Search - Various Artists, Christine Collister, Marvin Etzioni :: The World Is a Wonderful Place: The Songs of Richard Thompson

The World Is a Wonderful Place: The Songs of Richard Thompson
Various Artists, Christine Collister, Marvin Etzioni
The World Is a Wonderful Place: The Songs of Richard Thompson
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, World Music, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Rock, Metal
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1


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3 1/2 Stars
(3 out of 5 stars)

"What with its chamber-orchestra version of "The Knife Edge" and Ron Kavana's talking-blues rendition of "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," this Richard Thompson tribute album is certainly quirkier than its direct competition (Beat the Retreat, released on Capitol in 1994). It will appeal more to purists, partly because Bonnie Raitt and David Byrne are nowhere to be found and partly because Martin & Jessica Simpson do a far better job of "Down Where the Drunkards Roll" than Los Lobos ever could. The House Band makes "Pharaoh" their own, and Plainsong delivers a stunning a cappella version of the simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious "Galway to Graceland". The album's title song is a hidden track (number 13) that features a previously-unreleased Richard & Linda Thompson performance. Ultimately, though, Beat the Retreat wins, because it has two performances each by June Tabor and Maddy Prior. It also has X doing "Shoot out the Lights," a song that could have been written as easily for John Doe and Exene Cervenka as it was for the Thompsons. Do yourself a favor and get both albums. -- Rick Anderson, All Music Guide
________________________________________________________________________________________________Among the merchants of grim (which is only one facet of his much broader art), Richard Thompson exhibits a rare sense of humor and sanity that, combined with his brutal emotional honesty, makes him a paradigm of underground sensibilities ? in a career that is nothing of the sort. Basically, he's a troubadour who accepts sadness as a fellow traveler in open-minded enthusiasms that have deposited him comfortably in realms as diverse as "Matty Groves" and Pere Ubu. His songs have proven equally useful to folkies like Jo-El Sonnier, June Tabor and sometimes sideman Clive Gregson, as well as those of a more restless, rebellious nature, most notably Bob Mould, Elvis Costello and Maria McKee. (For his part, Thompson playfully does Who songs in concert.) The two tribute albums reflect that duality: 'The World Is a Wonderful Place' favors homey types like Victoria Williams, Christine Collister, Peter Blegvad and Marvin Etzioni; 'Beat the Retreat' holds the center with Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, Beausoleil, and June Tabor, but also opens the doors to Bob Mould, R.E.M., X, and Dinosaur Jr. -- Ira Robbins, Trouser Press"
Gawd, I love this album!
Ham On Wry | Decatur, GA USA | 11/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Tragedy struck my household in the late 90's when I opened the case to this CD and found it missing. After a frenzied search behind the bookcase, under the sofa, inside the CD changer, in the clothes dryer (well, it takes all those socks!), I scurried online and found to my horror that the CD was out of print!!! Thankfully, there were used copies available - praise the Lord for Amazon!

The best tribute albums are usually for writers who don't perform well. Richard Thompson is a decent singer and an excellent guitarist, yet he had two successful tribute albums in the mid-90's. Beat the Retreat, while a fine introduction to Thompson's career, is more predictable. (Don't you know how Bonnie Raitt is going to do "When the Spell Is Broken" before you hear it?) The artists here are less mainstream, less popular (at least in America - some of them may be big in England but most of them I had never heard of), and they give interpretations of the songs, not just covers. So you get to hear some of the great songs of folk-rock, but done in unexpected ways.

The sound of the album is dark and subdued, almost murky. Normally that would be a criticism, but it fits in well with Thompson's gloomy worldview. I hate to bore you with a song-by-song critique, but I think the album merits it:

"The Knife Edge" is a mundane orchestral arrangement that is a poor introduction to what's to come. But it's only a minute long.

"Pharaoh" - Great idea to back this with a tremolous accordion and throw in a bombarde (whatever that is, it sounds like an Arabian shawm - you know, snake charmer music.)

"How Will I Ever Be Simple Again" - Christine Collister nails the haunting melody, set against a bass drum and reverb that suggests a battlefield after war, with a plaintive harmonica.

"It Don't Cost Much" - Not my favorite Thompson, but Etzioni (who co-wrote it) has a nice gravelly voice which works well against exotic instrumentation (mandolin, harmonium, hurdy-gurdy)

"Down Where the Drunkards Roll" - This song is a bit mawkish, but the gossamer guitar-line sets it off well.

"Wheely Down" - I don't usually like spoken word vocals, but Ivor Cutler's gentle brogue complements some of Thompson's best poetry to create its own melodic structure.

"Reckless Kind" - not a big fan of Victoria Williams' voice, but this song is a good choice for her, undercutting her usual coyness.

"The End of the Rainbow" - Thompson at his darkest, almost literally grabbing the candy from the baby's crib. But how can you not love a song that begins, "I feel for you you little horror"?

"I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" - One of many revelations, a re-interpretation that adds new meaning to the lyric. I always thought the Thompsons' "silver band" version was corny. Here Ron Kavana's husky, world-weary spokesong gives it a whole new dimension.

"Love Is Bad For Business" - one of the rockiner songs on this quiet CD, equivalent to Bob Mould's "Turning of the Tide" on Beat the Retreat.

"Dimming of the Day" - of the many versions of this, one of the world's most beautiful love songs, this may be the best. Nothing against Bonnie Raitt, but her version is earthbound. This one soars.

"Waltzing's For Dreamers" - More schmaltz, but well done schmaltz, you can really feel the pub atmosphere.

"The World is a Wonderful Place" - uncredited and previously unreleased cut with the inimitable Linda T. on vocals. If you don't get Richard's sense of humor, you probably think this is the most unrelentingly depressing song in history. If you do get his sense of humor, you realize that it is the most unrelentingly depressing song in history - but it's also a lot of fun, in a bizarre way. For a head trip, listen to this next to Louis Armstong doing "What a Wonderful World."

"Night Comes In" - The highlight of the album for me. I always thought the song was about a drunk guy. Now I realize it's about Sufi dancing. When I heard the line "I may find that street tomorrow" I always thought it was referring to a drunkard's delusion; now I see it's talking about hope and salvation. It starts with a hammer dulcimer, then the guitar duels with a danh tranh (Southeast Asian mandolin) and finally cranks into an idiosyncratic electric guitar rave-up as the frenzy builds to a dervish-like pitch. If anybody knows where I can get anything else by Full Moon Fair, let me know. If you don't hear this song pouring down like silver, get a hearing check.

"Sisters" - one of the few I don't like. The vocals just don't work. Jeez, what fun it must be to sit around THAT Thanksgiving table.

"For Shame of Doing Wrong" - I prefer the Evan Dando/Syd Straw version on Retreat, but this acoustic take has its own integrity.

"I Misunderstood" - One of the highlights of Rumour and Sigh, which had just recently been released when this came out, is given a nicely understated performance by Sally Barker.

"Galway to Graceland" - A capella 4-part harmony that sounds like it was recorded in a church. Dig the minor modulation on the last note. What a perfect way to end an almost-perfect CD. And what a terrific tribute to a transcendent career! Richard Thompson is an international treasure.

The Best Thompson Tribute Album
Chris Ward | Costa Rica | 11/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This grab-bag of brilliant performances of Rd Thompson's songs is far better than "Beat The Retreat." A few oddball conceptions are hard to get used to, bu the majority are dead-on. I've listened to it hundreds of times, and it doesn't get old. Stand-outs (for me) are the beautifully orchestrated "Knife Edge," "How Will I Ever Be Simple Again," "The End of the Rainbow," the "untitled track #13" that's really the simply knock-out Rd & Linda Thompson performance of "The World Is a Wonderful Place," and "Sisters." But it's all good-- for Thompson fans or fans of folk music in general, this is a must-have."