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Versatile Heart

18 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 14, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Superlatives fail to justly describe the voice of Linda Thompson. Steely yet vulnerable, comforting yet haunting, Thompson's singing is never less than riveting, and has played a crucial role in some of the most powerful, influential music of the past thirty years. On Versatile Heart, only her third solo album, Thompson demonstrates that, in addition to being an incomparable interpreter, she is an equally astonishing songwriter - stitching traditional British Isles music and more contemporary influences into a sound that is expressive and direct, yet timeless. From the brass-flecked acoustic pop of the title track to the cool rockabilly of "Do Your Best for Rock 'n Roll," her writing forms the core of Versatile Heart. Other writers represented on Versatile Heart include Thompson's son Teddy, daughter Kamila, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, and Rufus Wainwright, who contributes the devastating "Beauty," performed as a duet with Antony.

Featuring Teddy Thompson, Antony, Martin Carthy, Martha Wainwright, Kamila Thompson, Eliza Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, and more. "One of rock & roll's finest voices..."-Rolling Stone "One of the loveliest, most dramatic voices in the English language..."-No Depression

Acoustic balladry exquisitely arranged highlights the first album from Linda Thompson in five years (and only her second in 22). With even much of the original material steeped in English traditionalism, the album recalls the best of her early work with former husband Richard, though the romantic recriminations of the title track and "Go Home" showcase a songwriter who has very much found her own voice. Her key collaborator is son Teddy, who cowrote four songs with Linda as well as the instrumental that opens and closes the album. Daughter Kamila Thompson contributes "Nice Cars," perhaps the most contemporary-sounding track, as well as harmonies on a stripped-down rendition of "Day After Tomorrow" by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. Perhaps the most striking track is "Beauty," written for Thompson by Rufus Wainwright, with chamber strings, a bluesy undercurrent, and tremulous harmony vocals by Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons). Thompson doesn't release many albums, but she has never crafted a more cohesive and consistently inspired one than this. --Don McLeese

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 14, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,494 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Thomas H. Moody on September 26, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Linda Thompson's extraordinary "Versatile Heart" is exactly what its title implies - it's versatile and full of heart. This opus finds Thompson moving a little further a field from her comeback album of five years ago (has it been that long?) "Fashionably Late." The risks taken here pay off primarily due to Thompson's haunting, plaintive and somewhat melancholy voice and because of a sense of vision and determination that she displays.
Her son, Teddy Thompson, plays a huge role in this recording and its obvious, as it was on "Fashionably Late", that he is her number one fan!

Every track here is a gem. The title song, which opens and closes with a wonderful horn band, is a catchy piece with some rather cutting remarks ("Stay on the road you two faced fool, that way we'll never come to blows") about someone who uses their versatile heart to the detriment of another. Jenni Muldaur lends a lovely harmony on this track. With a voice sounding like a cross between her mother, Maria Muldaur, and Dolly Parton she pushes the song up a notch by being a nice contrast to Thompson's vocals.

Thompson takes a winning stab at country and honky-tonk with "Do Your Best For Rock And Roll" and "Give Me A Sad Song" - tracks that sound very much like they could have come right out of Nashville. She also moves into a cabaret/chanteuse like mode for Rufus Wainwright's "Beauty" and she successfully treads into the indie folk arena with her daughter Kamila Thompson's "Nice Cars" - probably the most unusual track on the CD.

And then there's "Katy Cruel" and "Blue and Gold" - the first an old song and the second a new song that sounds like an old song - which finds Thompson on familiar ground.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Graeme H on September 4, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Linda Thompson's singing - powerful, spare, devoid of tricks or unecessary ornamentation - stands in stark contrast to the fashions of today; it is showcased perfectly on this album. Her collaboration with her children and family friends (Rufus Wainwright composed one of the standout tracks, and Martha Wainwright and Antony provide vocals)has produced an album that is hugely satisfying and hard to classify (iTunes lists it as alternative). There is the British folk influence on tracks such as Katy Cruel, but overall Versatile Heart has a quite contemporary feel. Beauty, composed by Rufus Wainwright, is a haunting chamber piece, Nice Cars is dark and edgy, and Thompson's reading of Day After Tomorrow makes it a protest song that feels right for today.

This is an exceptional recording where the arrangements, song choices and performances combine perfectly. Let's all hope that Ms Thompson doesn't make us wait too long for her next piece of work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr.D.Treharne on September 6, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Though it was recorded in a variety of locations this album places itself firmly in a genre of its own.It is, in recording terms, as is noted elsewhere, often sparsely instrumented, though none the worse for that as it allows Thompson'r pristine voice to be the main element of all the tracks.
There are three other elements that make it a 'must have' album. Firstly there is the support that she receives from a range of English and Irish musicians who have been a part of the tradition that she has come from. John Kirkpatrick's anglo concertina part on "The way I love you" is almost understated but an integral part of the whole, as are John Doyle,John Joe Kelly, and Martin and Elza Carthy where they contribute.
She is also well served by some stunning guitar work from Larry Campbell and especially Teddy Thompson. The brass and string arrangements also contribute to the sum of the whole without ever being intrusive, and it's evident that there has been a great deal of thought put into the constituent parts of the whole recording process.
The sleeve notes are also full of her slightly self deprecating humour (sorry that's an English spelling there!)in which she describes a song which she "worked up from an idea by Richard Thompson a little known but extremely useful guitarist".
The album sits well as a whole but my current favourites are the aforementioned "The way I love you", "Nice Cars" ( 'A white girls jelly roll song. I blame the mother') and the fabulous "Go Home", but it's not really an album to pick tracks from, but one which you ought to allow to wash over you in its full stunning glory.
Hyperbole? Nah I don't think so,get it and try it, it is "an eclectically sparse gem"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter Baklava on September 28, 2007
Format: Audio CD
"Versatile Heart" is Linda Thompson's very worthy follow-up to her "comeback album" of five years ago, "Fashionably Late." For the most part, it follows the pattern established by that album, but it is a bit more relaxed in feel and shows more of Linda's range as a vocalist/performer.

A few of the songs, including the upbeat title track, consciously invoke the style of Linda's first collaboration with her ex-husband Richard, the classic "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight". That early album established Linda as a first-rate interpreter of "dramatic" song material, and "Versatile Heart" shows that Linda is still doing these types of dry and pristine takes on traditional English folk music better than anyone with the possible exception of June Tabor. The best example of this on the album is Rufus Wainright's lovely "Beauty", similar in feel (and title) to "Paint and Powder Beauty" from "Fashionably Late".

"Beauty", pretty sounding as it is, also contains what I believe is the only significant flaw in this album--a clumsy, warbling counterharmony sung by Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons. Linda and Antony's vocals don't mesh very well, and they each seem to be consciously trying to get out of each other's way. It's as if she was dueting with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead--an interesting, but unsuccessful experiment, and the only drawback to a most enjoyable album.
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