Sunnyvista, released in October 1979, is the fifth album by Richard and Linda Thompson.

Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1979
StudioOlympic Studios, London
GenreFolk rock
ProducerRichard Thompson, John Wood
Richard and Linda Thompson chronology
First Light
Shoot Out the Lights
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3.5/5 stars[1]

After the artistic mismatch of the previous year's comeback album (First Light), the Thompsons made greater use on this album of backing musicians with whom they had previously worked.


Sunnyvista is a curate's egg of an album in terms of its mood. Stylistically it covers wide ground and includes some of Richard Thompson's most overtly rocking songs - possibly reflecting pressure from the record label to deliver a commercially successful album.

There are more secular songs on this album than on its immediate predecessor. "You're Going to Need Somebody" and "Why Do You Turn Your Back?" are the most explicitly religious tracks. The former is a joyous affirmation of divine mercy and is notable for John Kirkpatrick's accordion playing. The latter has an unusual and long verse structure which allows for a particularly effective build and release of tension.[2]

"Saturday Rolling Around" is a homage to cajun music, a genre that Richard Thompson had long admired and which he had previously experimented with on Fairport Convention's Unhalfbricking album. This too is a joyous and upbeat song. Elsewhere the mood is more spiteful, especially in the opening "Civilisation" with its sarcastic lyrics and in the heavy-handed satire of the title track which takes a tilt at a community which is superficially happy but also controlled and uniform. Whether this is a reference to late 70s Britain, or to the commune that the Thompsons had recently left, is not clear. The song is principally a tango, with slower lyrical interludes.

Thompson tries his hand at funk on "Justice In The Streets" and at hard rock on "Living on Borrowed Time". "Traces of My Love" is a tender song of longing and lyrically is in the ancient sufic tradition of expressing love for the divine in secular terms. "Sisters" is a mournful yet soulful ballad, with harmony backing by the McGarrigles. Although initially a reminiscence for lost youth, the song develops a bitter undercurrent of jealous betrayal.

"Lonely Hearts", with backing vocals from Gerry Rafferty, is a slow ballad with the theme of alienation and loneliness. A digitally re-mixed version of the song appears on Linda Thompson's 1996 solo compilation album Dreams Fly Away.

The closing track "Georgie on a Spree" (not included on the original vinyl album) is a remake of a song included on the Hokey Pokey album. It had been chosen as the theme tune for the BBC television drama Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry and the new version was issued as a single.


The front and back cover of the album feature a number of photographs of the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate, London. The front cover features a visual pun on the company logo used at the time by UK travel agent Thomson Holidays.

Critical responseEdit

The response to Sunnyvista by the critics and the public was lukewarm, and Chrysalis decided to not extend their relationship with the Thompsons.[3] The settlement between artist and label left Thompson owning the master tapes for the two albums he had recorded for Chrysalis. [4] The albums were later licensed to Joe Boyd's Hannibal label for re-issue on CD.

Track listingEdit

All songs written by Richard Thompson.

Side one
2."Borrowed Time"5:34
3."Saturday Rolling Around"3:20
4."You're Going to Need Somebody"3:56
5."Why Do You Turn Your Back?"5:08
Side two
7."Lonely Hearts"5:00
9."Justice in the Streets"4:00
10."Traces of My Love"4:00
11."Georgie on a Spree"3.30
  • Note: "Georgie on a Spree" not included on original vinyl record.



  1. ^ Deming, Mark. Sunnyvista at AllMusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  2. ^ Smith, Dave, The Great Valerio - a study of the songs of Richard Thompson, 2004
  3. ^ Humphries, Patrick, Richard Thompson - The Biography, Schirmer, 1997. ISBN 0-02-864752-1
  4. ^ "Q&A August 2006". Richard Thompson official web site. 2006-08-22. Archived from the original on April 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-14.