In Review

Albums of the Week: Hard Luck Stories (1972-1982), The Universal Want, Encounter

New releases from Richard and Linda Thompson, Doves and Igor Levit

This week’s three new releases include a box set collection from folk-rock duo Richard and Linda Thompson, a belter of a new record by Doves and pianist Igor Levit’s lockdown recitals.

Richard and Linda Thompson: Hard Luck Stories (1972-1982) 

This exhaustive box set (eight CDs or a “big download”) tells the story of “one of the most intriguing partnerships in British music”, said Kitty Empire in The Observer. As vocalists, the folk-rock duo Richard and Linda Thompson shared a “startling contralto directness”, and their music has an “unfussy beauty”. This collection covers six released albums, but the big excitement is 31 unreleased tracks, including a whole CD devoted to the duo’s 1975 album Pour Down Like Silver and its outtakes. “It is a tale worth retelling – and shelling out for.”

A love of country music suffuses the work, said David Honigmann in the FT – from Linda and Sandy Denny singing gorgeous harmonies on the Everly Brothers’ When Will I Be Loved? to the box set’s closing song, High School Confidential. The previously unreleased demos and live versions contain revelatory recordings in which they “swap the voices”. End of the Rainbow, a father’s bleak warning to his new baby, is “even more heartbreaking” sung by Linda, and her Night Comes In is “breathtaking”.

Universal £76 

Doves: The Universal Want 

Doves, a trio of Manchester school friends who got together in 1989, broke through at the tail end of Britpop as “purveyors of moodily atmospheric space-rock”, said Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph. But after four acclaimed albums between 2000 and 2009, they went on hiatus – and never reappeared. Now they’re back, and the great news is that the album is a belter. Vocalist Jimi Goodwin may still have “the single most downbeat voice in popular music”, but Doves’ blend of lyrical and melodic heaviness – with the “pounding thrill” of their hard-driven grooves, and the “psychedelic detail of cinemascopic arrangements” – is still mesmerising.

Their tried-and-tested blueprint has lost “none of its magic”, agreed Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. Goodwin’s voice has taken on an “appealingly rough patina” in his decade away from the limelight. And their lyrics are more “careworn” than ever, reflecting the “kind of concerns that tend to beset people as their 40s slide into their 50s”. It’s all “heartfelt” and well done – and the band’s fans will be “delighted”.

Virgin EMI £12

Igor Levit: Encounter 

Stranded in his Berlin flat during the lockdown, pianist Igor Levit treated fans to wide-ranging daily recitals streamed live on his Twitter account, plus a 15-hour rendition of Satie’s Vexations, said Geoff Brown in The Times. Now, Levit has released this selection of the music that drew especially positive responses from his online audience, recorded in May in Berlin’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche. It is an introspective album full of “balm, closure” and peace – ranging from “glittering Bach” to Brahms’s chorale preludes – every piece a “decorative and contemplative beauty”.

The final, and longest, item is the one that most captivated Levit’s “Hauskonzert” audiences during the lockdown, said Richard Fairman in the FT – namely Morton Feldman’s Palais de Mari. The American “individualist” composer’s 28-minute piece, from 1986, evokes a strange world of stillness. “Odd chords hang in the air, fading slowly into a void” – a vanishing point, as Levit calls it. It completes a remarkable recital that forms “a slow retreat into a private, internal world”.

Sony Classical £16

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