I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Richard and Linda Thompson
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight contains some of Richard Thompson's darkest songs and several beautiful vocal performances by Linda Thompson. "When I Get to the Border," "Calvary Cross," and "Withered and Died" define their early direction. * * * * *
- John Floyd, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Richard and Linda Thompson's first release, 1974's I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, is equally gripping as their 1982 album, Shoot Out the Lights, and contains somewhat happier dialogue. * * * *
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
Richard Thompson's post-Fairport Convention career seemed undistinguished until he teamed musically with his wife, herself a friend of his former colleague Sandy Denny. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight spread through the London critical community like wildfire in 1974. The title song was one of the most-loved tracks of the year.
The approval of the cognoscenti did little to help the album commercially. The set took on new poignancy and sales life in the mid-eighties as a result of Richard's newfound American success and Linda's solo breakthrough after their celebrated break-up. Linda won further favourable notices in 1985 with an important singing role in the National Theatre's award-winning production The Mysteries.
In 1987, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #35 rock album of all time.
- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.
Despite insisting "there's always hope in the third verse of my songs," Thompson holds out little here. The album depicts the dark underbelly of British society -- the destitute, lawless, homeless, and hopeless. The timing of the album, allegedly due to a vinyl shortage that was the byproduct of an oil embargo, chimed in nicely with the three-day week and associated social unrest of the period.
Musicians recruited from Fairport, Sandy Denny's Fotheringay, and Gryphon supply the muscle. Touches like the use of a traditional silver band for the title track adds a quintessential Englishness that a standard horn section could not -- perhaps one reason why Thompson has a major cult following Stateside. Elvis Costello has covered the bleak "End Of The Rainbow" but his version lacked the "up" feel of Linda's voice that dragged theirs toward some kind of commerciality.
Journalist and producer Richard Williams described Thompson here as "the Coltrane of the guitar, the folk poet of the rainy streets." Many believe that he has never surpassed this album in either sphere.
- Michael Heatley, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
Richard Thompson played guitar like a Sufi-mystic Neil Young; his wife, Linda, had the voice of a Celtic Emmylou Harris. Bright Lights is their devastating masterwork of English folk-rock dread.
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was chosen as the 485th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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