The Old Kit Bag (Richard Thompson) – Album Review

The Cover To Richard Thompon's "The Old Kit Bag" (2003)

Richard’s first album of the century found him in a small label for the first time in more than two decades, and the record itself was to have a streamlined approach, with few musicians and a sound that was far removed from the layered approach that had marked/marred his 90s output. Perversely enough, the new formula worked quite magically – the record hit the Billboard Top 200, and the top 5 of the Indie charts. The truth is producer John Chelew came closer to capturing Richards’ rotund live sound than virtually anybody else – for sure much closer than Mitchell Froom.

The title of the album references a World War I song, as it is only fit since the record has a conceptual tinge of boys that grow to become soldiers only to be hit by the intricacies of destiny and the egotism and apathy of the adult world – “the fire in your eyes/how could they know”, Richard sings on the set opener, the fiercely beautiful “Gethsemane”. The first side of the record also has the Celtic-styled “One Door Opens”, probably one of the album highlights with vocalist  Judith Owen (a recent associate that joins long-time bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Michael Jerome) providing a rich backdrop, something she does not only on that tune but on more than half the tracks.

This backing becomes even more noticeable in one of the closing numbers, the tension-riddled “Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen”. Richard mutes the guitar, and he lets it ring only when the intensity is such that the lyrical flow demands a sturdier backbone so that the song won’t collapse.

“Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen” is placed next to the Eastern-derived “Outside Of The Inside”, which is (appropriately enough) a song about Muslim faith and the way a radical sees Western culture. Continue reading

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (Elton John) – Album Review

The Album Is Named After A Remark Elton Made To Comedian Groucho Marx During A Show.

The Album Is Named After A Remark Elton Made To Comedian Groucho Marx During A Show.

This was my first Elton John album. I bought it on the strength of “Daniel”, a song I had always been moved by. I admit that even back then, when I had no other albums of his, I had certain a feeling when I listened to it… a sort of hunch that told me “this guy can do better”. And now, having listened to Elton’s output both sides of it, I am sad to say that the record is not only average at best, but it is also the point where his work became saccharine for all the wrong reasons.

To me, “Don’t Shoot Me…” marks the instance where singles began having priority over albums within Elton’s career. The problem was somehow more evident in forthcoming ’70s albums like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, and the ’80s were characterized by such an issue, of course.

Of course, the two A-sides here are so monumental that everything is forgiven for a minute. In addition to “Daniel” (a top 5 hit) we have “Crocodile Rock”, Elton’s first chart topper and a song where the farcical element that many saddle Elton with is put to the best possible use. Continue reading