Amnesia

Ho-hum, another first-rate Richard Thompson album. Since he left the pioneer folk-rock unit Fairport Convention in the early Seventies, the British guitarist, songwriter and singer has released record after record of emotionally explosive music featuring powerful deliberations on love, death and tradition.

On Amnesia, Thompson has the difficult task of following up 1986's Daring Adventures, his strongest record since Shoot Out the Lights, his 1982 swan song with ex-wife Linda. Yet this is a worthy successor. On the album's ten tracks, Thompson continues to wrestle with his usual obsessions, with the occasional new target thrown in (televangelists and Shirley MacLaine on the welcome, agitated "Jerusalem on the Jukebox," American imperialists on "Yankee, Go Home"), allowing him to grapple in new ways. On almost every tune Thompson takes a deep breath, turns his amp up and spits out guitar flourishes that underline what he's singing about without distracting from the song.

Thompson is that rare guitar hero: if he goes on sharp flights, it's because the song gives him reason to do so. He's not nonchalant about each new triumph — nor should we be.