The 1970s saw the release of many fine albums covering a wide range of popular genres. In 2021, it is safe to say that Richard and Linda Thomson’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was most certainly one of them. On paper, Richard Thomson’s first solo LP, after leaving the group Fairport Convention, should have done well. However, Henry the Human Fly, proved, somewhat surprisingly, a commercial failure which probably reflects the somewhat obscure, almost perverse nature of the songs. ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ somehow makes sense, ‘Roll Over Vaughan Williams’ is too clever by half!
Although Linda Peters (as she then was) contributed to Henry the Human Fly (along with several others), in this instance she provided the necessary catalyst, professionally and personally, for what can be confidently judged as a critical triumph.
There are many reasons why I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is worthy of praise and admiration. These include its wide melodic diversity, highlighted by the contrasting timbres of Richard and Linda’s respective voices, as well as the sparse but carefully thought-through arrangements and sharp, plaintive lyrics which underscore the more sombre themes explored on the album. In short, this is a very knowing, adult album which eschews sentimentality on the one hand and gothic self-pitying on the other.
There are no filler tracks on the album (‘all good’ as they say). I would simply draw your attention to the title track, ‘End of the Rainbow’ and ‘The Great Valerio’. Plus, this gem: ‘Has He Got a Friend for Me’.
Coming after the exuberant, krummhorn-fuelled ‘We Sing Hallelujah’, ‘Has He Got a Friend for Me’ takes us on a poignant excursion into the pain of adolescent love, more specifically into the world of a shy girl who lacks confidence, but nonetheless desires companionship and intimacy as much as her peers. Seldom has this particular theme been better explored, either emotionally and musically; a rare treat indeed!
[NB The track below is offered in the lossless FLAC format which is now supported by most recent browsers and operating systems.]