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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Thompson on top form, 15 Jan. 2006
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
This was the first album by Richard Thompson on an independent label in many years, and what a power of good it did him! His creative powers were seldom better and the resulting album sounds as fresh and inventive as anything in his prolific output - unmistakable folk roots, but undeniably contemporary. Not only that, but he demonstrates exactly why he's among the best British guitarists in either electric or acoustic modes. Even his voice, at times an acquired taste, sounds in fine fettle here, displaying a range that would surprise many. Thompson is helped by a simple band and a very basic, stripped down sound that allows the excellence of the raw materials to speak for themselves - and in terms of quality singer-songwriters, they never got better than this.
The Old Kit Bag gets off to a great start with the dark and brooding Gethsemane and never looks back. There isn't a weak track here, though worthy of mention are the mandolin-driven One Door Opens, First Breath, Word Unspoken Sight Unseen, and Outside on the Inside (apparently about how the Taliban sees the West.)
A really first class collection shows that the man is on top form. Can't wait to see him play live at the Barbican this month!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent album for this first-time Richard Thompson fan, 15 Dec. 2003
This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
I wasn't previously familiar with Mr. Thompson's songs, though I'd heard about him for years. This album was a fantastic introduction and makes me want to go catch up on everything I missed. Standout tracks are "Gethsemane", "One Door Opens", and "Outside of the Inside" — beautiful and powerful stuff. (The latter was supposedly written about the Taliban, but it applies quite well to America's religious right.) Close behind these songs and in a more lighthearded vein are "She Said It Was Destiny", "I'll Tag Along". Other songs on this album haven't lodged themselves in my brain as successfully yet, but there really isn't a dud here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GET YOUR KIT ON!, 11 Feb. 2003
By 
Dudley Serious - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
Among pop music genres folk-rock is probably the most unfashionable, being either ridiculed or plain ignored by those arbiters of taste who would tell us what's hot and what's not. Despite this, certain notable artists plough their own furrow (pardon the gratuitous agricultural pun) to bring us new sounds inspired, among other things, by the musical traditions of the British Isles. Foremost among these is Richard Thompson. He has been doing it since the late Sixties and "The Old Kit Bag" is proof, if proof were needed, that whilst his back catalogue is substantial (in every respect) he is not about to retire and put his feet up by the fire yet.
This taut collection showcases his rocking side with tracks like "Jealous Words" and "A Love You Can't Survive", which are resplendent with his swerving, restless electric guitar lines. His virtuosity puts him in the same league as more celebrated axe heroes like Jimmy Page, and his breaks would not sound out of place on a Led Zeppelin album. Other tracks usher in a more contemplative mood, for example "Gethsemane" and "Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen". He also treats us to his nimble-fingered playing on acoustic guitar and mandolin on tracks like the bright and breezy "One Door Opens" and the gentle "First Breath". His last album "Mock Tudor" was very meaty and "The Old Kit Bag" continues his policy of providing all killer, no filler. Thompson has just unveiled a whole set of new classics on this release.
Perhaps one impact of devolution is a rekindling of interest in British culture, including folk music, in its many forms. Don't expect to see Kylie gyrating around a morris dancing troupe on "Top of the Pops" quite yet (although you never know, it could happen). There are nevertheless serious young artists out there, e.g. Eliza Carthy, presenting traditional or traditionally inspired music in a more modern idiom. Richard Thompson remains the standard bearer for this strand of contemporary popular music, the reviled folk-rock (ugh!), that is more relevant than any self-appointed style guru will admit and deserves more attention in this age of the fifteen-minute pop star. No smelly socks but a champion’s shirt in Richard Thompson’s kit bag.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 12 Jun. 2004
By 
Alexander G. Marshall "alexmarshall3" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
Typically excellent Richard Thompson album with superb guitar playing throughout, fantastic changes of mood, and excellent singing (Thompson sounds a much more confident singer here than on some of his earlier albums). Ironies and streaks of genius abound and the whole is bound together with the sense of a truly powerful, original, and inspired musical intelligence at work. Unmissable.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour de Force, 20 May 2003
By 
Mr. M. Dennison "Mike D" (Scottish Borders) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
The Old Kit Bag marks a bit of a change of direction for Richard Thompson with his first new release since leaving Capitol. On his web site he explains that it was basically recorded live with just a few extra instrumental parts added afterwards. Featuring just 4 musicians RT plus Danny Thompson on Double Bass, Michael Jerome on Drums and Judith Owen on Background Vocals this recording captures something of the intensity of a live RT gig. The very "live" clean sound is a huge improvement over some of his Capitol releases, which were over-produced and sounded very muddy especially on percussion.
His material is very strong and the long gap between Mock Tudor and this CD gave him a chance to really polish up the songs live before committing them to tape. The small ensemble playing suits RT and gives him a chance to get out his mandolin, dulcimer and harmonium as well as his guitar. Whilst there's lots of excellent acoustic and electric guitar playing on the album it doesn't dominate and the other instruments fill out the sound in a more colourful manner.
Of the songs several stand out - "Gethsemane" with powerful hooks and emotive lyrics paints an evocative picture, "A Love You Can't Survive" hearks back to his very best early material, "One Door Opens" is very sprightly with a Middle-Eastern flavour, "First Breath" sees RT in a jazzy, romantic but ultimately doomed mood, "Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen" really shines with it's theme of redemption through love and faith and "Outside of the Inside" sees RT railing against religious bigotry once more. All the songs are beautifully crafted musically and lyrically and require guenuine involvement on the part of the listener. Who else quotes Van Gogh, Charlie Parker, Einstein and misericords in one lyric?
All in all another superb RT album, my only (slight) criticism is the absence of lighter material - "My Daddy is a Mummy" or "Madonna's Wedding" might have been included. The highlights - whenever he and Judith Owen are singing together - he just sounds so much better accompanied by a female vocalist.
Buy it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pensive sadness about the human condition, 14 Mar. 2007
By 
A. J. Rabet "Rabs" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
What can one say that has already been said by others about the master of electric contemporary folk other than this is album is truly superb with the normal underpinning of RT's gravely voice and incredible mastery of the guitar in his laid back style.

From the opening chords of "Gethsemane" to the closing bars of Happy Days and Old Lang Syne" this album delights not only because one can appreciate the skills of RT and his backing musicians but also because the lyrics of this album make one think throughout.

Listen to the anti fundamentalist polemic of "Outside of the Inside" to songs about lost loves such as "One Door Opens" to "First Breath" As normal with RT he tends to concentrate on what has been lost rather than what has been gained so he can sound a bit miserable but aren't all the greatest songs to some extent?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More from the master, deserves 10 stars, 25 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
This is yet another masterpiece from one of the finest singer, songwriter, performers in the business. The album is superb in its own right, but this 'DualDisc' version which includes the full album in 5.1 surround sound plus some blisteringly good live performance videos is just stunning.
I've said it before and I'll say it again when 5.1 surround sound is used properly it just so much more involving, and when it's as good as this its brilliant. Superb songs, performed by a master craftsman and beautifully presented in 5.1 sound, small wonder that this has become one of the gems of my music collection.
If you haven't got the album get it, and if you've got a 5.1 system get this version.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrically interesting and musically excellent, 11 Feb. 2003
By 
Tim Edmonds "tim427" (Minehead) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
It is best not to try to categorise Richard Thompson's music, for his style is unique and always interesting. He is an undoubted master on the guitar and gathers together musicians of style and ability. His songs are verbally and lyrically intelligent and mix personal experience with social comment. On the back of the insert booklet for this CD the sub-heading is "Unguents, Fig Leaves and Tourniquets for the Soul", which is an apt and suitably Thompsonesque description of the contents. As with the last one, "Mock Tudor", the tracks are divided into groups, in this case two groups of six songs, "The Haunted Keepsake" and "The Pilgrims Fancy".
Musically, compared with "Mock Tudor" the main difference is that instead of a large backing band with a brass section, here it comprises just two Thompson 'regulars' in a rhythm section of Danny Thompson on bass and Michael Jerome on drums and percussion. Jerome also contributes some backing vocals, but on several tracks the main vocal harmonies are from Judith Owen who provides an excellent foil for Thompson's voice on "Jealous Words", "One Door Opens" and "Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen". Thompson (R) himself plays, individually and collectively, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, dulcimer and harmonium. His playing is excellent and varies to match the mood of the songs. Throughout the album the double-bass work from Thompson (D) is simply superb.
Without a wind section the overall sound is gentler than on "Mock Tudor", but Thompson's songwriting has lost none of his bite and all the tracks bear his hallmarks in their subject matter and imagery, varying from the wryly humourous "I'll Tag Along" to the melancholy of "Gethsemane", "A Love You Can't Survive" and "I've Got No Right To Have It All". There is a good range of tempo and mood in the sounds too.
Overall this ranks with the best of Thompson's recordings and if you like Thompson then you'll love it. If you are not familiar with his work then this CD is recommended as well worth a listen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Among the headstones, 17 Sept. 2012
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
I am old enough to have seen Hendrix (three times) and many other great guitarists, but the one who made my jaw drop and my heart skip a beat, such was his virtuosic brilliance and turn-on-a-dime dexterity, was Richard Thompson. (I tend to think of it so: RT could just about manage to do what JH could do, but I`m not sure about vice versa. Fact is of course, they were both stunning.)
You know immediately this is going to be yet another fine RT album. Sonic clarity, ringing guitar sound, RT`s voice sharp and edgy as ever, tunes that have been worked on, lyrics to die for.
Take the opening track, the looming Gethsemane. Its first lines:

Among the headstones you played as boys
Crypts and tombs like a roomful of toys
Just up the river from the smoke and the noise

That`s my boy. Is there a more consistently potent British songwriter? Only Elvis Costello comes to mind, but he too often scuppers his own chances by singing his superb lyrics, both live and on record, in a mid-Atlantic twang that renders many of them indecipherable.
The first hair-raising ballad here is track 4, A Love You Can`t Survive, a cautionary tale of a man who is a peace vulunteer but "killed a man in a Brazzaville prison, out of boredom or pity I`ll never know". We`ve all been there.
I`ve rarely heard RT sing with more expressive bravado.
One song here is astonishing, the enigmatic Outside Of The Inside. This album was his first since the tragedy of the World Trade Centre, and RT remains, we are told, a committed Muslim. However, in light of those two facts, this appears to be a song
(and what a song!) castigating those who would deny the achievements of `Western Civilisation` for a place in Paradise. The chorus goes:

There`s a message on the wind
Calling me to glory somewhere
There are signs to deep for the dumb
Like perfume in the air
And when I get to Heaven
I won`t realise I`m there

Uneqivocal, I`d say. But hear the song in its entirety, it`s one of his most sly and thoughtful lyrics. A remarkable song.
The sound of this album in two parts - "Chapter One: The Haunted Keepsake; Chapter Two: The Pilgrims Fancy" - is stripped down, with RT on vocals and several instruments including of course guitar, old mate Danny Thompson resonant on bass, Michael Jerome on drums, and Judith Owen highly effective on backing vocals. They make a wondrous noise together.
Thompson has reached an enviable position now in contemporary music. Enough know his worth, but I think it unlikely he`ll ever be so big he has to play arenas or do a record company`s every bidding. Can`t imagine RT ever being anything but his own man. From those heady early days of Fairport and his great song Meet On The Ledge to albums like this one and a portfolio of unbeatable songs, the man continues to amaze and nourish those lucky enough to fall under his spell.
If I haven`t concentrated on many particular songs, it`s because the whole thing is pretty much as excellent as his previous record, and the one that came after, though I must say this strikes me as one of his very best. A kit bag stuffed with enough compelling songs to keep you going till the next one.
The man`s something like a genius.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Door Opens?, 23 Feb. 2003
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Old Kit Bag (Audio CD)
This album has a slightly more traditional sound than some of RT's recent work. 'One Door Opens' and 'Happy Days and Auld Lang Syne' sound like they could be old folk tunes, and 'Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen' even has a vague 'country' edge - don't panic, that's 'country' as in Nanci Griffith or Steve Earle, not the Billy Ray Cyrus / 'Achey Braky Heart' / Line Dancing end of the market. It may be a subconciuos thing in that Judith Owen's voice has the purity of Emmy-Lou Harris. It's certainly not a criticism, as it's an aspect of the album that gives it a freshness. If there is a criticism, it's that the songs aren't all as strong as they were on 'Mock Tudor'; but that may reflect the strength of 'Mock Tudor' (his best album ever in my view) than any particular weakness in 'The Old Kit Bag'. Anyway, 'Gethsemane' would make the album a 5-star even if the rest of the album was Gareth Gates out-takes...
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