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June 28, 2004 // UPDATED 2:14 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Holly Day
Holly Day

The stars are out tonight

Richard Thompson hasn't scored too many chart-toppers over the years, but plenty of critics and devoted fans consider the British singer-songwriter one of modern music's best-kept secrets.

Thomspon had a taste of fame as part of folk-rock ensemble Fairport Convention in the '60s. A mere teenager when he co-founded the group (with Iain Matthews, Judy Dyble, Simon Nicol, Ashley Hutchings and Martin Lamble), Thompson continued performing with the so-dubbed "new Jefferson airplane" up until 1971.

Almost immediately after leaving the band, Thompson released his first solo album, "Henry the Human Fly." The album brought Thompson out from behind his guitar and showcased his wonderful voice and twisted sense of humor for the first time. Although highly regarded and considered a must-have classic in some circles, "Henry . . ." is also supposedly Warner Brothers Records' worst-selling album of all time.

In the same year that he released "Henry . . .," Thompson married folk singer Linda Peters. The duo recorded six albums together, combining Linda's throaty vocals with Richard's talents as a songwriter and guitarist. Their 1982 "Shoot Out the Lights" included some of Richard's best-loved songs such as the title track and "Wall of Death," and some of Linda's best vocals. It was also their last recording together; the couple divorced in 1982.

Over the years, Thompson has recorded a staggering catalog of solo releases and collaborated with some equally amazing musicians. He worked with composer Peter Filleul, writing and recording music for film and television soundtracks; collaborated with John French, Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser; and received several Grammy nominations for his work.

And things seem to have a way of coming full circle for this Signet guitar-man. Recently, Island Records released the "Best of Richard and Linda Thompson -- The Island Records Years," which, ironically, features several tracks from "Henry the Human Fly." And during August 2002, Richard appeared at the Cropredy Festival commemorating Fairport Convention's 35th anniversary. Maybe it's time for another taste of fame.

Monday, June 28, 7 p.m., First Avenue, 701 1st Ave. N., $15 in advance, $17 at the door. 332-1775.

Holly the stalker

Manishevitz' "Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down" was one of my favorite records of 1999. While everything put out by their label, Secretly Canadian Records, was just plain wonderful, Adam Busch/Manishevitz was particularly so, and in a freaky sort of way. From the very first time I listened to that record, it seemed as though I was listening to the soundtrack of my life, all lopsided, melancholic and just a little out of tune.

I have since, of course, spoken to Busch about this and confirmed that he wasn't thinking about either me or my life when he wrote the album, and that he, in fact, had no idea I existed at that time.

He was nice enough, but I think I freaked the poor boy out a bit with my talk of "psychic energy" -- his subsequent record, "Rollover," sounded absolutely nothing like the soundtrack to my life and seemed almost more a throwback to '70s glam music. (But, then again, maybe he can see into my nightmares.)

Saturday, July 3, 9 p.m., First Avenue's 7th Street Entry, 701 1st Ave. N., $6. 332-1775.

An original alternative

Rebecca Gates is perhaps best known for her work in the alternative rock duo The Spinanes, which managed to create a full-bodied rock sound with just Gates on guitar and vocals and Scott Plouf on drums. After Plouf left to join Built to Spill, Gates continued on her own, first under the Spinanes name and later under her own.

Her music incorporates all the standards of college alternative music -- droning guitar textures, occasional harmonies and measured vocals paired with neo-nave lyricism -- but manages to sound completely original, as though she herself invented that whole college rock thing, and it's everyone else who's copying her.

Tuesday, June 29, 9 p.m., First Avenue's 7th Street Entry, 701 1st Ave. N. $7. 332-1775.

Holly Day can be reached at lalena@bitstream.net.