- Audio CD (January 1, 2013)
- Original Release Date: January 1, 2013
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Cooking Vinyl
- ASIN: B00069I7B4
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,957 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Front Parlour Ballads
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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
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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.
There is no reason to preach to the choir. To the uninitiated or newly curious, starting here may not be your best choice, but it is still a good decision.
No such luck here. This CD seems incomplete. While the musicianship is first-rate as always, the songs themselves are unfinished, and the vocal work is downright sloppy in spots. The melodies, such as they are, are too high-pitched for Richard to reach, and reach he does, almost always unsuccessfully.
The CD almost sounds like a recording made simply to fulfill contractual obligations. I have seen Richard in concert every time he has come to town in the last fifteen years. If his current tour will be including a lot of songs from this collection, I may have to pass up the opportunity this time and wait until only a few of these are sprinkled into future concerts.
This is the first mostly solo acoustic work that Thompson has released in ages. While he has toured solo numerous times over the years, he usually tosses in just a couple stripped down gems per release. Of course the second half of YOU, ME, US? was acoustic, but most of the songs featured full band arrangements. Like that album, FRONT PARLOUR BALLADS is a bit of a mixed bag. Don't get me wrong, a mixed bag from the likes of Richard is a magic bag from most other artists. This contains all the hallmarks that have marked Richard's career, deeply literate songwriting, biting wit and strong instrumental prowess.
If I can find fault here, it's that it's all basically solo acoustic, the songs don't stand out as on other "plugged in' releases. A song like KING OF BOHEMIA or SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF LONDON TOWN to name a couple examples are thrown into relief by the electric fireworks that surround them on MIRROR BLUE and MOCK TUDOR. Here the songs LET IT BLOW and MY SOUL, MY SOUL stand out due to the extra light accompanyment that embellishes them.
Judging from the reviews it appears that this does not appeal to all the RT fans. While I would not call it a great CD, I'd say it falls firmly in the continium of quality that has marked Thompson's thirty plus year career. An overall solid effort with much to enjoy.