Saturday, July 25, 2015

Vinyl log 21 - 25 July

25July1972Richard ThompsonHenry the human fly

As I wrote once, "On this day 35 years ago (25 July 1972), I bought a copy of Richard Thompson's first solo album, "Henry the human fly", from a record shop on Kilburn High Street". I documented the purchase in that blog, so I won't repeat myself.

This is, how can I put it, a rather quirky record. Richard himself seems to be perversely proud of the urban legend that this was the worst selling record ever released on the American Warner Brothers label - an accolade which I have seen attached to other records (notably Randy Newman's first album, "Creates something new under the sun"). The two major complaints are Richard's voice and the lack of electric guitar. The latter doesn't bother me and well, that's how Richard used to sing at the time. 

In one of the recent interviews promoting Richard's latest release, "Still", he wished for access to the original multi-track recordings so that presumably he could remix and improve the vocals. Whilst I find it intriguing that he can't access them (wiped? licensing issues?), I hope that he doesn't change them too much, as over the past 43 years, I have become enamoured of the original. There are instrumental ideas there which are much better than those on his current recording; in fact, his early recordings often include a multitude of instruments, each playing a specific part. I find those parts very much enhance the basic guitar/bass/drums recordings, making them refreshing to my ears. Offhand, the last song that I can remember which had this kind of treatment was "Beeswing" - and that was from the mid 1990s.

For me, the best track on this album is "The angels took my racehorse away", whose lyric is typical of Thompson. Musically, it's a hash of Chuck Berry along with some traditional tune played on two violins, and contains a killer guitar solo (no electric guitar, hey?). I often wonder how this was recorded: probably the basic track was rhythm guitar, bass and drums, with that guitar being mixed out at various points. Other notables are "Roll over Vaughn Williams", "The poor ditching boy", "Shaky Nancy" and "The new St George".

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