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Beat the Retreat: Songs By Richard Thompson
Various Artists
Beat the Retreat: Songs By Richard Thompson
Genres: Alternative Rock, Blues, Folk, World Music, Special Interest, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1

Import reissue of this 1994 tribute to Folk/Rock singer/songwriter Richard Thompson. Features faithful covers and reinterpretations by X, R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Graham Parker, June Tabor, Los Lobos, David Byrne, Maddy Prio...  more »


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Import reissue of this 1994 tribute to Folk/Rock singer/songwriter Richard Thompson. Features faithful covers and reinterpretations by X, R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Graham Parker, June Tabor, Los Lobos, David Byrne, Maddy Prior & Martin Carthy, Bonnie Raitt and more. EMI.

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CD Reviews

A worthy tribute to a great songwriter / guitarist
_ | Lowell MA | 10/08/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Back in 1994, when this album was released, we were in the midst of a short-lived vogue for tribute albums. A bunch of celebrity musicians would appear on these albums and offer their covers of a well-known artist's songs. As you might imagine, the results were usually mixed. Generally, though, the better the songs, the better the album turned out to be.This is certainly true in this case. Richard Thompson is among the very best songwriters around (and a fine guitarist to boot), and this album features some of his best songs. Almost every song here is at least pretty good, with the exception of "A Heart Needs a Home", which is utterly ruined by Shawn Colvin's Whitney-Houstonesque vocal pyrotechnics. That's a shame, since it's a really great song, and a more restrained style would have done it much greater justice.The good songs include "When the Spell is Broken", featuring some nice slide guitar by Bonnie Raitt; "The Madness of Love", in which Graham Parker sings with a spirit of tense longing typically found in Richard Thompson's music; "Turning of the Tide", in which Bob Mould sounds eerily like Richard Thompson himself; the Five Blind Boys of Alabama's cover of "Dimming of the Day"; June Tabor's version of "Beat the Retreat"; and Dinosaur Jr.'s searing rendition of "I Misunderstood", which is actually much, much better than the original, something almost unheard of in tribute albums. (Incidentally, J. Mascis seemed to appear on every single tribute album ever made, and whatever he performed, it was usually one of the highlights of the album.)The album closes with what I regard as its best track, Maddy Prior and Martin Carthy's "The Great Valerio", in which Maddy Prior actually outdoes Linda Thompson's singing (unimagineable!), and Martin Carthy completely reworks the song to fit his own style, making the song his own, almost as Jimi Hendrix once made "All Along the Watchtower" his own.This album didn't get a whole lot of attention when it came out, and it remains pretty unknown and underrated. That's a shame, since it is one of the best examples of its genre, and the artists generally perform Thompson's songs with a lot of feeling for their spirit, but without so much reverence that they become mere slavish imitations."
A Fitting - and Excellent - Tribute
B. Niedt | Cherry Hill, NJ United States | 06/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This gets my vote as my favorite tribute album of all time, and in my opinion it's one of the best ever put together. Richard Thompson, a founding member of Fairport Convention who has had a devoted cult following both here in the States and in his native Britain, is a formidable songwriter, not to mention one of the best folk and rock guitarists alive. He is one of those musical talents who has unjustifiably been denied large-scale commercial success. But he probably would consider the admiration of his peers more important than that anyway, and it's shown in abundance on this collection. Contrary to the track record of most tributes, this one hasn't a weak song on it. Packed with talent, it represents a variety of styles, from the crunchy rock of Dinosaur Jr., Bob Mould and X to the quiet folk of Martin Carthy and Maddy Prior (co-founders of another classic Brit folk-rock band, Steeleye Span). Everyone grafts their own style to these songs, and mostly they are quite successful. Graham Parker's "The Madness of Love" is a highlight, as is Bonnie Raitt's "When the Spell Is Broken" (backed by the gospel greats The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, who also do a goosebump-raising version of "Dimming of the Day"). Another Brit-folk great, June Tabor, turns in a fine rendition of the title track, and David Byrne gives a restrained but effective reading of "Just the Motion". National treasure Beausoleil does a "bontemps" version of "Valerie" (which was also a country hit for another artist whose name escapes me). The closest to missteps here are from two of my favorite bands. Los Lobos' "Down Where the Drunkards Roll" is so low-key as to be almost somnambulant; and in R.E.M.'s version of "Wall of Death", Michael Stipe's phrasing seems clumsy to me - I much prefer Nanci Griffith?s cover of that tune. Overall, though, this is an affectionate and well-conceived tribute to an artist who easily deserves it."
Damn Good Tribute
D.C. Hanoy | Athens, GA USA | 07/25/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I don't usually like tribute albums because the songs are rarely as good as the originals. If you're a Thompson fan (I am) you'll be inclined to feel that way about this collection. Don't. Almost all of these songs are strong enough to hold up to the individual styles of the artists. R.E.M. is particularly good, then again they had one of Thompson's best songs to work with. Bottom line: this is one of the best tribute albums out there."