While some listeners have expressed mixed degrees of enthusiasm with Richard Thompson's often down-beat work as a songwriter and his sometimes craggy vocals, no one has ever argued his gifts as an instrumentalist, and on Strict Tempo! Thompson lets loose on an instrumental collection of traditional British and Celtic jigs and reels, with a swinging Duke Ellington cover thrown in for variety and one new original offered as the finale. Thompson multi-tracks himself playing a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, basses, mandolins, and dulcimers with his usual (i.e., dazzling) degree of dexterity, with only percussionist Dave Mattacks for company on most of the tunes. If the performances don't quite match the head-spinning ferocity of the traditionally based folk-rock he pioneered with Fairport Convention on Liege and Lief and Full House, Thompson was certainly a better player in 1981 than he was when he left Fairport, and the arrangements reveal a degree of taste, imagination, and subtle wit that's second to none. Strict Tempo! was a pet project of Thompson's, originally released on his own label, and it sometimes sounds like it was created more for his own amusement than anything else, but even in its more esoteric moments, it shows one of the finest guitarists on Earth showing just how well he can play, and that's always a pleasure to hear.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming