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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

Sunnyvista

Sunnyvista Richard and Linda Thompson

#6, 1979
Happy Richard and Linda Thompson doesn’t work for me – this uncharacteristically perky album is often forced and hollow. Sunnyvista is largely a return to the duo’s folk roots after the slick First Light, but the dabble into funk on ‘Justice in the Streets’ is a failure.


First Light

First Light Richard and Linda Thompson

#5, 1978
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, slinky ‘Don’t Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart’, while the title track is pretty and unspoiled.


Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey Richard and Linda Thompson

#4, 1974
Hokey Pokey is cut from a similar cloth to I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, but a lot of these character studies of disturbed people 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

1975
Their third album finds this often dour couple at their dourest, with sparse arrangements and songs based on Sufi scriptures. Pour Down Like The Silver might be the least fun album ever made, with its austere sound, and Richard Thompson later retired from music for three years, returning when he realised he wasn’t good at anything else.


#2 – Shoot Out The Lights

Shoot Out The Lights Richard and Linda Thompson

1982
There’s little folk music on the duo’s final album, with Richard rocking through the title track, and Linda singing torch songs like the Sandy Denny speculation of ‘Did She Jump (Or Was She Pushed)?’ Its excellence was surprising after a couple of weak albums, and could have reignited the couple’s career had they not already broken up.


#1 – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight

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

1974
The Thompsons’ debut album is their freshest and most engaging. It covers a lot of emotions, from the joy on the opener ‘When I Get To The Border’ and the title track, to the soul-crushing advice to a newborn baby on ‘End of the Rainbow’ and the haunting ‘The Great Valerio’.

Read More:
Richard and Linda Thompson album reviews
Worst to best lists

13 thoughts on “Richard and Linda Thompson Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best Leave a comment

    • 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.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. 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!

    Liked by 1 person

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