RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON
The union of Richard and Linda Thompson and producer Gerry Rafferty, hot off the international success of "Baker Street" was, depending upon how you look at such things, a marriage made in commercial heaven - or a disaster waiting to happen.
Received wisdom usually plumps for the latter definition. Recorded at Chipping Norton Studios during September/October 1980, and recorded with Rafferty's then regular rhythm section of Pete Zorn and Liam Genocky, keyboard player Betsy Cook, multi-instrumentalist Phil Pickett, and familiar folkies Simon Nicol and John Kirkpatrick, the album they recorded together was very much a singer-songwriter's album. But that is a singer-songwriter in the same way that Rafferty was one, as opposed to any manner in which the definition might be attached to the Thompsons. Certainly not one of the record companies that were offered the album showed the slightest interest in it, while Richard himself professed at the time to hate it, and wasn't even on speaking terms with the producer by the end of the sessions.
Yet when he and Linda came to rerecord the songs the following year, they not only retained the same material, they adhered to the Rafferty arrangements as well. Only the feel of the production changed... but that was where the difference lay. Out went the smooth, slick, almost easy listening vibe that the well-meaning Rafferty cloaked over "Shoot Out The Lights," "Back Street Slide," "Wall Of Death," "Don't Renege On Our Love" et al, and in came the scratchy turbulence and clunky bonhomie that today, we know and love so much that it's almost impossible to give the original sessions a fair crack of the whip.
Try, though, and
you can definitely find some diamonds in the mine. Linda's performance
on "Walking On A Wire" is surely one of her career bests, while every
track has a little flourish, a nuance or a note that would have fit well
on the official item. Indeed, extract a few of the backing vocals that
Rafferty layered on to the show, and extract the ghost of "Baker Street"
from the more portentous moments, and it really isn't anywhere near as
bad as history has led us to believe. What it might have done to the Thompsons'
own history, however, is another matter entirely. -
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