Tag Archives: Duke Ellington

Strict Tempo!

21 Jun

Strict Tempo

In 1981 Richard Thompson was out of contract with a record label so he formed his own, Elixir Records, and put this collection of “Traditional & Modern Tunes For All Occasions!!” out himself. He explained to his biographer, Patrick Humphries “…it was a remarkably cheap record – about £800 or something – I think we recouped it within hours of release. I think we’d actually driven round to HMV in Oxford Street and recouped! Delivered our own records!”

It is Mr Thompson’s only all-instrumental collection to date and consists of 12 tracks, all credited as ‘traditional, arranged Richard Thompson’,with the exception of Duke Ellington’s ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’. In addition all the instruments are played by Thompson and Dave Mattacks who is credited with “drums, percussion and piano on ‘Ye Banks and Braes’.

It goes without question that Richard Thompson’s guitar playing – both acoustic and electric is exceptional and this album has the bonus of hearing him play bass, harmonium, mandolin, banjo, hammer dulcimer and even penny-whistle! As I write this I’m listening to the mixture of styles he handles effortlessly – not just polkas, jigs and reels but early music, north African -influenced music and of course the single-handed cover of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Although Elixir never released another item, it can be seen as a remarkable success since Strict Tempo! has been licensed repeatedly. In addition to the original vinyl I have one such CD re-issue, from 1981 on the American label Carthage (catalogue CGCD4409),whose logo appears top right on the front cover. Interestingly the actual disc also bears the logo of Hannibal records, to which Richard signed for his next few releases.  There are also pressings out there with a different cover – but the quirky original is part of the charm of this collection