Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. This time we’re taking a trip back to 2001 to listen to a vintage live set from one of folk rock’s reigning monarchs, Richard Thompson.
One of folk rock’s most prestigious names, Richard Thompson is an artist with a discography going back decades; there’s a certain weight of expectation whenever someone of such history performs a live show and Thompson is certainly no exception. Couple that anticipation with the context of an appearance on the long-running Austin City Limits show and you have something of a recipe for excellence. Recorded in 2001, the show sees Thompson run through an eclectic, career-spanning set and put in the sort of gutsy, energised performances that suggest a man still fully engaged by his own past work, rather than one going through the motions. Performing in a tight powerful trio with the equally genre-defining Danny Thompson on bass and the rock solid Michael Jerome providing drum work, the small band lends Thompson’s performance a direct, punchy precision certainly not lacking on the source material but only highlighted here. Bass work is as fluid and nuanced as always and guitar work impresses with the sort of deft, intuitive playing that long ago became synonymous with Thompson.
Released in 2012, the 75 minute set is spread over two discs, both weighing in at a hefty 180g. The heavy weight pays off well and both discs sit flat on the platter during playback, and sound great. Mastered for vinyl by John Golden, this pressing excels sonically, with a clearly defined soundscape and presence, with oomph between all the instruments. This is, of course, partially down to the experienced production team at Austin City Limits, but this vinyl version in particular does sound excellent. When angled in the right lighting, there are some light surface blemishes from factory handling – however, playback remains unaffected by these so it’s no more than a passing concern. Playback, in fact, is excellent with minimal surface noise which allow the intricacies of Thompson’s songs to shine through with full force; our copy is actually free of any unwanted noise at all and playback is very clean throughout both discs. This is a really nice pressing that’s been mastered for the format in such a way that the recording and performance really do come alive.
Packaging and presentation also make a good impression; most immediately noticeable is the inclusion of a thick-spined, chunky gatefold sleeve that really looks excellent – boasting both a sharp print quality and solid construction that allows it to feel very sturdy in hand. The spine looks great with text being presented in a no-nonsense, high impact font and punchy two tone colour scheme, guaranteeing the album to never be hard-to-find once on the shelf. The inner gatefold spread features a candid shot of Thompson, as well as track-listing and band credits; whilst the back cover features short but worthwhile liner notes from Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona as well as various credits. It’s a well laid out sleeve that presents all needed information in an attractive way and overall presentation is excellent here.
A great release through and through, ‘Live From Austin TX’ sees Thompson and band put in a rock solid performance backed-up by a well mastered, quiet vinyl release with attractive presentation.