Stark, honest and understated, Versatile Heart is easily the equal of Thompson’s...
Rob Crossan 2007-08-03
Brit folk legend Linda Thompson deserves a fully blown revival more than most. In the 1980’s, after divorcing Richard Thompson, with whom she recorded torch song classics during the previous decade on albums such as I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, she went on to spend many unhappy years living in communes before contracting spasmodic dysphonia, a rare vocal disorder. This album is the follow-up to 2002’s warmly received Fashionably Late – which arrived after an 11-year silence – and is no less effective in reminding us of Thompson’s still impressive songwriting and vocal talents.
The undoubted highlight is “Beauty”, an exquisite chamber orchestra backed duet between Linda and Antony, of Anthony and the Johnsons. Their two voices creak and trickle their way among the violins, ruminating over the fates of Oscar Wilde and Michael Jackson. The song has a honeyed maturity that speaks of age, time, ineffable sadness and nostalgia, stemming more from sleepy contemplation than wilful self-pity. It has the same log-fire comfort mixed with a noticeable chill from under the door that exists in the criminally overlooked solo work of Colin Blunstone of The Zombies.
On songs like “Do Your Best for Rock ‘n’ Roll” the standard slips to that of a perfunctory post-pub ramble that sounds like a Gram Parsons reject from Grievous Angel. “Go home” however, is a simple tear-jerker that could have come straight off Don McLean’s American Pie album, and finds Thompson dissecting a relationship with frankness: ‘I don’t want the money and I don’t want the fuss. Isn’t this obvious’. Stark, honest and understated, Versatile Heart is easily the equal of Thompson’s best work from the 70’s.