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 →
The second section of the album (“Heroes in the Suburbs”) is the one that includes “Crawl Back (Under My Stone)”, “Uninhabited Man”, and “Walking The Long Miles Home”. These are an idiosyncratic reagge-ish number, a celtic-flavored composition and a song which is “a little bit country” respectively. I especially like “Crawl Back (Under My Stone)”, a number in which the character conveys as much self-esteem as it is necessary for him to achieve his aim – don’t be fooled, he is not as innocuous as he might seem. And “Walking The Long Miles Home” has catchy choruses on the strength of the rhyme scheme that is employed. The lyric is funny, too.
This part of the album also has “Dry My Tears And Move On”, a song not dissimilar to a soul ballad that might as well have the best middle eight of the whole record. Continue reading →
Richard Thompson's "Mock Tudor" Was First Issued In 1999. It is Split In Three Parts That Chronicle Life In The Suburbs All Through The 20th Century.
Mock Tudor was Richard Thompson’s final album under his Capitol Records’ contract. It was released in 1999, and it was the one album of the decade not produced by Mitchell Froom, the man who is known for his glossy approach to record-making. That is always a recurrent point when the album is discussed. The fact remains that Thompson is a gritty performer, and a rawer approach for capturing him in action always works best.
That is exemplified by the first three tracks, two of which were issued as singles (the polka “Cooksferry Queen” and “Bathsheba Smiles”), and that stand as very fine vignettes about outlaws and people who walk the line. “Cooksferry Queen” paints the picture of an outright ruffian that is transfixed by love, putting himself at the mercy of the other – as Yasu, the leader of the band Black Stones (or “Blast”) from the anime “Nana” used to say, those who once laughed at love will cry because of it in the end.
And “Batsheba Smiles” is a very pointed portrait of a woman akin to Coleridge’s Christabel, IE the kind of woman that is always there for everybody but never there for any person in particular. The chorus of the song is specially powerful, with the “Do you close your eyes to see miracles/Do you raise your face to kiss angels/Do you float on air to hear oracles” section showcasing the effects such a person has on others, and how initial admiration turns into bitterness very quickly indeed. Continue reading →