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Richard and Linda Thompson’s second album as a couple builds on the atmosphere of I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight, in which a cast of hapless barroom denizens careen through an imagined London netherworld that encompasses both past and present. The music moves at the Thompsons’ stately, unhurried pace, and it echoes melodies and rhythms borrowed from lost sea shanties, cockney drinking songs, and Elizabethan ballads. The milieu of Hokey Pokey is epitomized by the opening lines of “The Sun Never Shines On the Poor”: “The urchins are writhing around in the mud / Like eels playing tag in a barrel / The old Sally Army sound mournful and sweet / As they play an old Christmassy carol / The world is as black as a dark night in hell / What kind of a place can this be? / Old people like hermit crabs run into doorways / All fearing to say, do you feel a downtrodden as me?” Richard’s taste for peculiar portraiture is defined by “The Egypt Room,” “Smiffy’s Glass Eye” and “Georgie On a Spree,” but the album’s core is “A Heart Needs a Home,” one of history’s truest love songs.

Hokey Pokey, Richard & Linda Thompson
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