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Walking on a Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009)
Richard Thompson
Walking on a Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009)
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #4

The Definitive Career-Spanning Collection in a Deluxe 4-CD Set. The new 4-CD set Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009 covers every phase of Richard Thompson's career, beginning with the trail-blazing folk-rock group Fairport Conv...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Richard Thompson
Title: Walking on a Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009)
Members Wishing: 13
Total Copies: 0
Label: Shout Factory
Original Release Date: 1/1/2009
Re-Release Date: 8/18/2009
Album Type: Box set
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock
Styles: British & Celtic Folk, Contemporary Folk, Singer-Songwriters, Folk Rock
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaCD Credits: 4
UPC: 826663110876


Album Description
The Definitive Career-Spanning Collection in a Deluxe 4-CD Set. The new 4-CD set Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009 covers every phase of Richard Thompson's career, beginning with the trail-blazing folk-rock group Fairport Convention, to his duo albums with then-wife Linda Thompson, as well as his 20-plus years as a critically acclaimed solo artist. The songs chosen for this selection of his box set were carefully assembled and cover a wide range of styles -- rock 'n' roll with folk, jazz, rockabilly and the odd waltz and soundtrack theme thrown in -- the scope of his songwriting, and the sheer virtuosity of his playing. Compiled by Richard Thompson himself, Walking On A Wire includes material from every album he has released. Named one of the Top 20 guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone, the British folk-rock legend is one of the world's most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. Thompson's songs have been covered by R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, and many others.

CD Reviews

Superb career overview
T. Korol | Rochester, NY | 08/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Who is reading this? If you are an RT fan, as I have been since Fairport days, was your first reaction the same as mine: why? I mean, I have every song in this box set on some other cd(s). But I had to have it anyway (as another review noted). It is a great career overview, the recording is pristine - these songs have never sounded better. And when I play RT now I tend to gravitate to his live releases. So I am really enjoying re-visiting these great songs. I would recommend this for the sound quality alone.

If you are not a big fan, or have heard the hype but do not really know his music, it is all warranted. Fairport Convention was a "folk rock" band from the 60's. (I italicize that because they were really so much more). There are only a few songs from this period here. (The box set A Fairport History has a much more comprehensive selection of RT from this period). The tracks here range from the upbeat rock of Time Will Show the Wiser to the folk of Genesis Hall and Crazy Man Michael to the long dirge Sloth, with it's ending guitar workout, RT already showing his chops (and Dave Swarbick adding his usual astounding fiddle). Then a couple tracks from RT's 1st solo effort, which was a great mish mosh of styles (in a good way).

His next period after leaving Fairport was with his wife Linda Thompson. This era produced some of the finest adult rock music ever. The songs are quite varied, acoustic and electric, happy and sad. Actually, together they recorded (lyrically) some of the most realistic love songs I have heard: Walking on a Wire; The Great Valerio; Did She Jump or Was She Pushed; Withered and Died; For Shame of Doing Wrong. This is not greasy kid stuff. These are mature songs for folks whose hearts have been around the block a few times and know the joy and pain of love. RT's lyrics really hit home in expressing these emotions. Balancing these are more upbeat rockers: When I Get to the Border, Calvary Cross, Bright Lights, Wall of Death and Sunnyvista. I am not listing every track, but this period was really strong, RT maturing both as a guitarist and songwriter. And having LT and RT trading vocals added to its strength. Richards playing is generally a showcase for restrained, "smart" guitar. Hero guitar for the thinking person. The electric pyrotechnics are there, but on record he does not go for the epic workouts his live shows are known for. And his acoustic work, well, everytime I close my eyes I hear 2 or 3 guitarists. No, it is not double tracked recording. For the uninitiated, check out the song Shoot Out the Lights (and the CD). Powerful, riveting, frightful, the sound of despair and loneliness at the breaking point with some jaw dropping guitar work. This was recorded as he and Linda's relationship was falling apart, and it is all documented in song. Brilliant.

After their breakup came his long and continuing solo career. Again, it the the variety of songs which is compelling. The common thread is the smart, adult lyrics, many of which all have a touch of cynicism. As well as the guitar. I could not possibly go through all the tracks. There are a lot of uptempo "rockers": Tear Stained Letter (one of his classics), Turning of the Tide, Valerie, I Feel so Good (..."I'm going to break somebody's heart tonight"), Razor Dance, Dad's Gonna Kill Me, Cooksferry Queen. Then the ballads which tell a story: the heartbreaking and fan favorite 1952 Vincent Black Lightening (lightening would be a good metaphor for his guitar work in this, eh?), Beeswing, Al Bowlly's in Heaven, Persuasion. Heck, there are just so many great songs here. The cynicism of She Twists the Knife Again; the poignent I Still Dream and Waltzing for Dreamers; the melancholic confession of I Misunderstood; the achingly lovely She Sang the Angels to Rest. Folks, every song here is truly great. And throughout this period RT always has had a great collection of backup musicians, Pete Zorn and Danny Thompson (no relation) prominent amoung them.

So, if you do not know RT, this is a great place to start, and perhaps all you will need. (His first 3-cd "box" has many of the same songs but balances this release nicely in that it includes a few essentials that are not here. The second box of unreleased stuff is essential for fans, but not the place to start if you are new to RT.)

Top twenty guitarist of all time? I love how rock magazines and critics have to rank things. If you, as I, have seen RT live both acoustic and electric he is beyond compare. Sure, there are other guitarists just as "great", though with different styles. How do you compare them? You cannot. But the things RT is capable of doing and his mastery of both the electric and acoustic are unparalled. One thing this box lacks, with one exception, is any of his epic live guitar workouts. I have seen him drop jaws many times with Shoot Out the Lights, Calvary Cross, Can't Win, Jerusalem on the Jukebox, Night Comes In, and others. (On his 2nd box set box I always had issue with the "guitar workouts" included on it; I have dozens better on numerous bootlegs). But here, we do get one gem: Hard on Me. I saw him do this a couple of years ago at the Tralf in Buffalo, and words cannot describe the workout he exercises on this song. I watched his hands so carefully, but the notes, the bends, it was all a blur of virtuosity. Again for the uninitiated, this song (especially the last 5 minutes) is a perfect example why RT has the reputation he does. (For further proof listen to the aforementioned acoustic work on 1952 Vincent Black Lightening). I kind of wish they included a couple more of these live killers, but, oh well, whatever, never mind.

Yeah, there are some favorites I would have like to have seen included, but I am not even going to bother listing them. RT picked this set, so who I am to quibble? I will echo another review: you gotta have this release. I love music and love lots of different kinds of music, but I cannot think of another box set that is top to bottom this good. Thanks Shout Factory. While Rhino still does a few good things, I appreciate that there are some labels that consistently get it right. Shout Factory is one of them. Attention all mature adults seeking intelligent rock written just for them: go buy this and enjoy it!"
RT selects his best
Kevin D. Rathert | Carbondale, IL | 08/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Richard Thompson is without question one of the world's greatest guitarists. Box sets are nothing new for Thompson. Rykodisc released the 3 cd "Watching The Dark" in 1993, Free Reed released "RT" a 5 cd totally unreleased set in the mid 2000s, and now the wonderful people at Shout Factory have added Thompson to the list of musicians they have honored with boxed sets. Thomposon himself along with former Rhino producer David McLees produced this 71 track compilation. The immaculate digital remastering was done by former Rhino sound man Bob Fisher. While both the 3 and 5 disc Thompson sets shone due to the number of previously unreleased tracks, "Walking On A Wire" shines because it contains selections from all 34 albums released by Thompson between 1968 and 2007. This means numerous albums by Fairprort Convention, several lps done with ex-wife Linda Thompson, and many solo Thompson efforts. The result is an amazing amalgamation of musical presentations. It appears that if an instrument has strings Thompson is a master of it. The same can be said of all the different musical styles presented in "Walking On A Wire." Rated as the 20th greatest guitarist by Rolling Stone magazine, Thompson certainly proves the point here. From gentle folk to full blown rock and roll and everything in between Thompson shines on each and every track. Some may complain at the lack of unreleased material, but to them I say, buy this set, give it a listen, and I dare you to say the tunes have ever sounded so good. And unless you own each and every album individually this set should be absolutely essential to your collection. A true musician's musician, Thompson doesn't have a big name, has never the fame he so richly deserves, and in fact seems to have done everything in his power to remain out of the limelight. Well his time to shine is at hand. Shout Factory has once again outdone themselves. If you enjoy British folk music, or appreciate guitar prowess this set is definitely for you. Most definitely."
Absolutely the best intro to the genius of Richard Thompson
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 08/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Richard Thompson has been the recipient of a rare honor, a third box set while still at the height of his powers and while still producing quality original music. But I think the case for this particular box set is strong. The first two box sets were not intended for people unfamiliar with Richard Thompson's music, but for long-term fans. Both WATCHING THE DARK and RT contained scads of performances not previously released, and relatively few of his familiar great songs. WALKING ON A WIRE, on the other hand, has virtually all of Thompson's finest music, whether with Fairport Convention, with his ex-wife Linda, or from his solo career. This instantly becomes the number one Richard Thompson album, the one essential introduction to his genius.

I sort of miss the late seventies and early eighties, when some of us who were huge fans could shock people who were unfamiliar with his work by playing them a few of his best songs. Rolling Stone put is well a few years later upon the re-release of several of his best albums, including I WANT TO SEE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS TONIGHT. They asked people to imagine never having heard of artists of the caliber of Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Hendrix, or Pete Townshend, but that their albums were suddenly released out of nowhere. That was what they compared the release of several of Thompson's best albums twenty years ago. Thompson is astonishing on three levels. First, he is a shockingly great guitarist, admired by his fellow musicians everywhere. Second, he is one of the most acclaimed songwriters in music, his songs performed by many of the world's finest musicians. Third, he is a highly accomplished singer, able to sing his and others' compositions with tremendous passion. As a guitarist, he has few peers. For those who define great guitarists in terms of speed he may not be as impressive as some, but if you define brilliance in terms of musical innovation, he is, in my opinion, the best guitarist since Jimi Hendrix. The musical combinations he comes up sometimes are jaw dropping. His long solos, which he mainly saves for live performances, are astonishing. He might play, for instance, a solo that lasts for two minutes during which he plays continuously two strings at a time. His prowess is so extreme that even the abysmally silly Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists rated him #19 (something that probably embarrassed those in front of him, who all know they can't carry his guitar pick). If you listen to the two solos he plays on the otherwise pretty average song "Hard on Me" from MOCK TUDOR, you hear guitar playing that seems to come from an alternative dimension. Much of the uniqueness of his guitar playing stems from his basing much of his chords on the English folk tradition rather than, unlike nearly every other rock guitarist, American blues. The most impressive thing about Thompson as a guitarist is that he is always willing to subjugate his guitar pyrotechnics to the songs. If the guitar doesn't enhance the song, he doesn't play something merely to be impressive.

Perhaps Thompson's only weakness is that his songs are better than his albums. By that I mean that Thompson has written scores of great songs, but he has few truly great albums. Even his very best albums have weak songs on them. On the other hand, even his worst albums have some great songs. For instance, on YOU? ME? US?, generally considered one of Thompson's worst albums, there is one of my favorite Thompson songs, the heartbreaking "She Cut Off Her Long Silken Hair." As a result, his songs are stronger than his albums. Sadly, before now there was never a single collection that put Thompson at his best on display. And Thompson is hardly the only great song writer who potentially is better represented by an anthology than by individual albums. Leonard Cohen has some truly weak albums that nonetheless have some stunning individual songs. This collection shows Thompson at his very vest and it puts his virtues and major quirks as a songwriter. One of the great paradoxes of his songwriting is that he is in concert a funny, warm, compelling, endearing individual, while many of his songs are thunderingly depressing. The most extreme example may be "The End of the Rainbow," a song off I WANT TO SEE TO SEE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS TONIGHT, in which the singer addresses a small baby as "a little horror" and after recounting the ways that his or her life situation is a nightmare, tells it in the chorus, "There's nothing at the end of the rainbow/There's nothing to grow up for anymore." In one of the greatest songs -- "Shoot Out the Lights" -- on his and Linda's finest album, he depicts a murderous/suicidal man in the throes of despair. In another song on that same album someone wonders if a person who died was the victim of a suicide or a murder. The darkness of his songs is shown in his first box set, WATCHING THE DARK. When you see Thompson in concert of you hear him interviewed, he comes across as someone passionately in love with life, someone filled with the joy of living. You end up wondering if he is masking a despairing view of life through his light-hearted banter or uses his bleak songs as cathartic release. But alongside the despair are also songs of such heartbreaking beauty that they can sometimes be overwhelming. "Dimming of the Day" is an extraordinarily gorgeous song, one that can function as either a love song to someone who keeps the singer's life from falling to bits (as performed by Richard and Linda or by the Coors or by Emmylou Harris) or a burning blues (as performed by Albert Lee or Bonnie Raitt) or even a hymn (as performed by the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, in perhaps my favorite version of the song). (That song also shows up in a surprisingly effective version as part of the diegetic music as performed by diegetic in John Sayles's film LIMBO).

In the past I recommended that anyone interested in learning more about Richard Thompson buy a number of his best discs. A basic Richard Thompson album would consist of UNHALFBRICKING and LIEGE AND LIEF; from his period with Linda I WANT TO SEE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS TONIGHT and the great classic SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS (and if those please, HOKEY POKEY and POUR DOWN LIKE SILVER); and from his solo period HAND OF KINDNESS, AMNESIA, MOCK TUDOR, and FRONT PALOUR BALLADS. But even at that it leaves out too many great songs. Granted even WALKING ON A WIRE leaves off a lot of great songs, but it leaves off a lot less than buy any 8 or 9 individual Richard Thompson albums. This is not just the best entry into the music of Richard Thompson, it is one of the finest albums you can possibly get.

Finally, I want to address a trend in some mainstream reviews of the album (though not by my fellow reviewers here on Amazon). Some reviewers have complained that the album contains nothing that hasn't been released before. Well, precisely! The one great lack in the discography of Richard Thompson has been a collection of his best work. As I mentioned above, the first two boxed sets focused on previously unreleased material. To complain that a third box set is flawed because it doesn't contain previously unreleased material seems simply absurd. Such a box would not have filled a need. This one does."