French Frith Kaiser Thompson

Live, Love, Larf & Loaf

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Richard Thompson once joked that if his presence on an album with John French, Fred Frith, and Henry Kaiser was expected to help it appeal to a wider audience, it didn't say much for the state of their careers. But while French Frith Kaiser Thompson was hardly a supergroup to rival Blind Faith or the Traveling Wilburys at the turnstiles, on Live, Love, Larf & Loaf, the slightly bent wit and angular guitar figures of Richard Thompson's signature brand of folk-rock certainly added a spoonful of sugar that helped the avant-leaning art rock of Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith, and John French go down more easily. While "Drowned Dog Black Night" and "A Blind Step Away" are very much in the mould of Thompson's dour but graceful style, "Killerman Gold Posse" is a gleefully cynical little number everyone on board seems to have fun with, and Thompson's guitar work adds a touch of buffering to the more severe edges of Kaiser's often frenetic fretboard runs. And while the presence of Henry Cow founder Fred Frith is a bit restricted by his role as bassist, he does get a chance to shine on the admirably chaotic "Where's the Money?," and onetime Captain Beefheart percussionist John French (aka Drumbo) adds plenty of color and texture while holding down the beat. Besides, it's not every day that you get to hear a crew like this lay into "Surfin' U.S.A.," or warble "Hai Sai Oji-San," which the liner notes helpfully inform "is sung in the Okinawan language." A oddball delight from four truly gifted musicians.

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