Since Richard & Linda Thompson's albums have been available through Hannibal Records for many years, it's easy to forget that they weren't all released by that label originally; in fact, only the last of the duo's six albums, Shoot Out the Lights, was a Hannibal album to begin with. The first three LPs (I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey, and Pour Down Like Silver) came out on Island Records, while the fourth and fifth (First Light and Sunnyvista) were on Chrysalis. This only becomes important when you consider the compilation The Best of Richard & Linda Thompson: The Island Records Years. That subtitle is important. It means the album collects material from only the first half of the Thompsons' recording career. The selection comes not just from those three Island duo albums, but also from Richard's first solo album, Henry the Human Fly, and from an earlier Thompsoncompilation, Guitar, Vocal, which featured alternate and live material from the Thompsons. It's hard to argue with the selections from that material made here. Appropriately, the masterful I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is the source of six cuts (not counting a live version of "Calvary Cross"), the impressive Pour Down Like Silver provides four, and the weakest of the three albums, Hokey Pokey, only two (not counting the alternate take of "A Heart Needs a Home"). There is a good mixture ofLinda-sung ballads and more up-tempo material, and "Night Comes In" and "Calvary Cross" feature extended examples of Richard's amazing guitar work. And the compilers have not shied away from featuring the often pessimistic tone of much of Richard's songwriting for the duo, from "Withered and Died" to "Beat the Retreat." But all this means that the album is a great half of a compilation of their career. Annotator Clinton Heylin tries to make a case for the first three albums as constituting the duo's English phase, but that's a conceit. The Best of Richard & Linda Thompson: The Island Records Years will feel incomplete to anyone familiar with their work, and those unfamiliar with it are going to miss half the story by hearing only this disc.