Review by Brett Hartenbach
With the release of their classic 1974 debut, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Richard and Linda Thompson set an unbelievably high standard for themselves. Although containing many of the same attributes, their follow-up, Hokey Pokey, doesn't quite reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, but then again not many records do. The Thompsons, from the opening Irish fiddle derivation of a Chuck Berry riff, through Linda's exquisite performance of "A Heart Needs a Home," to their cover of Mike Waterson's "Mole in a Hole" which closes the record, once again create a timeless amalgam of folk and rock. Recorded at the time of the Thompsons' conversion to Islam, Hokey Pokey comes across a bit lighter than Bright Lights. Songs such as the playfully suggestive title track, the jaunty "Georgie on a Spree" and the quirky tale of "Smiffy's Glass Eye" make Hokey Pokey seem downright cheery for Richard Thompson, although even at its sunniest, themes of sex, cruelty and avarice linger just below the surface. For those more accustomed to the usual straightforward doom and gloom from the Thompsons, there's the rueful "I'll Regret It All in the Morning," the sullen, traditional tone of "The Sun Never Shines on the Poor" and the mournful ballad "Never Again." Hokey Pokey is an often overlooked gem in the Thompsons' luminous catalog.