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Graham Parker December 1, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in Blogroll, Music.
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For some reason today I woke up with Parker’s “Pourin’ It All Out” running trough my head (and NO, it wasn’t because I swallowed an entire bottle of Flomax last night) so since I slept in and avoided the paltry assortment of yard sales for this week, I loaded a bunch of Parker CDs from my collection into the play tray for my extended breakfast soundtrack.

The soundtrack basically comprised close to the current bookends of the man’s career, starting out with his first album Howlin’ Wind and ending up with his 2005 release Songs Of No Consequence. His gravelly voice sounds even more gravelly these days, but the addictive hooks, the variety of mixes, and especially the cleverness and stark honesty flowing from the lyrics are still there. For a guy who was one of the first “New Wave” of British songsters who broke through to America back in the mid 1970s (paving the way, really, for Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson. Ian Dury and others), I always found him to be the best pure songwriter of the bunch. I admire Costello as a songwriter as well, and I think his first three albums are flat-out amazing, but there’s more of a self-conscious conceit to his writing, evident in the ways in which he conspicuously adopted varying styles as he pumped out album after album – he tried blues, he tried radio-friendly horn pop, he tried Cole Porter-esque and Burt Bacharach stylings, and so on. Joe Jackson did the same thing, often in Costello’s wake, and while they still came up with material worth listening to, Parker’s evolution and variety of styles seemed more to do with maintaining the feel and integrity of the songs themselves rather than enveloping them in particular aesthetics as an attention-getting gesture. I guess in this way I’d compare Parker more to Andy Partridge & XTC, where the wide variety of arrangements and music styles are merely matters of personal and artistic preference, rather than combining those elements with marketing ploys. Parker is also far more cynical about the nature of the music industry and its commercial judgments, and it often turns up in his songs, such as “Mercury Poisoning” or “Passive Resistance,” among others.

It comes as so surprise to me that Graham Parker’s website, complete with links to his intermittent blogging, is filled with more of his writings that reflect his intelligence and command of the language. I especially like this blog post of his, a response to a reviewer, since it not only gives us a window into Parker’s ideas but also brilliantly illustrates the care in which the guy crafts his music. Since I can’t play a single note, I’m fascinated by the process of putting music together, a subject which enhanced my enjoyment of films like Amadeus or Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock And Roll!

Check out the long scroll of albums at Parker’s site. Check things out, follow the links, and ultimately give ’em a listen. Your ears will thank you.

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Comments»

1. kevmoore - December 1, 2007

I always loved “Temporary Beauty” from the “Another Grey Area” album, a wonderful song. XTC, of course are the masters!

2. Jim Berkin - December 1, 2007

That’s a good song from an album that grew on me considerably after I first heard it. “Another Grey Area” was the first one he did after The Rumour broke up, and I remember how I and other fans of his inevitably compared his post-Rumour work to his Rumour period unfavorably, basing much of our complaints on the mellower qualities of the arrangements and music. It seemed to fit in with our disdain for a general wussification of a lot of the angry young Brit rockers of the ’70s that was going on at the time, but looking back on it now, I can see how Parker’s songwriting is actually more consistent than a lot of his contemporaries. For most of the late ’80s and early ’90s I didn’t keep up with Parker’s output and kept going back to the well of his earlier albums, but the more I think about this, the more curious I become about the material of his that I’ve skipped over.


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