Hokey Pokey Richard and Linda Thompson

Richard and Linda Thompson Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

English folk-rock duo Richard and Linda Thompson’s career resembled a soap opera. Active as recording artists between 1974 and 1982, they married, released three albums in quick succession, then spent three years in a Sufi Muslim commune where Richard’s religious leader forbade him from playing music. Leaving the commune, their career faded and they were dropped from their record deal. 1982’s Shoot Out The Lights was a breakthrough and reignited their career, but the couple had already split up, and their subsequent tour of North America was famously tense and difficult. The coupling of Richard’s snappy Fender Stratocaster work and song-craft, and Linda’s clear contralto, left some great songs behind.

Richard and Linda Thompson Albums Ranked From Worst to Best

Sunnyvista Richard and Linda Thompson

#6 Sunnyvista

The joyful Richard and Linda Thompson of Sunnyvista isn’t convincing. This uncharacteristically perky album is often forced and hollow. Sunnyvista marks a return to the duo’s folk roots after the slick First Light, but their dalliance with funk on ‘Justice in the Streets’ is a failure. Thompson later dismissed his late 1970s output, saying “I just didn’t have my mind on the job”.

First Light Richard and Linda Thompson

#5 First Light

My theory for the existence of First Light is that a creative record executive envied the success of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and decided that the closest British substitute would be to pair Richard and Linda Thompson with a slick and incongruous Californian rhythm section. The dabbling into disco works for the smooth and slinky ‘Don’t Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart’, while the title track is pretty and unspoiled.

Hokey Pokey Richard and Linda Thompson

#4 Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey is cut from a similar cloth to I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, another very English record cut with folk musicians like Aly Bain and John Kirkpatrick. Many of these character studies of disturbed people, however, are second-tier pieces in the couples’ catalogue. There’s one superlative song in the gorgeous ‘A Heart Needs A Home’.

#3 Pour Down Like Silver

Their third album finds this often dour couple at their dourest, with sparse arrangements and songs based on Sufi scriptures. In fact, Pour Down Like The Silver might be the least fun album ever made by anyone – only ‘Hard Luck Stories’ presents a hint of levity. The songs are strong, however – ‘Dimming of the Day’ is a gorgeous closer, and ‘Beat The Retreat’ is a haunting folk workout. Following this album, Richard Thompson retired from music for three years, returning when he realised he wasn’t good at anything else.

Shoot Out The Lights Richard and Linda Thompson

#2 Shoot Out The Lights

There’s little folk music on the duo’s final album. Richard rocks through the title track, and Linda sings torch songs like the Sandy Denny speculation of ‘Did She Jump (Or Was She Pushed)?’ Its excellence was a pleasant surprise after a couple of weak albums. It could have reignited the couple’s career, but by the time it was released Richard and Linda had broken up.

I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight Richard and Linda Thompson

#1 I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight

The Thompsons’ debut album is their freshest and most engaging. It covers a lot of emotional ground. There’s joy on the opener ‘When I Get To The Border’ and the title track, contrasting with the soul-crushing advice to a newborn baby on ‘End of the Rainbow’ and the haunting ‘The Great Valerio’.

What’s your favourite Richard and Linda album?

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  1. I’ll confess that as I read the post title in the Reader I was already rolling up my sleeves as I hit ‘Visit page’. But I think you got it pretty right, well from this perspective anyway. Nice work.

    • I think a lot of people will agree on the ranking of them, right? Some hard core fans might pump for Pour Down Like Silver, but otherwise there’s a consensus that the two Lights albums are best, and Sunnyvista is worst.

  2. I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t given any of their albums a shot. A friend of mine is a big fan and he has often given me a nudge in the direction of your top 2 (which, I assume, means he’d agree with those two being at the top of the pile), but I’ve yet to take the time to a) find them and b) listen to them!

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