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

Quadrophenia (The Who) – Album Review (Part 1)

The Cover Of The Album

The Cover Of The Album

I consider Quadrophenia the biggest cultural contribution The Who ever made. That is a bold statement if we take into account that they also sang “My Generation” and recorded the defining album “Who’s Next“, adding new melodic resources to the world of music as a whole.

When I say that Quadrophenia was (and is) a significant cultural contribution, I take into account the fact that nobody else had taken the time to look back at the mod days and present them in such a representative light. Mod was the one and only aspect of British life in the ’60s that was not absorbed by America. Everything else was. Without Quadrophenia, that knowledge would have been somehow lost. And what was all the more remarkable was that when the album was originally issued the Who’s cohorts were adopting a lyrical posture that was to end up in total disconnection, singing about the dark side of the moon and stairways to heaven. That is, music would begin to lose its immediate link with those that bought it, and that disconnection would end a couple of years down the line in the punk revolution that placed both sides on an equal level. Continue reading