Put simply, Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights, from 1982, is one
of the best and most underrated albums of all time. Made as the couple was in
the midst of a divorce – although many of its songs were written a few years
earlier – it’s full of anger, heartbreak, disillusionment, along with
occasional moments of joy. This new reissue comes with cleaned-up sound and a 40-page
booklet with insightful reflections and interesting facts from many of the key
players involved, including Richard and Linda themselves. (Among the surprises – the title track was
written about Brezhnev.)
But the big selling point comes with second disc, which
culls live tracks from two shows on Richard & Linda’s first U.S.
tour, following the album’s release. Here, the personal turmoil the couple was
going through comes through loud and clear. The fights at the airport and
backstage led to some incredible performances once the lights went on. Linda
sings with more intensity than she ever has and Richard seems to be taking out
all his aggression on his guitar. His solo on “For Shame of Doing Wrong” is one
of the wildest of his career, and that’s saying something.
However, for all the good things this reissue has, it’s hard
not to think about what it doesn’t have. An earlier reissue from Rykodisc had
the studio bonus track “Living in Luxury,” which is inexplicably missing here.
And while the CD booklet talks a lot about an earlier version of the album that
was scrapped, not a single note from that version appears here despite the fact
that it has been available for years as a bootleg. A high-profile reissue such
as this should tell the whole story and this one simply doesn’t.
The live material here is so good that fans will have almost
no choice but to buy it. But at a list price of nearly $40, they may feel a
little sick after doing so.
Out the Lights,” “For Shame of Doing Wrong” (live) HAL BIENSTOCK