Universally regarded as one of the finest songwriters and guitar players of his generation Richard Thompson‘s latest release, Acoustic Classics, is just that, Thompson and his acoustic guitar revisiting some of his greatest songs from the past four decades. According to the man himself “I really wanted something that would reflect the acoustic shows but we didn’t have anything like that, Just some old, slightly scratchy recordings of solo sets that I wasn’t really happy with.” The result is a corker that should gladden the heart of any Thompson supporter as his excellent fretwork sparks fireworks throughout the 14 songs here while he is in very fine voice especially on the sizzling retooled 1952 Vincent Black Lightning which outstrips the ’91 original on Rumour And Sigh in terms of passion and fire.
It’s easy to compare a song like 1952 Black Vincent Lightning to the original as back then Thompson recorded it solo. The opening song, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight is a different beast with the original so firmly fixed in the psyche. Originally sung by Thomson’s then wife, Linda, and with a brass band arrangement ornamenting the Bash Street folk rock beat it remains one of his best known songs. However Thompson has been delivering this song for nigh on thirty years and here it makes a punchy album opener as he rips through it giving it a tough masculine bravado missing from the original while the guitar break is a welter of bass strings and lead picking, indeed his guitar playing intrigues and delights throughout with perhaps the best heard on Wall Of Death although the delicate Persuasion recalls the work of Bert Jansch on Rosemary Lane.
The album above all stands as testimony to Thompson’s status as a songwriter as he regales the listener with classics such as From Galway To Graceland, Walking On A Wire, Down Where The Drunkards Roll, Shoot Out The Lights, Beeswing and Dimming Of The Day. All magnificent and while this reviewer pulled out vinyl albums, CDs ( and a cassette) to listen again to the originals it was noted that they sat amongst a slew of other, just as vital, songs leading one to think that the only complaint one could level at this release was that it wasn’t a boxed set of Thompson originals reimagined though him and his guitar. And if you haven’t heard From Galway To Graceland before treat yourself to one of the best ever songs about the “King” below.