The latest batch of new solo, stripped back acoustic recordings from the Thompson songbook brings together material previously only available in band format or not on his solo releases. Fairport devotees will be particularly enthused by a version of the song that launched it all, ‘Meet On The Ledge’, a number that has lost none of its power or mystique over the years. He also visits 1969’s Liege & Lief for the traditional-styled ‘Crazy Man Michael’, while, originally played on dulcimer and released as the B-side of ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ before resurfacing on Unhalfbricking, ‘Genesis Hall’ continues to feature regularly in his solo shows.
The Richard and Linda years are represented by an achingly plaintive ‘A Heart Needs A Home’ from Hokey Pokey and the catchy folk pop sensibilities of ‘Jet Plane In A Rocking Chair’ off Pour Down Like Silver. Moving on to his second solo album, 1983’s Hand of Kindness, there’s a particularly striking and to the musical point revisiting of ‘Devonside’. The follow-up, Across A Crowded Room provides this collection’s opening track, the barbed ‘She Twists The Knife Again’, here in a brittle bluesy arrangement sung with an almost venomous pent-up intensity.
Moving to 1988’s Amnesia, there’s a resonant, brooding reading of the socioeconomics-themed ‘Pharaoh’ while 1991’s Rumor And Sigh, has one from each side; the almost hymnal-like fingerpicked ‘Keep Your Distance’ (a song the Byrds would have done brilliantly) and, closing proceedings here, ‘Why Must I Plead?’ A double album came along in 1996 with You? Me? Us?, the material split between the electric Voltage Enhanced and the acoustic Nude. From that first disc, ‘The Ghost Of You Walks’ now gets the bare bones treatment, allowing the lyrics greater prominence.
His last for Capitol, Mock Tudor was a thematic album divided into three sections, Metroland, Heroes In The Suburbs and Street Cries And Stage Whispers and it’s from the first of the three that comes the intricately picked troubadour styled ballad ‘Bathsheba Smiles’. For his tenth solo album, 2002’s self-financed The Old Kit Bag, Thompson signed to Cooking Vinyl and the resurrection in sales it brought is appropriately represented by ‘Gethsemane’. The final track to be reworked from a solo album comes with a powerfully delivered ‘Guns Are The Tongues’ from the conflict-themed Sweet Warrior.
A third volume, Acoustic Rarities, is planned for later in the year, presumably around the October tour, featuring some songs only existing as cover versions, in the meantime, this is another welcome opportunity to remind yourself of arguably the finest musician British folk rock has produced.
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‘Meet On The Ledge’ – live and acoustic: