THOMPSON – Family (Fantasy FAN36392)

ThompsonAfter last year’s Linda Thompson album saw a family gathering of sorts, in as much as her children, Teddy and Kami, son-in-law James, grandson Zak and ex-husband Richard, as well as his other son, Jack, variously featured on different tracks, this, as the title suggests, is much more of a united reunion. Conceived as a means of putting the family back together, Teddy contacted parents and siblings with the proposal that each should contribute two songs to the project, which he would orchestrate and produce. Everyone duly responded, writing and recordings their songs at their individual bases, which were then forwarded around the clan for overdubs, before coming together for four days in London and New York for the final recordings. They weren’t all in the room at the same time, something that might have well-tested Richard and Linda’s cautious rapprochement, but, if it wasn’t a full reunion in the flesh, it was certainly one in terms of emotion and spirit.

Embracing an overall Thompson-esque folk-rock sensibility, Teddy kicks the album off with the strumalong title track’s upfront dose of confessional therapy as, as well as referencing his own romantic implosion, he admits to the self-doubt that, can come from having parents, one of whom is “one of the greatest to ever step on a stage” and the other “has the most beautiful voice in the world”, and, as he says Sean Lennon will well know, never being quite able to be your own person, never quite able to deal with the pain. He shouldn’t beat himself up, like his own past albums and the material he wrote for mom, the song clearly shows the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, though it would be understandable if his older sister, Muna was not best pleased by the line about how Kami “is prettier still”.

Like his dad, rock‘n’roll is also in Teddy’s blood, hence his other song, ‘Right’, a country boogie kiss-off you could imagine Dave Edmunds doing where those Roy Orbison echoes sound out. Richard’s own numbers, on which, as per Teddy’s scheme of thing, he cedes electric guitar to either Jack or James, highlight his stylistic diversity, ‘One Life At A Time,’ a swipe at people sticking their nose into others’ business, sounds curiously like Creedence’s ‘Almost Saturday Night’, while ‘That’s Enough’, with its soaring family harmonies and a lyric about the “fairy dust” and “pie in the sky” politicians keep dishing out, is firmly in the tradition of those early R&L swayalong folk rock anthems.

Zack and Jack provide a track each, the former the fingerpicking 60s folk blues ‘Root So Bitter’ and the latter ‘At The Feet Of The Emperor’, a brooding five minute guitar and bass showcase, while Kami, though initially reluctant to enter what she felt could well prove the songwriting equivalent of a pissing contest,   has two credits, one solo and one with her husband. The second, which closes the album, is the rather lovely Gram and Emmylou-like yearning acoustic ballad ‘I Long For Lonely’ while the first, ‘Careful’, is a sprightly, poppy, ringing guitar (that’ll be dad) rocker of a Buckingham-Nicks persuasion. It also confirms her reservations about the competitive element in that it apparently prompted Linda to go back and rework one of her two songs in order not to be overshadowed.

Not that was ever much danger of that since, good as the second and third generation may be, it’s the parents, if only by dint of experience, shine brightest, her piano-accompanied, achingly vulnerable hymnal ‘Perhaps We Can Sleep’ and the acoustic guitar backed ‘Bonny Boys’, a mother’s heartfelt and hard won advice to her son about finding love, providing the album’s most potent emotional charge. Although the Thompsons may give the lie to the old adage (and Spirit album title) that the family that plays together stays together, the album is fulsome evidence that the bonds are far greater than the divides.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ websites: www.teddythompson.com www.richardthompson-music.com www.lindathompsonmusic.com