gig feeling anything less than fully satisfied.

Setlist:
That’s Enough (with The Rails)
All Buttoned Up
Sally B
Broken Doll
For Shame of Doing Wrong
Hard on Me
Meet on the Ledge
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Beatnik Walking
Al Bowlly’s in Heaven
Guitar Heroes
Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?
I’ll Never Give It Up
Wall of Death
If Love Whispers Your Name
Hey Joe
Tear Stained Letter
She Never Could Resist a Winding Road
Fork in the Road
Take a Heart

http://www.richardthompson-music.com/

2015-09-22 18.41.16

Previous review: Richard Thompson at Folk by the Oak

Richard Thompson at Folk by the Oak 20/7/14

Folk by the Oak is the most civilised of festivals. Set in the historic grounds of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, those used to turning up and getting frisked by legions for of security guards for taking even as much as a bottle of water in, will find this a very different experience. For this one-day festival punters turn up not only with chairs and food hampers but picnic tables, too.

Such a sedate setting did nothing to dampen the atmosphere down at the front of the stage for Richard Thompson’s set, however. With no backing band for this current series of acoustic dates, it was just Thompson and his acoustic guitar. Introducing Thompson, the festival compere said that this year had seen the biggest ticket sales for Folk on the Oak so far, telling the crowd the inclusion of Richard Thompson on the bill clearly had a lot to do with that. I couldn’t disagree. Thompson has rightly been rated as one of the world’s greatest guitarists but it is a wonder to be there and listen to the truly amazing sounds that one man can produce simply standing on stage playing an acoustic guitar.

A Thompson gig is never simply about watching displays of technical prowess, however. Being such a talented songwriter he has built up a stunning back-catalogue of great songs and he delivered a blinding set, including many of the songs that feature on his excellent just-released CD, Acoustic Classics.  We were therefore treated to stripped down acoustic versions of classic songs like I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight, Walking on a Wire, Down Where the Drunkards Roll and, of course, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. We also got some newer songs that have become classics like Savings the Good Stuff For You, from his 2012 “Electric” album and, from 2007’s “Sweet Warrior” album, Johnny’s Far Away, a modern-day sing-along sea shanty, explains Thompson, set on a cruise ship.  He also did a lovely tribute to his erstwhile Fairport Convention colleague, the late Sandy Denny, by performing a beautiful rendition of Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes.

Thompson has genre-crossing and generation-crossing appeal and tonight the stunning guitar work and amazing songs demonstrate exactly why that is.

Setlist:
When the Spell is Broken
Walking on a Wire
Valerie
Saving the Good Stuff For You
Johnny’s Far Away
Pharaoh
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Who Knows Where The Time Goes
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Between You and Me
Good Things Happen to Bad People
Beeswing
Wall of Death
Down Where The Drunkards Roll
One Door Opens
Tear Stained Letter

http://richardthompson-music.com/

2014-07-20 19.35.01