Picks and Pans Review: Amnesia

UPDATED 01/23/1989 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/23/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

Richard Thompson

Thompson has got his Celtic up on this album. That's always a good portent for this modal monster. You can hear in Thompson's mournful voice and solemn chord structures the qualities that made him so perfect for the '60s traditionalist British folk group Fairport Convention. He has other assets and inclinations that combine to make him one of today's most intriguing music makers. For one thing, he's an extraordinary guitarist—his astringent and hard-bitten tone is still amazingly inventive. Thompson, a former Sufi Muslim, maintains a dour lyrical stance that at times almost manages to reconcile the mystical and the cynical, as he does on Can't Win. "Don't waken the dead as you sleepwalk around/ If you have a dream, brother, hush, not a sound/ Stand there and rust, and die if you must/ But play the game." When he laments a shattered romance, it often comes across as a bitter reproach, as on Reckless Kind and I Still Dream. Most of his songs are further off the beaten path. Gypsy Love Songs is about an enchantress who slips the singer a Mickey Finn. Don't Tempt Me contains the ruminations of a man growing ever closer to the boiling point as he watches his girlfriend dancing with another man. Pharaoh is an enigmatic parable: "I dig a ditch, I shape a stone/ Another battlement for his throne/ Another day on earth is flown/ We're all working for the Pharaoh." Though Thompson doesn't rock out or swing into any hard country reels (two things he has proved adept at previously), this collection still rivals Across a Crowded Room as his best LP since he separated from former wife and partner Linda. Even if you listen to it but once, you won't soon forget Amnesia. (Capitol)

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