[Tribute] – ‘The Bassist: A Tribute to Danny Thompson’ (1968-1994)



Stream the mix while you read; download at the bottom of this post.

In popular music, the frontman, the band leader, the singer-songwriter gets the glory.  They are “the artist,” theoretically the mastermind–the star.  But behind so many brilliant albums and tracks (including many by “bands” and not just solo artists) are the sidemen, the session players, the “hired hands”.  They’re the secret heroes, who can take raw ideas, and apply the craftsmanship needed to make it all into fully-formed music.  Many are anonymous, able to fit to whatever a session demands–and bless them for it.  Some, though, are sought out specifically because they have a singular and unmistakable voice: Carol Kaye, Bernie Worrell, James Gadson, and many more.  I came to understand this phenomenon as a young man by connecting the dots between so many of my favorite records, revealing a common thread between ‘Five Leaves Left,’ ‘Solid Air,’ ‘Hounds of Love,’ ‘Spirit of Eden‘: records that changed my life.  That common thread is Mr. Danny Thompson, and perhaps no session player’s voice does more to shape and expand the beauty of so much incredible music. ‘The Bassist: A Tribute to Danny Thompson‘ explores but a small fraction of his artistry, but it is overwhelming in its beauty.

I’ve adored Mr. Thompson’s contributions to many of my favorite records for decades, in some cases; and every year I seem to encounter another of his Midas’ touches.  Musicophilia has made several mixes in tribute to the spirit of artists over the years–ranging from Brian Eno to Broadcast, Daft Punk to Serpentwithfeet, and Mark Hollis, whose music was deeply informed by Thompson’s.  But I’ve never done a mix focused on the actual performances of a single artist, in the context of many artists’ recordings.  Doing so in tribute to Danny Thompson has been something of a revelation: I knew I loved his work, but experiencing it in sequence like this, spanning the first quarter-century of his career, has made clear that, even as a sideman, he is so often the star of the proceedings.  Not because he muscles his way to the front or demands attention–but simply because, to the contrary, his rich, loose, warm, kinetic, and lyrical playing is always what brings everything together and elevates the whole to a state of sublimity.

The Bassist‘ is almost two mixes: one focusing on Thompson’s earlier work in the late 60s and early 70s, music that shaped a sophisticated, jazzy form of subtly boundary-pushing folk-based movement; and a second, featuring later music from the 80s and early 90s that was deeply informed by that earlier generation’s sound while furthering it into new territory.  While they are in some ways fairly distinct halves, with differing production values suggesting their time of origin, the animating spirit of both–which Danny Thompson embodies–is timeless.  Happily, Mr. Thompson has continued to lend his boundless talent and skill to music through succeeding decades, and the music greatly rewards further investigation.  The music on this mix represents a sustained pinnacle that continues to inspire and inform countless artists today, and I’m thrilled to help celebrate it’s magic.

Download/stream the mix below the tracklist. Please, please, buy music (don’t just Spotify) at local shops, independent online sellers, Bandcamp et al.  You have to stream thousands of times to make artists even pennies–buying music puts much-needed money into artists’ and labels hands immediately.  Many of these albums are in print, or are at least available digitally.  Thank you for listening, and please pass it onThe beautiful cover photograph “Bass Strings” was made by Joe Lewis and utilized per creative commons.

Various – ‘The Bassist – A Tribute to Danny Thompson’
01 [00:00] The Pentangle – “No Love Is Sorrow” (‘Solomon’s Seal’ 1972)
02 [02:40] Davy Graham – “Both Sides Now” (‘Large As Life and Twice As Natural’ 1968)
03 [08:35] Nick Drake – “Three Hours” (‘Five Leaves Left’ 1969)
04 [14:45] Linda Lewis – “Guffer” (‘Fathoms Deep’ 1973)
05 [19:05] BJ Cole – “The Regal Progression” (‘The New Hovering Dog’ 1972)
06 [25:55] Sandy Denny – “Whispering Grass” (‘Like An Old-Fashioned Waltz’ 1973)
08 [29:50] Ralph McTell – “This Time of Night” (‘Not Till Tomorrow’ 1972)
07 [34:05] Michael Chapman – “No Song to Sing” (‘Rainmaker’ 1969)
09 [37:45] John Martyn – “Go Down Easy” (‘Solid Air’ 1973)
10 [41:15] Mary Hopkin – “Ocean Song” (‘Earth Song Ocean Song’ 1971)

11 [45:25] Bert Jansch – “Kingfisher” (‘Avocet’ 1978)

12 [49:10] Talk Talk – “Inheritance” (‘Spirit of Eden’ 1988)
13 [54:20] David Sylvian – “The Ink In the Well” (‘Brilliant Trees’ 1984)
14 [58:40] Dizrhythmia – “What Katy Did Next” (‘Dizrhythmia’ 1988)
15 [61:20] The The – “August & September” (‘Mind Bomb’ 1989)
16 [67:05] Toumani Diabate – “Ne Ne Kiotaa” (‘Songhai’ 1988)
17 [70:15] Shellyan Orphan – “Jeremiah” (‘Heleborine’ 1987)
18 [74:30] Richard Barbieri & Tim Bowness – “Brightest Blue” (‘Flame’ 1994)
19 [78:50] Danny Thompson – “Tilll Minne Av Jan” (‘Whatever’ 1987)
20 [83:30] Kate Bush – “Watching You Without Me” (‘Hounds of Love’ 1985)
21 [87:30] Adrian Borland & The Citizens – “Other Side of the World” (‘Alexandria’ 1989)
22 [90:45] SE Rogie – “Koneh Pelawoe” (‘Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana’ 1994)
[Total Time: 1:35:50]


Download ‘The Bassist: A Tribute to Danny Thompson’ Here (227 MB)

Stream here:

Subscribe to Musicophilia | Follow Musicophilia on Twitter | Stream Musicophilia Mixes on Mixcloud | Join the Musicophiliacs Group on Facebook


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s