Monday, November 10, 2008

The Aristocrats: Pharaoh

Richard Thompson: Pharaoh


In starting to plan my posts for this week, I started thinking about kings and queens, dukes and earls, even viscounts. Then it hit me: why do they have to be English aristocrats? After all there were aristocrats long before there was England. And as soon as I had that thought, this song came to mind.

Pharaoh is actually an old favorite of mine. My first acquaintance with Richard Thompson came through reading about him in the music press of the 1980s. He sounded like the sort of artist I should like, so I went out and got his current album at the time, Amnesia. Over all, I was disappointed. I was told to expect a masterful guitar player, but many of the tracks just sounded to me like noise. But the album ended with Pharaoh, and this was more like it! A slow song with very little guitar at all, and not anything like what I had read about, this was the song that grabbed me and has held me ever since.

Over the years, I have had occasion to reassess the music I liked and disliked in the 80s. Much of what I thought sounded great has aged badly, although a surprising amount has held up. But Richard Thompson’s music sounds better to me with each passing year. And Pharaoh still stands as one of my favorites.

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