I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight

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I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
RT Iwtstblt.jpg
Studio album by
Released30 April 1974
RecordedMay 1973
StudioSound Techniques, Chelsea, London
GenreFolk rock[1]
Length36:55 (original)
53:26 (2004 reissue)
LabelIsland
ProducerRichard Thompson, John Wood
Richard and Linda Thompson chronology
Henry the Human Fly
(1972)
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
(1974)
Hokey Pokey
(1975)

I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is the second album released by Richard Thompson and the first including (and credited) with his then-wife, Linda Thompson, as Richard and Linda Thompson. It was released by Island Records in the UK in 1974. Although never commercially successful and critically ignored upon its release, it is now considered by several critics to be a masterpiece and one of the finest works of both Richard and Linda singularly or together.

Background[edit]

After the marked lack of success achieved by his first album, Henry the Human Fly, British singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson started a personal and professional relationship with Linda Peters, a session singer. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was the first album by the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson.

Sessions for the album took place in spring 1973 at the Sound Techniques studio, in Chelsea, London, with house engineer John Wood co-producing with Thompson. The album, provisionally titled Hokey Pokey, was recorded on a shoestring budget in a matter of days, but because of vinyl shortages, the album was not released until 1974.[2]

Where his first album was treated harshly by the critics, the second was eventually hailed as a masterpiece. It is now regarded as a classic of English folk rock and one of the Thompsons' finest achievements.

In the sleeve notes for the 2004 CD re-release, David Suff writes: "Throughout the album Richard's sombre, dark songs are driven by his masterful understated guitar and Linda's haunting spiritual vocals. The songs detail a beautiful yet desolate world of life before the fall, the lives of the homeless, the thief and the inebriate. The songs are thoroughly English in their mood and responsibility, wry observations of the hopelessness of the human condition."[2] Considering the song "End of the Rainbow", Suff writes:

Richard denies that the song is totally pessimistic, "there's always hope in the third verse of my songs" yet the overall effect is a magnificent evocation of disillusionment. Thompson's songs are despairing but not self-pitying, leaving the listener with an abiding sense of peace and, paradoxically hope.[2]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[4]
Pitchfork8.5/10[5]
Robert ChristgauA−[6]
Q[7]
Rolling Stone[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[9]
Spin Alternative Record Guide10/10[10]

Initially ignored by reviewers, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight later came to be highly regarded. Robert Christgau rated it highly when it was re-released as one-half of Live! (More or Less) noting that "[they] don't sentimentalize about time gone—they simply encompass it in an endless present."[6] When it was re-released in 1984, along with other albums in the Thompsons' catalogue, Kurt Loder writing in Rolling Stone described it as a "timeless masterpiece" with "not a single track that's less than luminous".[8]

More recent reviews are equally complimentary. AllMusic notes that the album is "nothing short of a masterpiece" and calls it "music of striking and unmistakable beauty".[3] Q (May 2007, p. 135): "After his 1971 departure from Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson found his ideal foil in recent bride Linda. A hugely inventive guitarist, he gives full vent to his talent on this dark, brooding album. Indeed, he never quite recaptured the murky demons inside the likes of 'Withered and Died' ever again." In the 2004 CD re-release, Chris Jones at the BBC noted that "Bright Lights...performs the most perfect balancing act between hard-bitten cynicism and honest humanism."[11]

It was voted number 814 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[12] In 2003 the album was placed at number 479 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and was placed at number 485 in the 2020 edition.[13][14] The album also appeared in the Mojo "100 Greatest Albums Ever Made".[2]

Writing for Something Else! in 2018, Preston Frazier said, "'The Great Valerio' is just one gem among gems. Richard Thompson’s writing is masterful, painting in broad, vivid strokes. Time indeed stands still as Linda Thompson tells the vivid tale, with a hint of detached anxiety... Featuring only Linda’s voice and Richard Thompson’s Kensington-style picked acoustic, 'The Great Valerio' is dark, yet vivid as it leads the listener to imagine the great fall. Linda Thompson never oversells the proposition, using her voice like the fine instrument it is.[15]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Richard Thompson (except "Together Again" by Buck Owens).

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."When I Get to the Border"3:26
2."The Calvary Cross"3:51
3."Withered and Died"3:24
4."I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight"3:07
5."Down Where the Drunkards Roll"4:05
Side two
No.TitleLength
6."We Sing Hallelujah"2:49
7."Has He Got a Friend for Me"3:32
8."The Little Beggar Girl"3:24
9."The End of the Rainbow"3:55
10."The Great Valerio"5:22
2004 CD bonus tracks (previously unreleased)
No.TitleLength
11."I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" (live)3:04
12."Together Again" (live)2:46
13."Calvary Cross" (live)9:54

Bonus tracks were recorded at the Roundhouse, London, on 7 September 1975.

Personnel[edit]

Musicians[edit]

Bonus tracks: Richard and Linda Thompson with John Kirkpatrick, Dave Pegg (bass guitar) and Dave Mattacks (drums).

Technical[edit]

2004 CD re-release:

  • Tim Chacksfield – research and project co-ordination
  • Joe Black – project co-ordination for Universal
  • David Suff – sleeve note and archive assistance
  • Phil Smee – CD package design

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Fielder, Hugh (19 September 2016). "The 10 Essential Folk Rock Albums". Classic Rock. TeamRock. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Suff, David (2004), sleeve notes for I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight CD re-release, Island Records, IMCD 304/ 981 790-7
  3. ^ a b Deming, Mark. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 March 2006.
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  5. ^ Cush, Andy (5 December 2021). "Richard and Linda Thompson: I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Richard Thompson: Live (More or Less)". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 14 November 2011. (I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was included as half of this release, which the review notes as more significant.)
  7. ^ Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  8. ^ a b Loder, Kurt (29 March 1984). "Henry the Human Fly / Hokey Pokey / I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight / Pour Down like Silver / Sunnyvista > Hannibal Reissues Review". Rolling Stone. No. 419. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  9. ^ Considine, J.D. (2004). "Richard and Linda Thompson". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 812–813. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  10. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. p. 405. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  11. ^ Jones, Chris. "BBC - Music - Review of Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey & Pour Down Like Silver". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  12. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 254. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  13. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  14. ^ Rolling Stone (22 September 2020). "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Linda and Richard Thompson, "The Great Valerio" (1974): One Track Mind". somethingelsereviews.com. 17 February 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2021.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]