I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
Richard Thompson and Linda Peters married in 1972, and their debut album was with Island for a year before it was released. Whether it was the failure of Henry The Human Fly or the addition of Linda’s more conventional voice, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight is much more determinedly accessible than its predecessor, more conventionally folk-rock and with a more rock feel to the rhythm section. This more commercial approach is a positive step; Thompson’s writing is more focused here than on the experimental Human Fly, and Linda’s vocals are more conventionally pretty, in the vein of Sandy Denny. Timmy Donald and Pat Donaldson are the rhythm section, while Fairport Convention members Simon Nicol and Trevor Lucas also cameo.
The classic opener ‘When I Get To The Border’, is in the same vein as the previous record’s ‘Roll Over Vaughan Williams’, a jaunty folk melody enlivened by Richard’s imaginative guitar solos and Linda’s harmonies, showing the potency of their musical partnership. The title track is another instant classic, with its upbeat horn arrangement. Of course, these two slices of positivity are uncharacteristic for any project written by Thompson, and the rest of the album is far darker. This is especially true of the two stunning closers; the downright glum ‘The End Of The Rainbow’, where an extremely pessimistic Richard tells a newborn infant of the horrors that await it (“Life seems so rosy in the cradle/But I’ll be a friend I’ll tell you what’s in store/There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow/There’s nothing to grow up for anymore”) and the haunting dramatic, Spartan ‘The Great Valerio’. It’s not all first-class – the Linda-fronted ‘The Little Beggar Girl’ comes across as a condescending Dickens caricature, while ‘Has He Got A Friend For Me’ is too maudlin to take seriously.
Quibbling aside, there is a generous handful of legitimately great songs here, and I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight is completely essential for any Thompson fan.