Richard Thompson

Singer/songwriter/ace guitarist Richard Thompson is nothing if not prolific. After almost 40 years and numerous albums both on his own and with the seminal English folk-rock ensemble Fairport Convention — plus countless anthologies, tributes and session appearances — he's spawned a body of work that soars in dimension and ambition. Last year alone, he released three remarkably diverse albums: a collection of all-new material titled Front Parlour Ballads, a soundtrack for the film Grizzly Man, and a Website exclusive, the impossibly ambitious 1,000 Years of Popular Music. Now comes this sprawling five-disc set of outtakes, rarities, covers, live tracks, and unreleased material, 85 songs in all. Although the album is mostly geared to Thompson's faithful, its sheer breadth and dimension — as well as an ultradetailed booklet of history and track details — makes it a quick catchup for the uninitiated. Admittedly his droll disposition and unlikely observations brand him as somewhat eccentric, but in this remarkable overview, his wit, brilliance, and inexhaustible creativity ultimately shine through.

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Lee Zimmerman