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Sweet Warrior

4.5 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 29, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Literate rocker Richard Thompson's new album, Sweet Warrior, is a return to his classic electric sound, his first plugged-in album since 2003's The Old Kit Bag. Filled with 14 songs of stories of loss and betrayal, the album also holds one of Thompson's most overtly political songs to date, "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," told from the perspective of a nervous young soldier stationed in Baghdad (abbreviated as "Dad" in the song). Richard Thompson is a consummate singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His career stretches back to the late '60s, when he was a founding member of the British folk-rock Fairport Convention. In the late '70s, with his then-wife, Linda, he recorded Shoot Out the Lights, which regularly makes critics' lists of the top ten records of all time. In the '90s, he experienced another career renaissance with the album Rumor & Sigh and he remains an elder-statesman of alternative rock.

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Back in the '80s and '90s, Richard Thompson could be depended upon to release a well-crafted collection of Celtic-influenced folk-rock every few years. But when he left Capitol after 1999's Mock Tudor, Thompson headed off on side projects, all of typically high quality, but not the solo albums his established cult expected. Those fans can now rejoice, because on Sweet Warrior Thompson roars back with his first electric set of originals since 2003, and it's a winner. As the disc's title implies, he revisits the familiar territory of love as a battlefield in these 14 originals. The concept is emphasized by a liner photo of the singer/songwriter in army gear and camouflage flanked by two beautiful women planting kisses on either cheek. Supported by longtime backing cohorts, the guitarist adds to his six-string talents with occasional mandolin, autoharp, accordion, and even organ, all used as icing on a cake of tunes that further refine his established style. Perhaps the most startling song is the viciously anti-war "Dad's Going to Kill Me," about a soldier stationed in Baghdad (the "Dad" of the title), wondering if he will survive another day. "Guns are the Tongues" finds Thompson telling the tragic tale of a young man enticed by a woman's charms ending up as a suicide-bombing terrorist. Thompson's dramatic guitar solos are kept on low boil, occasionally bubbling up but never hogging the spotlight. They are, along with his distinctive vocals, actors in a play of characteristically classy tunes that will thrill Thompson's fans, who have been waiting for just such a set of literate and challenging music from a musician who never delivers less. --Hal Horowitz
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 29, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Shout Factory
  • ASIN: B000OQDS18
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,278 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I can't believe that it's been about twenty-five years since Richard Thompson set off on his solo career. I know, some may gripe with that date, (rightly) pointing out his 1972 album "Henry the Human Fly," but he subsequently teamed with then-wife Linda for a series of stunning albums that will remain masterpieces of their genre. I am referring to the part of his career that followed all that hubbub. Either way, I have bought every official album and every `semi-official' website release with his name on it. If you count everything since "Henry," that's about forty albums of material I own, so I feel very qualified when I say that "Sweet Warrior" is Richard Thompson's best collection of songs in quite some time.

The most rewarding aspect of being a fan is when an artist is talented enough to be consistently challenging, yet kind enough to maintain a predictable level of consistency. I have never bought a Richard Thompson record that left me unmoved, but the above characteristics occasionally thwarted one another. Recent works, like "Front Parlor Ballads" and the "Grizzly Man" soundtrack, were interesting, challenging works, but the very nature of these projects rendered them less consistent than I would have hoped. "Sweet Warrior" marks a return to fully realized compositions, with full band accompaniment and what is by now a predictably stunning degree of songwriting prowess. Every song here rewards multiple listens, but a few grow to gargantuan proportions. "I'll Never Give It Up" rocks with a wrath that matches the lyrical intensity, while "Take Care the Road You Choose" may be the most gentle and poignant tale of regret I have ever heard. "Mr.
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Format: Audio CD
Boy, I feel like a naysaying nitpicker to rate this album a measly 4 stars, but such are the standards to which Richard Thompson has accustomed me. It's a really good album, just not transcendent like BRIGHT/POUR/SHOOT/KIT. The songs are as polished as we have a right to expect from such a consumate tunesmith, though only a few truly knock me on the head ("Dad", "Johnny", "Guns", "Take Care").

But superlative craft is a given with this guy. For me he truly shines when he's goaded by deeply felt issues: 9/11, mortality, a failing/failed marriage, Margaret Thatcher. When he turns his acerbic scrutiny on fashionistas and suburban living he just sounds like a clever crank.

People like Robert Christgau will quibble about the songs but assert that with RT "guitar's never a problem". That's not entirely true (again with the high expectations). Even a player as original as Thompson can get into a rut, his idiosyncratic riffs sounding like personal cliches. So even worthy collections like AMNESIA and MOCK TUDOR failed to get me off guitarwise. They offered no surprises from a man I cherish for his talent to surprise me, like the first time I saw him live in '85.

SWEET WARRIOR is another story entirely. The guitar playing throughout sends shivers down my spine. Thompson's fretwork is so energized here, so playful and fresh, even if it never hits the nail-your-scalp-to-the-wall wail of SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS. "Bad Monkey" almost sounds like a kids song (where is that kids album anyway?) but the guitar breaks are nuts! I bet it will be this tour's encore rave-up, finally replacing "Tear Stained Letter". And virtually every track is like that. From a guy who's nearly 60. It really sounds like he's bringing an entire life's worth of wit and chops to bear. Total fireworks.
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Format: Audio CD
This is the strongest Thompson album in years and time might prove it to be one of the best albums in his already extensive and high quality catalog.

Richard Thompson and his studio collaborators (inclduing the underheralded Michael Jerome on drums, Nickel Back's Sara Watkins and the marvellous Danny Thompson on double-bass) deliver a set of marvellous performances here. These tracks have a real spark to them - they sound like a bunch of great players playing live rather than a bunch of recordings laid down in a studio. All the fireworks here come from the players and their instruments - this album is not big on studio trickery being used to beef up the sound.

And in this considerable company Thompson still shines with his guitar playing. In terms of his own playing and of delivering convincing performances Thompson is at the top of his game here. He remains a technically elite player, but as always the technique is not there for it's own sake but is used to get the message across. His solos here are sometimes biting and half-a-step away from being totally crazed ("Bad Monkey" , "I'll Never Give It Up") and at other times unbelievably tender without being cloying (EG "Take Care The Road You Choose").

The album deals broadly with war in various realms of life. Two of the standout tracks address modern warfare from different points of view.

"Dad's Gonna Kill Me" is in the first person with the narrator describing, in GI slang-laced language, the confusion and terror he experiences in Iraq. "Guns Are The Tongues" is set in Ireland but the tale is more universal: A femme fatale seduces an inexperienced and awkward young man into doing her lethal dirty work.
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