Richard Thompson, the acclaimed guitarist and songwriter, embarked on this project in response to an invitation from Playboy to list the best songs of the last 1000 years. He thought they probably meant the last 20 years, but took them at their word and went back 1000 years. They declined to print his list, but he fortunately decided to play the results in concert. For me, this is unquestionably the best album of 2005 (or 2004?). That may be a bit hard to imagine, given that the first tune was written in the 13th century. But it's simply astounding, and endlessly enjoyable. You might imagine that Thompson's cover of the Who's "Legal Matter" or of Sticks McGhee's "Drinking Wine Spoo-dee-o-dee" would be foot-stomping rockers, but what about "So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo", written by an Italian cathedral composer in the 16th century? You find yourself singing along, without having a clue of what the words are. Then there are the lovely moments, like "Shenandoah" and "Why have My Loved Ones Gone". Thompson has a very quirky sense of humor in addition, resulting in covers of Prince's "Kiss" and Britney Spears "Oops, I did it again". For those who don't know him, Thompson is one of the most agile guitarists playing these days. The first time I saw him, I was convinced there had to be a second guitarist standing backstage, accompanying him. When he covers Squeeze's "Tempted" or Abba's "Money", you hardly notice that it's just him. Well, not exactly. Michael Jerome adds some very tactful percussion here and Judith Owen achingly lovely vocals (e.g. "When I am Laid in Earth", a gorgeous melody written by Henry Purcell). This little group can evidently handle anything. As Thompson says, after a seemingly effortless send-off of the Gilbert and Sullivan duet "There is beauty", there's "No fear here". A highly recommended recording.
I bought this on the strength of seeing it on you tube.Whilst I really like it my copy does not have all the tracks listed as shown on Amazon.Some are excluded but others, not listed, included.This has advantages and disadvantages depending musical tastes.However the variety and sound quality, to my ears anyway, are good.I would definitely recommend this to any Richard Thompson fans who may not have it already.
An extraordinary set of recordings- but not for the first-time Richard Thompson listener, although the half-dozen modern covers towards the end of the album (ranging from Jerry Lee Lewis to Brittney) are worth the price of the album.