RICHARD THOMPSON – Acoustic Rarities (Beeswing Records BSW016P)

Acoustic RaritiesOctober 6th will see the third instalment of Richard Thompson’s Acoustic series, and having seen two instalments of Classics, our attention is now turned to some of the more obscure works in Thompson’s catalogue, with Acoustic Rarities due for release on the singer’s Beeswing label. Like Classics, Rarities is made up of brand new recordings, but mainly those which have previously been unavailable or only available as cover versions.

Among the previously covered works, there is the beautiful ‘Rainbow Over the Hill’ recorded by The Albion Band for their late ‘70s Long-Player, Rise Up Like The Sun (but included only on the 1992 CD reissue) and the unsettling narrative, ‘Seven Brothers’, covered by Derbyshire-born singer songwriter, Blair Dunlop on his Blight And Blossom debut. It is likely no coincidence that the song crossed Dunlop’s path; he’s the son of Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, active in the early days of the group alongside Thompson. Indeed, Thompson-authored selections of the Fairport discography also make the cut; ‘Sloth’ and ‘Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman’, both recorded for the 1970 album, Full House. ‘Sloth’ is half the length of the Fairport version and although missing the brilliance of the late Dave Swarbrick’s violin virtuosity, it is a fantastic take which is most welcome on the collection; as is ‘Poor Will…’ – a song deleted from Full House at the request of Thompson.

Works composed during his bittersweet marriage to Linda are represented on the collection too, with new (solo) recordings of ‘Never Again’ and ‘The End Of The Rainbow’, as well as a re-working of ‘Poor Ditching Boy’ taken from Thompson’s 1972 solo debut. Although the track is not a million miles away from the Henry The Human Fly version, the vocal take is superior and sits very nicely in the mix, successfully carrying the song’s narrative. While re-workings are interesting to say the least, for some, the album’s appeal may lie in the previously unreleased content. Highlights here include the record’s bookends, ‘What If’ and ‘She Played Right Into My Hands’, not to overlook a newly-penned personal favourite, ‘They Tore The Hippodrome Down’.

As British folk royalty, one has come to associate brilliance with most of Thompson’s work and it is absolutely no surprise to say that this new recording of hard to find, unreleased and revisited rarities lives up to the benchmark.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website:

‘The Poor Ditching Boy’ – the way it used to be: