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Front Parlour Ballads

33 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 9, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This is Richard Thompson's first acoustic solo album since 1981 and first-ever album of all-original material. Front Parlour Ballads includes 13 songs featuring Thompson on vocals, guitars and other instruments. Cooking Vinyl. 2005.


This selection of largely acoustic, predominately solo performances finds Richard Thompson trading the guitar pyrotechnics of his electric albums for greater intimacy, vocal subtlety, and emphasis on his storytelling lyrics. Though this is Thompson's first acoustic release of all-original material, "Row, Boys, Row" and "The Boys of Mutton Street" could pass as traditional British folk balladry, while the droll humor and stately musical grace of "Miss Patsy" recall some of Thompson's early work with Fairport Convention. The songwriting is as ambitious as the arrangements are minimal, from the bitter misanthropy of the character study in "A Solitary Life" to the bittersweet yearning of "Cressida" to the hypnotic insistence of "My Soul, My Soul." In "Let It Blow," Thompson applies his sharp wit to the tale of a serial husband with a penchant for quickie marriages, as the weddings signal the end of the romance. Even when he turns down the volume, he never tones down the creative intensity. --Don McLeese

Recommended Richard Thompson Discography

Fairport Convention, Unhalfbricking

Fairport Convention, Liege & Lief

Fairport Convention, Full House

Richard & Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight

Richard & Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights

Hand of Kindness

1. Let It Blow
2. For Whose Sake?
3. Miss Patsy
4. Old Thames Side
5. How Does Your Garden Grow?
6. My Soul, My Soul
7. Cressida
8. Row, Boys, Row
9. The Boys of Mutton Street
10. Precious One
11. A Solitary Life
12. Should I Betray?
13. When We Were Boys At School

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 9, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cooking Vinyl
  • ASIN: B00069I7B4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,015 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. H. Orton VINE VOICE on August 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If some disgruntled reviewers have compared this to a home demo, they're not too off the mark. This is Thompson's most stripped down release since the "nude" half of YOU?ME?US?. It's mostly just JT, his guitar & a sackful of tales.

The emphasis seems to be more on song & less on Thompson's virtuostic playing. Which will lead to some disappointment for those looking for the raging solos of SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS. Though his trademark shredding has taken a backseat here, there are a fair share of brilliant moments on things like the brooding "My Soul". But Thompson has always proved himself to be a wickedly playful lyricist & PARLOR's acoustic approach provides the appropriate backdrop.

The catchy opener,"Let It Blow" cynically lampoons a nation's obsession with celebrity marriage. "Boys Of Mutton Street" praises the all-too-fleeting joys of gang violence. Though I might add, musically it's a bit reminiscent of "Vincent Black Lightning 1952".

"Miss Patsy" introduces us to a terrorist who's been "fighting shadows on the wrong crusade". Despite having 2nd thoughts after handed the cyanide pill, Thompson still damns his protagonist to "rot & pine away in a foreign prison". An interesting notion, considering Thompson converted to Islam in the 70's.

"Row Boys Row" questions the wisdom of "kneeling with your arse poking free" and the idyllic pleasures of misanthropy are recalled in " A Solitary Life". Finally, "Boys At School" closes the book with a chill.

Personally, I found this a lot more to my liking than OLD KIT BAG which just didn't grab me except for "Gesthemene". And though his albums since RUMOR & SIGH have had their share of irreplaceable gems, I always felt the production was a bit heavy handed. So I've been wanting to hear him strip things down like this for quite a while. Which is one of many reasons why FRONT PARLOR BALLADS has left me a very happy fan indeed.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2005
Format: Audio CD
With his remarkable acoustic performances, it's a wonder it took Thompson this long to release "Front Parlour Ballads" but I'm glad he did. Yes, he's tackled acoustic before ("You? Me? Us?" and a couple of other releases)but nothing with material this strong. In a remarkably consistent career, the material here is top notch and it ranks as one of his finest albums. The melodies shine here as does Thompson's rich baritone (although for many his voice can be an acquired taste). While low-key compared to his louder electric studio outings, "Front Parlour Ballads" still features the rich imagery and use of language that always makes his material better than just about everyone else's.

"Let it Blow" opens with a rollicking combination of acoustic (and electric guitar thrown in to accent the music if my ear doesn't deceive me) could easily become a radio hit with its catchy melody. While it may lack the immediate fireworks of "Rumour and Sigh" but makes up for that with amazingly assured songcraft and strong melodies. There's few songs I can think of here that would have benefited from a backing band and booming electric guitars and drums.

Thompson plays almost everything here and is accompanied by Deborah Dobkin on occasional percussion. Produced by Thompson in collaboration with Simon Tassano, "Front Parlour Ballads" benefits from the stripped down approach here. While I love many of the albums that Thompson made with producer Mitchell Froom, Froom's overly decorative production touches wouldn't fit here. Tassano and Thompson use the less is more approach not too dissimilar to the unadorned approach by producer Joe Boyd on some of Thompson's albums.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ann on January 2, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I live with a Fairport/Richard junkie, and I've had 6 years luxurious exposure to this music now. I love it, but I'm no expert. That said... Miss Patsy and a couple other elements of this album bring Steve Tilston to mind-- not just the spare guitar sound, but the bluesiness. When We Were Boys At School is classic Richard, boiling a bit of life down to the really sad reduction; the depressing reality, expressed so beautifully. This album is growing more captivating with each play, and is already one of my favorites. Acoustic Richard is the best.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Richard Thompson now sits comfortably on the fringe of the mainstream. His persistent and extremely loyal following pack theaters and purchase enough albums (even though he parted ways with a major label) to keep him afloat (he has said on his website that he makes a living but he's by no means "rolling in it"). Even so, Thompson doesn't follow a pattern. Every album has nuances and stylings that nearly distinguish one from another. One of the great things about Thompson is his unpredictablity. It keeps him exciting, new, and fresh even after releasing countless albums. "Formulaic" doesn't fit his ouevre to any degree.

So it's hardly a surprise that "Front Parlour Ballads" sounds not at all like 2003's fairly electric "Old Kit Bag". The largest similarity lies in the lyrical themes: painfully failed love (a Thompson mainstay), despair, violence, folk song morality, and the comical side of human self-destructiveness. But Thompson put away his electric guitar and his masterful solos for this one. Only acoustic guitars and minimal percussion accompany Thompson's lyrics throughout the album. Thompson said over a year ago that his next album would be an "all acoustic" album. He mostly kept that promise.

Consequently, this album contains more beautiful and bittersweet songs than rockers. And it contains some great ballads: The pining "For Whose Sake?" about a failed committment; "Old Thames Side" which explores obsession with beauty on the outside; "Should I Betray?" (from the woman's perspective) starring a married jerk that plays around with "fluff".

Nonetheless, upbeat and danceable moments do occur. "Let It Blow" starts off the album with a very catchy melody and a charming story about a marriage between self-obsessed people. No happy ending, of course.
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