[Review] Graham Parker and The Rumour: The Parkerilla (1978)

Parker gets out of his contract with Mercury Records, and you get three-fourths of a double live album.

Kronomyth 4.0: An English werewolf in New York.

I was going to start this review with a discussion of contractual obligation albums, of which this is one (well, technically two), but I’ve decided to talk about werewolves instead. Since, you know, Graham Parker looks more like a werewolf than a gorilla on the album cover. And because I just watched The Cursed, which is one of the best werewolf movies I’ve seen in a while. You would think that to be a back-handed compliment, but werewolves have been the beneficiaries of some fine cinema including (in no particular order): The Wolf Man (the original with Lon Chaney), The Howling, Silver Bullet, An American Werewolf in London and Rawhead Rex (which isn’t technically a werewolf movie, but that’s splitting hairs).

If it seems like I’m avoiding the topic at hand, The Parkerilla, I probably am. By now, you know this isn’t the first, second or third Graham Parker album you need to own. The performances are loud and fast, the production surprisingly poor (I assume the original mix is to blame, since Robert John Lange is no slouch) and the decision to make side four a 12-inch maxi single of a song Parker had already recorded, Don’t Ask Me Questions, seems unnecessarily stingy. Oddly, the semi-official Live at Marble Arch has better sound quality.

In its defense, The Parkerilla represents an impressive body of work. The Rumour add their usual brilliant commentary, here under the direction of Bob Andrews, and a four-piece horn section adds an exclamation point to it all. Still, none of these performances outshine the originals, and the rushed performances unwittingly obscure the original craftsmanship behind songs like Heat Treatment, Silly Thing and New York Shuffle. Also, I would have loved to hear a live version of “Hold Back the Night.”

So, werewolf does that leave us? With three sides of live Parker delivered hot and sloppy plus a thin slice of studio music on top. There are enough great songs on here to make a meal out of it, although you’d be better served by gobbling up the original albums first. I made the mistake of making this my first Graham Parker purchase, thinking I was getting more for my money (the album was originally priced between a single and double album), and it cooled me on buying another Parker album for years.

Original 2LP version

A1. Lady Doctor (2:48)
A2. Fool’s Gold (4:23)
A3. Tear Your Playhouse Down (Earl Randle) (3:50)
A4. Don’t Ask Me Questions (5:33)
B1. The Heat in Harlem (7:35)
B2. Silly Thing (3:15)
B3. Gypsy Blood (5:15)
B4. Back to Schooldays (2:40)
C1. Heat Treatment (3:33)
C2. Watch the Moon Come Down (5:15)
C3. New York Shuffle (2:57)
C4. Soul Shoes (3:23)
D1. Don’t Ask Me Questions (3:51)

All songs written by Graham Parker unless noted.

The Players

Graham Parker (vocals, guitar), Bob Andrews (keyboards, backing vocal, brass arrangements, musical director), Martin Belmont (guitar, backing vocals), Ray Bevis (tenor sax), Andrew Bodnar (bass), John Earle (tenor and baritone sax), Steve Goulding (drums, backing vocals), Chris Gower (trombone), Dick Hanson (trumpet, flugelhorn), Brinsley Schwarz (guitar, slide guitar, backing vocal) with Alphonze (introduction). Produced by John Robert Lange; engineered by Ted Sharp; mixed by Robert John Lange.

The Pictures

Cover picture by Brian Griffin. Inner picture by Frances Newman.

The Plastic

Released on 2LP, cassette and 8-track in May 1978* in the UK (Vertigo, 6641 797/7599 291), the US and Canada (Mercury, SRM/MCT-4/MCT-8-2-100), Australia (Vertigo, 6360 161/7138 100) and the Netherlands (Vertigo, 6360 161) with gatefold cover. Reached #14 on the UK charts and #149 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 5/27/78 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on 2LP in 1980 in the UK (Vertigo, 9199 574) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Mercury, 842 263).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1999 in the US (Malibu, MLB 9001-2).

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