CHECK LIST **** Great Balls of Fire *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Running on Empty
*** 1/2RICHARD THOMPSON. “Amnesia.” Capitol.
Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen may have the household names, but Richard Thompson is at least their equal as a singing-songwriting-guitar-soloing triple threat. “Amnesia” continues one of the finest bodies of work in the ‘80s.
Never one to spare the bile in songs of romantic betrayal or social alienation, Thompson is positively livid here, and producer Mitchell Froom hones a suitably hard-edged sound to goad him along: “Jerusalem on the Jukebox,” one of Thompson’s toughest rockers, is a zestful tirade against video evangelism in specific and shallow image-weaving in general, ending with a neck-wringer of a guitar solo.
But the wonderfully versatile Thompson balances his venom with sly humor and, as usual, exposes a more tender and delicate side with an assortment of sad, affecting ballads (although not as memorable as the balladry on his last album, “Daring Adventures”).
Thompson slips only on “Can’t Win” and “Pharaoh,” two ambitious but overstated gloomy meditations about social and economic oppression.
Overall, though, “Amnesia” is a particularly hard-hitting argument in this unforgettable rocker’s favor.