Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Frets Do It Again: Richard Thompson 70

We'll complete another trifecta of big birthdays with the man many feel is the world's greatest living guitar player, and for whom such a bold accolade is no exaggeration.
He's been at it at the forefront since he joined, at 17, what became one of the most beloved and seminal bands in the annals of the music of our age.
Upon his departure from them, he teamed up with his then-wife for some of the baddest records of the 1970s, and established himself as one of the best songwriters ever.
Then, just as they were becoming a big success, they split up and he embarked on a solo career that, in the 35+ years since, has never lost its edge.
There very precious few artists of any discipline where you could say they never made a misstep, or turned out a substandard album or film or book. Whether in Fairport Convention, with Linda Thompson, or on his own, this is definitely one of them.
I met him once and when he shook my hand, the bones about turned to dust. We're talking paws bigger than Hendrix, just crushingly large. No wonder he has the sort of 8-fret reach that strangles Stratocasters at ten paces.
A Sufi Muslim since 1975, there's definitely something of the Whirling Dervish to his playing, and you get a kind of disorientated ecstasy from his solos.
I know established guitarists who marvel at what he does, and sometimes can't believe what they are seeing/hearing him do.
He's also hilariously funny, and his between-song onstage patter is always well worth the price of admission. I oughta know: of all artists of my lifetime, I have seen him in concert more than any other person or group.
Above all, he's just a monster, unbelievable master of his instrument and of his craft. 
We used to joke that if you listen closely to one of his shredtastic excursions, you can hear the sound of less accomplished players' guitars going off balconies and out windows for miles around.
If you think you can play guitar at the highest level possible, Richard Thompson might just show up to prove to you otherwise and make you think again.
To celebrate his completion of 70 revolutions 'round the sun, I could have chosen any number of performances... I have hundreds.
I went with this one because he's in full dazzle mode, and some of the fretwork makes you have to run the tape back to make sure you heard him making the impossible look easy like you thought you did.
It comes from an epic, 37-shows-and-counting series called the RT Soundboard Project, the brainchild of one of the top sound guys of the last 40 years who's run the desk for many of the man's finest performances of the last four decades.
Richard Thompson
Bearsville Theater
Woodstock, NY
3.13.1992 

01 introduction & tuning
02 I Ride In Your Slipstream
03 I Misunderstood
04 RT talk
05 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
06 RT talk
07 Shoot Out the Lights
08 RT talk
09 I Feel So Good
10 RT talk
11 Pharoah
12 She Twists the Knife Again
13 RT talk
14 Now That I Am Dead
15 RT talk
16 Al Bowlly's In Heaven
17 RT talk
18 Two Left Feet
19 Waltzing's for Dreamers
20 RT talk
21 Turning of the Tide
22 RT talk
23 The End of the Rainbow
24 RT talk
25 You Know Me the Best

Total time: 1:15:42

Richard Thompson - vocals & guitar
Chris Harford - vocals & guitar on Track 25

HI-Fi VHS dub of a master soundboard cassette of the early show
Part 14 of Dave Martin's RT Soundboard Project
306 MB FLAC here
RT is joined by a songwriter friend of his for the last tune, in which the former plays some facebending leads so articulate and tasty I almost burned both the guitars in my room in response.
I'll be back very soon, as soon as I figure out how to pick who I'm posting about this month... because there are just too many birthdays for too many astonishing artists to keep track of in my admittedly size 1 cranium.
Today, obviously, we wish Richard Thompson the very best septuagenarian anniversary, we thank him for all he has played and sung... and we certainly hope he feels so good he lives to be 170.--J.