The first thing you come across when you press “play” to listen to Chris Thompson‘s first and only solo album, is the distinct Indian mood that it evokes.
A Tambura hums oriental melodic lines along with an acoustic guitar, until it shifts into a sort of Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch-like British Folk.
When the Tablas start playing, the atmosphere turns unique and intriguing. “Hugo Spellman”, that opens this wonderful album, is a track the likes of which the phrase “east meets west” was intended for. In the second song, “The Song of Wondering Aengus”, we meet Thompson’s caressing yet rough voice.
It’s a charming folk song, that reminds Steve Tilston‘s writing and Jansch’s guitar. The flute gives the magical atmosphere of the song an additional depth. This, on one leg, is the feel of the album.
Chris Thompson is a New-Zealandian musician. He made the fullest of what respect the local music industry could gain him, and moved to Europe, where the rumor of his music got around and he was invited to play in various folk festivals. One day in 1973 he met some people from the exquisite label “Village Thing“, and they decided to put out his album (basically a collection of home-recording patched-up together). Village Thing was an excellent label that focused on folk and psychedelic folk albums, most of which, sadly, did not survive and perished.
Thompson’s album was one of the last releases of the label, and because of his awful timing, went almost unnoticed and unheard of, with the exception of those lucky enough to have bought one of the 1000 copies released.
Thompson’s story is one of a screwed up luck. His house burnt down with all of his recordings. Village Thing’s rights of distribution were passed on to Transatlantic, but Thompson’s record was overlooked because of financial difficulties they ran into as well.
Many of the album’s copies went lost because of multiple disengagement agreements of transatlantic. It’s a shame, because Thompson’s album was one of the most unique albums Village Thing put out. I guess you don’t choose your own luck.
Furthermore, the number of those who were lucky enough to have bought the album is so small it’s a joke. 101 copies were sold by Transatlantic, which broke the album’s own low sales record. Nowadays the album is an extremely rare collectible item.
In 1974 Thompson decided that enough is enough, and packed his bags and moved back to New Zealand, where he put out two albums in the seventies. After that, I have no idea what happened with him, other than he’s probably still an active musician in New Zealand, but it’s probably a side-thing, second to a day-job of some sort.
Just for the sake of closure, I’d tell you that some of Village Thing’s releases were re-distributed on CDs by the label “Scenescof“, that also, surprise, surprise, ceased work a couple of years ago. Give all of this, I’d strongly recommend all of you Folk and Psychedelic Folk fans, to get your hands on the available copies of what Scenescof put out before they disappear, because we’re talking about real gems. In Scenescof’s edition of Thompson’s album, there are a few bonuses of Thompson’s work, recorded in different times.
De Debil Take De Blue-Tail Fly
Thompson’s album is a Spiritual-Folk album, with oriental influence, Sitars, Tamburas, Tablas etc. (Some played by the members of Magic Carpet of whom if you hadn’t heard of, you should).
This is not your typical early to mid seventies singer/songwriter album. It’s actually not a typical album for the time, in most ways; if you consider when the album was released Keith Emerson was wearing long capes and was being cable-dropped down from the ceiling to play the piano with a paint roller, and Yes released the epic what-the-hell-were-you-thinking “Tales of Topographic Ocean“.
Nonetheless, this is a unique album, unlike anything heard before, because of its song-writing, the gentle and empowering production, because of the guitar playing and because some of the tracks will remind you of Nick Drake.
This is a must album for any Nick Drake, Donovan, Incredible String Band and generally, British Folk fans. For everyone else, this is simply an exquisite album. Buy it for yourselves, if only for the amazing track – Dream.
Buy it : no idea. try ebay. good luck. it’s worth seeking it out.
–Translation: Eedan Rachel Danhi