http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/634a1c684e81a6c4e272ade6924064ded1a74f35.jpg Hand Of Kindness

Richard Thompson

Hand Of Kindness

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
June 23, 1983

Popular music suffered a little-noted loss last year when Richard and Linda Thompson's eight-year recording career hit the rocks along with their increasingly contentious marriage. Though they never accumulated more than a cult audience here, the Thompsons set enormously high standards of lyrical, vocal and instrumental artistry. A singularly magnificent singer, Linda Thompson may yet achieve a more broad-based pop stardom on her own, but the special brilliance of the work that she and Richard did together was incalculably more than the sum of its parts — a fact that inevitably colors one's response to Hand of Kindness, Richard's first solo album since the split.

Even so, this is a richly rewarding record. For openers, it contains "Tear Stained Letter," the most irresistible rock & roll song Richard's ever written. Hooked on John Kirkpatrick's squalling accordion riff, the song inhabits some previously uncharted stylistic territory between a Highland fling and a Cajun cavort. Typically, the tune is given a furious workout by Thompson and his stellar band: ex-Fairport Convention mates Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks, plus Pete Zorn and Pete Thomas on saxes and Any Trouble's Clive Gregson on backup vocals. Equally appealing is the bobbling "Wrong Heartbeat," on which Richard's sinewy vocal is bolstered by huffing, R&B-style saxes and by Mattacks' crackling, almost timbalelike drumming.

Understated wonders abound: Thompson's yearning, wordless guitar-and-voice ornamentation at the end of the heartbroken "How I Wanted To"; his characteristically superb Stratocaster embellishments all over the title track; and the Dylanesque "Devon Side," with its stately melody and luminous violin solo (by Aly Bain of the Boys of the Lough). Only the zingy, intricate "Two Left Feet" and the relatively inconsequential "Both Ends Burning" might prove too folkish for noninitiates; the other six tracks are all winners. Thompson fans may well mourn Linda's absence, but on Hand of Kindness, there's still a lot left to love.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Santa Monica”

    Everclear | 1996

    After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

    More Song Stories entries »