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m:— Return of the Thompson


§ Kenny Mathieson looks at

the lasting career of songwriting giant Richard

3 Thompson. At the beginnng of February. EMl

release Beat The Retreat. an album of songs written by Richard Thompson and performed by artists ranging from Bonnie Raitt and Los Lobos to REM and David Byme. The tribute is an indication of how highly regarded Thompson is as a songwriter. but there must still be times when the singer and guitarist feels a little like a well-kept secret.

Despite that respect. he has never really broken through to mass recognition. although he has had to watch lesser talents do so often enough. Nonetheless. while not in the stadium- rock bracket. he has built and maintained a loyal following over the years since he first came to notice as a member of the innovative folk-rock band Fairport Convention in the late (ills.

Fair'port extended their base in

traditional English music to take in

Cajun. blues. R & B and country influences. an eclectic musical policy which Thompson has developed and

expanded in his solo career since ; leaving the band in 1972.

‘l have always liked ethnic music.

i especially from the British Isles. but I never wanted to be a traditionalist. My

interest in that music was as a base on which to build. and the future is always more easily understood if you know

what has gone before. If you only go

back as far as David Bowie or Roxy Music. but have never heard. say. Louis

Armstrong playing “l-leebre Jeebres .

then I don’t think you can really know

what is next. You find yourself on a very short circuit.’

That eclecticisrn has made his music difficult to categorise. and his

i insistence on not being pigeon-holed either by genre or practice has seen him

alternating electric bands with solo

E acoustic tours (long before the unplugged phenomenon became (Iv riguear). a policy reflected in a string

ot'excellent records over the years. the latest of which is last year‘s .llirmr


His interest in widely diverse musical

source material is shared by his co-

conspirator on his latest tour. bass

l maestro and namesake Danny Thompson. and he will be supported by -

another former member of his band. singer Christine Collister.

Now in his mid-40s. 'l‘hompson views his career from an analogous perspective to that of a veteran bluesrnan. and sees no reason to contemplate giving up the music he loves to play. He did lay off for a time in the 70s. but it was ‘rnore of a musical pause. just to give myself a clearer idea of what I was doing and why I was doing it. I had been playing for a few years without really asking any questions. and [just wanted to get

Richard Thompson: rock’s big names beat a path to his door

sortie perspective on where l was going.

‘Rock music is no longer the domain of the young. it has become a multi- generational business. and it is getting a lot broader as music incorporates more

, and more st} les and generations. 1 would be happy if i could keep playing

music. as long as l have something to

; say. B. B. King will be 70 this year and

he is still playing. so I don't see why not?‘ 'l‘hompson's reputation as both writer

and guitarist are beyond question. but

his singing has never been viewed as

one of his greatest assets. It is a criticism which he is prepared to

acknowledge. but he remains philosophical on the issue. ‘ln l‘airport. we had a great singer in

Sandy Denny. and when she left the band, we all looked at each other and

wondered who was going to take over.

; We all did a bit. but none of us were

very good singers. we just muddled through. It took a long time for me to develop into any kind of singer. and I

still question whether I really can sing.

but I do enjoy it. I have improved I think I am almost competent now!‘ Ric/Ian! 'I'lmmpsmr plays Edinburgh Festival Theatre on Sun 2‘).

l A perfect

Marriage of Figaro and Leveaux

Following his brilliantly successful opera debut with Britten’s Turn of the

1 Screw in Glasgow last year, director David Leveaux returns to Scottish

Opera for a new production of Mozart’s

t The Marriage of Figaro. For those who

é Figaro, this production may come as

something of a surprise, in much the same way as it was for leveaux - ‘When Music Director Richard Armstrong asked me to do Turn of the Screw and Marriage of Figaro at the same meeting, I said “Are you sure I'm


cfaire Bradshaw as Cherubino:

butter wouldn’t melt

the man you want for Mozart?”. “Yes” Armstrong replied, “I’m sure you’ll do ; favour a bit of froth and trill with their I something other than an 18th century

chocolate box”.’

Leveaux has not however dispensed with the 18th century altogether. In fact, it intrudes in several ways into the general 19303 tenor of the production. ‘It’s only recently that the piece has been seen as a charming

boulevard farce,’ he says. ‘lt was not received that way when it was first

3 done. It’s actually very cruel, a ' ferocious comedy about sexual

obsession and revenge, and as far as it is possible, I’ve tried to strip it down to its naked level.’

Leveaux sees strong connections too between the general anxiety and social turbulence of the 1930s and the 17805. ‘I’m trying to mine it for what it ' is that moves it along, and although it’s not set in the 18th century, there is a kind of dialogue going on with the 18th century.’

Looking to history, Leveaux also follows Mozart in that his cast is a young one. ‘In Mozart’s original company, there was no one over 30. It’s a young people’s story, cruel and desolate, and a young cast was something I asked Scottish Opera for. You often find that young singers can bring more luminosity.’ (Carol Main) Scottish Opera Marriage of Figaro at Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 28, 30 Jan, 2, 4, 7,11 (mat) Feb.

35 The List 27 Jan-9 Feb 1995