A legend trades the studio for the stage Minus the applause, you wouldn’t know that Richard Thompson’s Dream Attic is a live album. The former Fairport Convention lead guitarist supposedly chose this setting for its inherent spontaneity, but the songs are played, produced and mixed with such flawless precision that they’re missing the color and blemishes of an actual live show. That’s not to say the album lacks spirit; it could just be that, after 40 years as a performer, he doesn’t make mistakes.
Richard Thompson has been making good to brilliant albums since Fairport Convention cut their debut in 1967, but anyone who knows his music well can tell you he's also a masterful live performer whose music takes on a greater sense of color and relief whenever he performs in front of an audience. Having released a number of limited-run live discs through his website, Thompson seems to be keenly aware his fans like hearing his live work documented for the ages, and with Dream Attic he's moved to the next logical step of recording an album of new material in concert. Dream Attic documents a run of seven shows Thompson played on the West Coast in February 2010; he and his band played a 13-song set of new songs each evening, along with a second set of fan favorites not included on this disc.
This is gloriously vicious, bitter, sad and bleak, even by Richard Thompson's standards. Recording live with a four-piece band, he continues his assault on human folly and unpleasantness with 11 new songs that deal with bankers, murderers, suicide bombers and vain pop stars – with laments for lost friends, lost love or lost chances added in. He shows off his black humour on The Money Shuffle, which starts with the lines: "I love kittens and little babies ...
Consider this: In 1999, Richard Thompson released Mock Tudor, which is one of his two or three best albums, if not just the best. That’s 32 years into his recording career. Imagine if Paul McCartney had released Flaming Pie and it was as good as or better than Revolver. While we’re at it, imagine that everything he’d released in the interim was nearly as good, too.
Deft flourishes and considered wordplay that Thompson fans will be familiar with. James Skinner 2010 In 1971 Richard Thompson made an impulsive decision to leave Fairport Convention, a group he helped found, in order to release his own albums. It didn’t pay off. At least, not commercially it didn’t – while Henry the Human Fly was well received by his fanbase, it apparently remains Warner Brothers’ lowest-selling album of all time.
While recording an album’s worth of new songs live in the studio with minimal overdubs is challenging enough, veteran songwriter and Strat strangler Richard Thompson’s latest CD, Dream Attic, forgoes the recording-studio safety net altogether: he recorded 13 new songs not only live, but in front of a live audience. For most, this would amount to career suicide, but Thompson’s songs have always taken on a greater dynamism on stage. (Anyone who doubts this can have a quick listen to some of the stratospheric extended soloing on 1976’s Guitar, Vocal.