Customer Reviews: Versatile Heart
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4.5 out of 5 stars18
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on September 26, 2007
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. Blue and Gold's chorus has an especially subtle hook to it that I could listen to over and over, and is what gives it it's more modern edge.

Lastly, there are the ballads, and no one sings a sad song like Linda Thompson. "The Way I Love You", with Martha Wainwright singing background vocals, and the devastating "Go Home" are the kinds of performances that make Linda Thompson such a treasure. And its her stark performance of Tom Waits' and Kathleen Brennan's "The Day After Tomorrow" that is probably the pinnacle of the album. Recorded live with her daughter Kamila, if any listener has a dry eye after hearing that performance, well, then they don't have much of a soul. (It's interesting how wonderfully some women artists have taken on Waits' material and made truly distinguished performances of it. Valerie Carter's "Whistle Down The Wind", Carol Noonan's "Tom Traubert's Blues" and Christine Collister's "Dirt In The Ground" come to mind.)

I would be amiss not to mention the very English "Whiskey, Bob Copper, and Me" (an ode of sorts to the legendary Copper Family), penned by Linda and featuring Martin & Eliza Carthy and Susan McKeown, as well as the lovely instrumental "bookends" written by Teddy titled "Stay Bright".

It's very sweet to see how many of Teddy and Kamila's friends (most children of Linda's musical contemporaries from the early seventies) turn up on this recording. It's truly a testament to the endearing quality of Linda Thompson. So, pick yourself up a copy of "Versatile Heart" and discover that endearing quality, because it's a rare find indeed!
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on September 4, 2007
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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on September 6, 2007
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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on September 28, 2007
"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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on February 12, 2013
Linda Thompson has a signature voice and knows how to invest a song with the emotion and taste to suit her material. Her extraordinarily talented son Teddy contributes several compositions and adds his voice and guitar to the mix. The album is cohesive,beautifully judged and played. A rare it.
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on September 9, 2007
What a pleasure to have a new Linda Thompson recording! The more I listen, the more there is to enjoy. Standout tracks for me are Katy Cruel, Day after Tomorrow, Blue and Gold and of course, Beauty.

Inteligent, charming and tasteful, a real treat.
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on January 22, 2009
Nice production, and a nice return of a familiar voice with new material. It should probably carry Teddy Thompson's name in equal measure but it makes for a polished family project. My only surprise is that there was no obvious contribution from Richard Thompson on this one. No worries - Teddy's matured into a full artist in his own right, and his mother shines in the spotlight. Her voice is still bright and vibrant - the phrasing just right, and burnished like the sound of an old friend's hello. This is not a fickle purchase for one of a versatile heart.
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on January 20, 2008
Very enjoyable, reminds why she was part of such a well known duo for so long. This is not a whispery, ghost voice from the 60's but is right up there with anyone else doing this music today. And this music remains timely; contexts change, but these songs and this performance are going to continue to stand the test of time. Note that many of these songs were written or co-written by Teddy Thompson, Linda Thompson's son. Teddy now seems to have achieved some wider independent solo success with his recent "Up Front and Low Down" CD.
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on November 26, 2007
I am a longtime fan of Linda Thompson, and was really looking forward to this new collection of songs. The more I play this CD, the more I love it. Standouts for me are Nice Cars, Day After Tomorrow, Versatile Heart, and Katy Cruel. Really, though, it's just an exceptional piece of work. Kudos to Teddy Thompson for being the perfect collaborator with his mother (he's a great singer/songwriter/musician in his own right). Linda is someone I think I'd love to know in real life, and I hope she keeps making wonderful music.
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on August 29, 2009
After many years of not putting out any new material, Linda Thompson has come back with an album worthy of her earlier work. In Versatile Heart, she has found her voice again with haunting and beautiful lyrics. While not as dark as some of her prior work, this album has an underlying seriousness that I love. Highly recommended as Linda's voice should be heard by all.
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