on 23 April 2001
For long term fans, there is only one new track (three if you don't use vinyl), but it's a cracker .
For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of discovering the talents of possibly the finest songwriter and guitarist this island has produced, here is a selection of his finest songs from the Capitol years.
Do yourselves a favour and give your ears a treat - buy this album!!
The lyrics are thought provoking, clever, tender, funny, dark, evocative & insightful. The tunes range from stomping rock to subtle accoustic ballads. The guitar playing is just superb throughout and the voice is simply Richard Thompson.
Its a wonderful collection of wonderful songs by a master of his craft.
I bought it just because I can.
You should too.
This compilation from four of Richard Thompson`s most musically uncompromising albums, dating from 1988-99, is a real boon, as it cherry-picks the best tracks from those albums to give the grateful listener a feast of Thompsoniana that includes two of the finest songs - by anyone - of the last forty years. In fact, why don`t I just come out and say it: this man is the greatest contemporary songwriter, bar none. He`s certainly the subtlest, though his friend Loudon Wainwright is funnier, and Dylan simply untouchable. But RT, since the 70s, has been surely the most consistently brilliant.
According to the excellent booklet notes by Rob Bowman, the unimprovable song 1952 Vincent Black Lightning is `the most requested song on National Public Radio in the United States` - quite an achievement for an old folkie from W London. I can believe it though, since once heard the song is impossible to forget. Like so many RT songs, it`s about real people in credible situations, a poetic, witty lyric which shows both compassion and a wry empathy for their humanity. I love its opening lines:
Says Red Molly to James, `That`s a fine motorbike,
A girl could feel special on any such like`.
Says James to Red Molly, `My hat`s off to you,
It`s a Vincent Black Lightning Nineteen fifty-two`
The names he chooses for his characters are always just right. Red Molly...!
Chuck Berry never wrote a better, more affecting song than this, and that`s the highest praise I can think of.
Beeswing is the other obvious unforgettable song here, a gentle mid-tempo nostalgic ditty set in the Summer of Love, which may well be the most beautiful song in his repertoire. He`s tenderly remembering a girl:
She was a rare thing, fine as a beeswing...
It`s such a wonderful song you want to rush out and play it to anyone who`ll listen.
But these 77 minutes are packed with beauties, starting with the opening track, Turning Of The Tide, boasting one of RT`s gutsiest vocals, then comes Waltzing`s For Dreamers, a sad and lovely ballad that reminds me of his earlier songs for himself and his then-wife Linda.
Then there`s the rambunctious I Feel So Good, about a man fresh out of prison, featuring another tremendous RT vocal:
I feel so good I`m gonna break somebody`s heart tonight...
You believe him. A great performance of an urgently edgy song.
There are 18 tracks in all, including two unavailable before on disc, and one with son Teddy sharing vocals, sounding like a fresh chip of the old block.
Not every track is as good as the best ones here, this era of RT`s recording career producing a few rather `cold` songs, at least musically. But as a whole I`d say this is an exemplary compilation, and as such an essential one.
A hugely underrated singer, a superlative guitarist, a songwriter of genius.
on 13 November 2003
I bought this album as an introduction to Richard Thompson having hearing 1952 Vincent Black Lightning on BBC 6 Music and being blown away by such a fantastic and very moving song.
If you've never heard him before or are looking for a more complete introduction to him, then this is the album
on 8 November 2003
If you've chanced upon this album because you've heard Mr. Thompson is a bit of a musical genius, then you could do alot worse than start here. Unlike alot of artists, Richard's musical output has no 'weaker' areas, so doing a best of must have been a hideous job to perform. Let me say this: Richard Thompson has been voted the best songwriter award several times by several different institutions (Q magazine, etc) and is one of this country's finest lyricists. The breadth of scope covered in is songs is always refreshing and sometimes touches areas of life we wouldn't conciously wish to go. He also has he rare ability ot move you in 3 minutes of music. Obvious examples here are ...well, there are so many, but I still remember hearing the track 'Beeswing' for the first time, and tears falling down my cheeks but the end of it. Crushingly beautiful stuff.
Richard Thompson is a national treasure (albit a well kept secret at the same time) and though many are unfamiliar with his talents, one day he will be recognised as such. If you're still not sure, dip your toe in here. You will not regret it. Promise!
on 4 January 2015
If, like me, you managed to miss much of this period in Richard Thompson's musical career, then this album will certainly fill in some gaps. Grab yourself a listen then get onto Richard's website and take a look at the albums from which these songs were taken. There's far more in store and I'll certainly be updating my collection thanks to this fantastic reintroduction to the man and his music.
This latter-day compilation is a rare example of an artist who continues to turn out high quality material in middle age. Thompson's folk influences are evident, but it's a collection that ought to appeal to anyone who appreciates thinking-man's popular music. 'I Misunderstood,' for example, is the type of recording you might expect from Crowded House, while there are a few songs reminiscent of the so-called power-pop bands of the new wave era. Nevertheless, Thompson is at his most compelling when he accompanies himself on guitar on the menacing 'Cold Kisses.' There are a few instant offerings, the best of which is 'Feel So Good' but this is a varied and highly enjoyable collection of intelligent, thought-provoking songs.
Why 4 stars and not 5? I guess I have a hankering for the older, folkier, more acoustic, more introspective RT. Here, he largely sounds happier, more relaxed, more west-coast electric AOR. Not that there aren't folkier numbers, including the sublime and moving 1952 Vincent Black Lightening, but more of Richard's material is tending to the bland and familiar - though of a considerably higher quality than many you'll find churning them out!
Don't regard this as overt criticism, because it's not intended as such. This is a fine collection, with several memorable songs. But if you're new to the man, start with older material first and understand his roots.
on 17 September 2011
This was the album that introduced me to Richard Thompson. I can't remember what made me buy it, but I'm so glad I did. I have bought several of his albums since. All are great, especially The Old Kit Bag, but Action Packed has remained my favourite.
It has some great tracks, like Beeswing, 1952 Vincent Black lightning, Fully Qualified To Be Your Man, I Misunderstood, Cooksferry Queen and the fantastic I Feel So Good.
This is Richard Thompson at his best, in my opinion.