Area 51: King Richard’s return

Critical favorite Thompson rarely cracks top 200

Is there a more significant artist with less chart success than Richard Thompson? Unlikely.

Thompson’s 31st album, “Sweet Warrior” debuted at No. 111 on sales of 6,500, a chart position that beats 2005’s “Front Parlor Ballads” (No. 197), 1988’s “Amnesia” (No. 182) and 1983’s “Hand of Kindness (No. 186). Only 1996’s “You? Me? Us?” (No. 97) and 1994’s “Mirror Blue” (No. 109), both of which were released by Capitol, are his only discs to have charted higher.

Thompson’s landmark albums, 1974’s “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” and 1982’s “Shoot Out the Lights” and 1999’s widely praised “Mock Tudor,” never made the top 200.

Thompson’s rich songwriting and guitar playing have been tagged as extraordinary for decades; Rolling Stone put Thompson at No. 19 on the list of all-time great guitarists and last year he received the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriting and the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Sweet Warrior” has earned a slew of positive reviews. The New York Times, for example, wrote “Even when Mr. Thompson uses his caustic wit for laughs, the songs on ‘Sweet Warrior’ hold a tension and vehemence that make their bitterness linger.”

(Area 51 is an occasional look at albums in places 51 through 200 on the SoundScan sales chart. )

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