Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Albums for Life: 41: Richard Thompson: Rumor and Sigh

I've followed Thompson since his early days as Fairport axman through to his well earned lofty seat as folk rock's elder statesman.
I initially balked at the rough, gruff voice, expecting a man in a fisherman's jumper with a finger in his ear, but every so often there would be a nerve shredding guitar solo or a tender ballad that would sideswipe me.
Since going solo he's released a string of fine but inconsistent albums, notable mainly for having some of the worst covers ever. You kind of know from the man's presentation that he's got ducks on his parlor wall. This lack of taste is odd given his sublime guitar playing and keen eyed and canny lyrical observations.
1991's Rumor and Sigh is his most consistent and accessible work. Maybe it was specially prepared for the American market; check out the title's spelling; produced by Mitchell Froom with his usual rich velvety sheen and baroque 'n' roll arrangements, the album was actually nominated for a Grammy. He even had a video in which it seems pretty obvious that the director was directed to keep Thompson's rugged mug (a face for radio) either out of shot or in the shadows. Mission accomplished, albeit not too subtly, his brief seems to have extended to giving the soundtrack a similar soft focus; the song sounds like it's filtered through cotton wool and vaseline...

There's a mish mash of styles on Rumor and Sigh that works surprisingly well as a whole. It shouldn't. Medieval horns meet heavy metal on 'Backlash Love Affair' and 'Keep Your Distance' has a hurdy gurdy solo for christs sake...
The album hosts what might be Thompson's best loved song, '1952 Black Vincent Lightening' and tells the story of star crossed lovers and the bike that brought them together:
"When I was a kid, that was always the exotic bike, that was always the one, the one that you went "ooh, wow". I'd always been looking for English ideas that didn't sound corny, that had some romance to them, and around which you could pin a song. And this song started with a motorcycle, it started with the Vincent. It was a good lodestone around which the song could revolve."
Here it is. Try playing along...


  1. I have one of his albums with Linda later in my list. I own five or six of his albums but not this one. I'll be giving it a listen.

  2. I'm anticipating 'Shoot Out the Lights' Seamus...