Category: Graham Parker

Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks

ARTIST: Graham Parker       Squeezing_out_sparks_cover

TITLE: Squeezing Out Sparks

YEAR RELEASED: 1979

CHART ACTION: #40 US, #18 UK

SINGLES: Protection, Local Girls, Nobody Hurts You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: You Can’t Be Too Strong

LINEUP: Graham Parker, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Bob Andrews, Steve Goulding, Andrew Bodnar

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Free from his first record contract, Parker releases his master stroke, full of bile, and surprising tenderness.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After three good-to-great studio albums, followed by a mess of a live record for a contractual obligation (The Parkerilla, not available now and don’t bother), Graham Parker and his backing band The Rumour come out swinging with the best, most complete record of his career.

Parker’s songs have their typical bite, and his energy pulls the band along so that they’re equally urgent on most of the cuts. Only on the tender “You Can’t Be Too Strong”, which many thought of as an anti-abortion song (when Parker said it’s more of a questioning song than anything, and is from the point of view of the man who isn’t strong to face his responsibilities), does Parker let his guard down.

Else, Parker’s still the angry young (ish) man of the UK scene at this time, even madder than Elvis Costello. This is the record to have by him; it’s a great time piece and stands up now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: National Review named “You Can’t Be Too Strong” as one of its top Conservative songs – which Parker roundly disputed and showed that the NR is horrible at understanding pop culture.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Oh, yes. Live Sparks is the album played live (which makes me sad that I didn’t see him at this time), with a cover of “I Want You Back”, and his all-time bilious single “Mercury Poisoning” 

GRADE: A: It smokes, to this day.

 

 

Graham Parker – Stick to Me

ARTIST: Graham Parker     Stick_to_me_cover

TITLE:  Stick to Me

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #125 US, #19 UK

SINGLES: The New York Shuffle

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down.

LINEUP: Graham Parker, Brinsley Schwartz, Bob Andrews, Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodner, Steve Goulding + session horns

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Parker and his band the Rumour rip through ten songs with raw emotion and fire.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Parker’s third album in two years found him just as angry as he had been. The music, though, had more of a soul element to it which softened the edge a bit.

The band and Parker sounded like they were in a hurry, and they were. They had to record this quickly. It helps the recording in my ears. Even though it’s a bit less polished than other records at the time, it had an immediacy about it.

Still, sales were low in the US and he blamed his record company and soon split with Mercury. While this may not have been right for mass consumption in 1977, it certainly should have had more ears than it did.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The record had to be redone, in a week. The original recording was unusable thanks to a problem with the tape (it was oxidizing before their eyes), so they had to rush a re-do with Nick Lowe producing.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: I like the rawer sound, even though it was due to necessity.

 

Graham Parker – Heat Treatment

ARTIST: Graham Parker  Heat_treatment_cover
TITLE: Heat Treatment
YEAR RELEASED: 1976
CHART ACTION: #169 US, #52 UK
SINGLES: None from the album.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe Pourin’ It All Out or Fools’ Gold
LINEUP: Graham Parker & The Rumour (Bob Andrews, Brinsley Schwarz, Steve Goulding, Andrew Bodnar and Martin Belmont)
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The second release from Parker solidifies his reputation as a critics’ artist and an angry young man in the UK.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coming quick on the heels of his debut, this album finds Parker exploring more soul and R&B influences than his debut. The title track definitely sounds like a lost soul song. However, the money tracks are “Fools’ Gold” and “Pourin’ It All Out” which are classic UK new-wave songs.

The album sounds better than his debut, even though Parker doesn’t like it. Mutt Lange produced it in Wales and he did a decent job in bringing out good performances from Parker and the Rumour (at least I think so).

Again, this was a critics’ record of choice in 1976, mainly because it was a fresh sound from all the rock that was happening then. In retrospect this isn’t an A album, but it’s another good one especially if you’re exploring the new sounds form the UK during that era.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Black Honey” is a sequel to “White Honey” – the first track on his debut.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the version now has the Pink Parker EP, which contained his first US hit “Hold Back the Night: (#58 US, #24 UK).

GRADE: B+: It’s not as great as they thought in 1976, but it’s still good.

Graham Parker – Howlin’ Wind

ARTIST: Graham Parker Howlin'_wind_cover
TITLE: Howlin’ Wind
YEAR RELEASED: 1976
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Don’t Ask Me Questions (#32 UK), Silly Thing, Soul Shoes
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: White Honey, Howlin’ Wind, Back to Schooldays
LINEUP: Graham Parker and the Rumour (Brinsley Schwartz, Bob Andrews, Martin Belmont, Steve Goulding, Andrew Bodnar)
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first “angry young man” of the British new wave movement releases a biting debut album that garnered him press, but not a lot of ears in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Is it possible to be TOO much of an angry young man? Parker’s career trajectory says that it is. Released in 1976, the former filling station attendant’s songs and performances were full of vitriol and bile. You can hear the seething come through the speakers.

Now, not on every cut, of course. He can be gentle if he wants to be, but when he gets wound up, he’s wound. Don’t Ask Me Questions is a perfect example of this. This should be been a smash, but being angry at God and SOUNDING like it may have turned off people here in the US.

Listening to it today, the themes don’t seem dated. Parker did a good job in keeping his emotions focused on universal topics. A fine debut that gave him a career.

NOTES & MINUTAE: The Rumor were made up of pub rock vets who meshed together well with Parker’s musical tastes and direction.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, not for this one.

GRADE: B+ : At the time everyone was falling all over themselves in trying to give Parker more and more praise. It’s a great record but I don’t think it’s his best nor worthy of an A. Still, a good new wave collection would have it in prominent rotation.