Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two For Wednesday: UPDATE

The minute I found out that Richard Thompson was recording a record in Nashville with Buddy Miller I plotzed. I certainly did not see that coming and I could not wait for it to drop. Well, it did. Yesterday. I don't love it. Not yet, anyway. Not after my first half-assed pass last week courtesy of NPR and not after two more serious passes. I do like it very much, though, and I expect my feelings will grow the more time I spend with it. At the moment, I only like it as a friend.

My one and only issue with "Electric" is the same issue I usually have with a Richard Thompson record. The songs tend to resemble not only each other, but other RT songs. It's as if Thompson writes with a template. There's the ballad, the blues, the pop single, the Celtic epic. It's a strange complaint, I know. I prefer RT's music to sound like RT and not say...Shakira., and you can be sure I'd bitch if Thompson released something radical like a funk record or his last release, the bizarre "Cabaret Of Souls."  But the way Thompson's guitar playing never ceases to surprise, move and amaze me, and boy does it ever on just about every song on "Electric," I'd like to feel that occasionally with the songs themselves. Right now, that is not happening.

Still, the marriage of Buddy Miller and Richard Thompson is a success. The sound of "Electric" is thick but not busy and really, my quibbling is minor. This is a fine record that I expect to find finer in days to come.


I've just completed another two passes through "Electric." Two very solid passes, with few distractions.

This record has some clinkers and they are all top-loaded. The guitar playing saves what, for me, would have been 5 pretty hokey songs to open an album. I actually find "Stoney Ground," Salford Sunday," and "Stuck On A Treadmill" unpleasant. It's hard to explain, but the first thing that comes to mind...and forgive the weird mayonaisse on pizza. Something is not working. Chord changes, riffs, guitar flourishes and clumsy lyrics that don't seem to go well together.  And yet, as I said, I can't turn these songs off because I know what's coming via RT"s guitar.

Just like "Dream Attic," the record doesn't begin for me until Track 6. If someone had never heard a note of RT's music and was first introduced to his music with "The Money Shuffle" and "Among The Gorse, Among The Grey," the two songs that open "Dream Attic," I wouldn't blame them for never returning. This is what I'm feeling with the opening 5 of "Electric." But then, it all falls together beautifully.

Frank Bango has been quietly releasing some truly fine pop records for awhile now. He started work on "Touchy/Feely" back in 2008, but only got around to finishing it this year, after dealing with some serious health problems. Friend and BW supporter Stivseed made a very subtle suggestion in the comments section last week about this record. I'm not sure how many of you saw it and decided to give it a whirl, but I implore you to do so now.

"Touchy/Feely" is a collection of hooks and harmonies that will make all of you power pop lovers swoon.

Please, listen for yourself, and then do the right thing and show Frank some love and purchase a copy.
This record is HUGE!


Gyro1966 said...

i played the Bango record on the suggestion, but I found that it didn't stick with me. I'll try it again a few more times before I delete it.

Gyro1966 said...

i played the Richard Thompson yesterday, including bonus tracks. Sounded good on first listen, but Sal, you are right, he does seem to follow a Richard Thompson formula. I often thought that I had heard the same song by him before. Overall it sounds like a good album, though. The production is just right for him.

Anonymous said...

I've been a Bango fan for years and while Touchy Feely is a great record, the one to get is the 2001 Fugitive Girls. This guy is the real deal. Brother Lu Bango has a 2000 release called The Little Bang Theory that's worth checking out as well. Randy

cmealha said...

If the rest of the Bango album is as great as this track, I'm buying 2 copies.

buzzbabyjesus said...

You hit the nail on the head concerning RT. He is one of the best guitar players around, but I haven't enjoyed his music much since he turned Sufi. My favorite album is still his first, "Henry The Human Fly". "I Wanna See The Bright Lights Tonight" is second and I like each one after with diminishing levels of enjoyment.
I don't need to hear the new one, beacuse I already have.

Alan said...

Sal, your comments about the Richard Thompson album remind me of so many conversations I've had with former girlfriends.The only thing missing is, "No really, its not you, its me."

Michael Giltz said...

Buzzbabyjesus: really? Henry The HUman Fly is your favorite and it's been downhill for the past 40 years? Why keep listening to them?

Sal, you are absolutely right about Thompson working the same patch of ground -- the bitter breakup, the frustrated dreamer, the angry outburst against the Man and so on. I'm just surprised the new album doesn't have a song about a drunkard. Like you say, at least he's not trying to do hiphop or some such godawful idea. That's why it's so remarkable that he can reshuffle the same deck of cards and every once in a while still deliver a top notch album. I haven't named a studio album of his among my favorites of the year since Mock Tudor in 1999, so I'm hardly a knee-jerk fanatic. But I'm sure Electric will make my list for 2013. And what a tremendous live show. Every song on the album sounds superior in concert. My least favorite track on the CD is "My Enemy" and even that was pretty good in the show. (I fear those long meandering ballads he delivers every once in a while.) Buy tickets to see him at the Beacon in March and don't listen to the album for a while. Go to the show and then return to it. Maybe you'll find it grow on you.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I heard RT on WNYC a couple hours ago, and the two snippets they played off the new one sure sound good, but fall into the usual categories.

I was already a Fairport Convention fan when I bought my first copy of "Henry" as a cut-out. Some complained at the time that he couldn't sing, but I connected to it right away.

I bought all the albums as they came out until "Sunnyvista"(1979), which after "First Light" made two disappointments in a row. And except for the terrific title track, "Shoot Out The Lights" left me cold. "Hand Of Kindness" was a return to form of sorts, but by this time there were no longer any real surprises for me on his records.

Since then I sporadically check in on him, but find a certain staleness in the writing.

His take on "Oops! I Did It Again" is currently on my playlist.

I never said he wasn't a major talent.

Sal Nunziato said...

I've just updated my Thompson review, for those paying attention.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree more. I love Electric. Writing consistently brilliant songs, lyrically and melodically, along with astounding guitar breaks is now being defined as repetitive? Imagine if every artist were stuck in such a rut? I guess he's paying the price for not releasing any downright dreck once in a while. It works for Neil Young. Put it out some crap and follow it up something decent, and it shines brighter. It's a good formula.
The track Straight And Narrow has a 60's garagey band feel. I never heard Richard Thompson like that before...

Sal Nunziato said...


If you've read these pages before, you know I am a huge fan of RT. It's rare for me to say anything negative. And actually, I've given a whole lotta love to this new one. 65% of it, to be precise. But even the greatest records of all time have some missteps. In the case of "Electric" and "Dream Attic" before it, they all seem lumped together at the top.

Now, you may love "Stoney Ground" & Stuck On A Treadmill." I don't. I love "Mr. Moonlight" on "Beatles For Sale." Most hate it. I also hate the sound of a Fender Rhodes, and that damned riff that repeats for 12 minutes on that Jane Smiley song from the last Wilco album. It's in the ear of the beholder.

RT's voice is not for everyone, and the first few songs on "Electric," he shows those eccentricities in spades. Would you go as far as saying any one of the first 4 songs are some of his best work?

My point is, a song can't be called brilliant just for one reason, say a guitar solo. It should have it all. RT is consistent and the formula works for the most part. But for me, the first 20 minutes does not. Those songs are weak.

ASH On The Beat said...

How Do Sal.

While since I've posted and fully agree with you and you know what a RT fan I am.

I was gonna post something longwinded, but after reading Michael's comments, there's no need, he's said everything I would and I've often said that the songs translate better live.

I was also a bit gobsmacked by BBJ's comment.

Sorry but Frank Bango doesn't do it for me and I've had it for a couple of weeks.

I'm desperate for some Power Pop album to show it can still be done, something from someone who isn't established, sadly I don't see it being this, but I will keep giving it a try.

ASH On The Beat said...

Oh and everything Sal's said about Richard Thompson could also apply to Neil Young.

RT album's are always nice to have and I'll always but, but this hasn't got the makings of a classic and much hasn't for the past decade and a half, but it's still better than a lot.

A walk in the woods said...

I like the Bango and will check that out some more.

As for Richard Thompson, one of the best shows I ever saw, musically, was RT at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta in 1997 or so. But I am not a fan of any of his studio stuff, even the prime Fairport material. The reason is his voice... there's something about his voice that is akin to seeing an actor who you can see is acting - Richard's voice makes it hard for me to get into his songs personally, b/c it's hard to see the characters in his songs as characters - it's like they're all really him. Which isn't that interesting to me.

Not sure that makes any sense, but it's what keeps me from being a big RT fan despite his amazing guitar abilities...

cmealha said...

Re: Frank Bango
I bought two

buzzbabyjesus said...

A walk in the woods said...

"there's something about his voice that is akin to seeing an actor who you can see is's hard to see the characters in his songs as characters - it's like they're all really him."

This has gotten worse over the 40 years since "Henry". Especially once he stopped writing for Linda.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. A praise for River Phoenix's musical output last week and now everyone dismissing Richard Thompson. Where am I?????

Sal Nunziato said...

I'm not sure any of that happened, Anonymous.

Did anyone notice either in my original post or in my comments where I mention how I LOVE Richard Thompson and really LIKE the new record and thought the last 7 songs play out beautifully?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

buzzbabyjesus said...

Richard Thompson has made a major contribution to a dozen of my favorite albums over the last 40 years, and helped form my sensibilities. I can say the same for The Beatles. That doesn't mean I'd like 16 rehashes of "Let It Be".

Gyro1966 said...

Just played the Richard Thompson tonight during the storm (the third time I've heard the album.) It's really growing on me and sounds like one of his better albums, an album that i would recommend.