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Album Review

Graham Parker: Another Grey Area 40th Anniversary Edition

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Graham Parker: Another Grey Area 40th Anniversary Edition
Iconoclassic Records lives up to its label name with this Graham Parker reissue. Admittedly a niche artist, this irascible Brit has seen more than a few excerpts from his lengthy discography treated with the meticulous care that bespeaks true labors of love, and this initial release of Parker's sans the splendid backing band known as the Rumour puts the spotlight squarely on his original material.

Of course, the man's own songs have always been the focal point of his studio recordings (and only slightly less so with concert releases). Here, however, producer Jack Douglas (John Lennon, Aerosmith) festoons the compositions with arrangements featuring the musicianship of veteran American session musicians such as guitarist Hugh McCracken, who appears in addition to English stalwart pianist Nicky Hopkins, he of work with the The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Who, among many others.

The latter actually played on the previous Parker LP, The Up Escalator (Arista, 1980), but here his contributions do not constitute an awkward attempt to create the facade of band unity. However, a member of Billy Joel's band, bassist/vocalist Doug Stegmeyer, bonds with his aforementioned peers to forge a unity that parlays tunes like like the title song with all the instrumental eloquence Parker imparts to his lyric writing. And if some numbers such as the title song and "It's All Worth Nothing Alone," are (slightly) less attitude-laden than others, the contrast marks a progression to greater maturity on the part of the author. That said, "Big Fat Zero" is quintessential no-nonsense GP.

And Graham sings it with the same nuance he affords "You Hit The Spot." The subtlety of his phrasing on"Thankless Task" is also right in line with the diversity of his accompaniment: on the latter, Kurt McGettrick constitutes a horn section unto himself with his baritone sax solo. George Small injects an exotic texture via the ondioline during "Temporary Beauty," while Paul Prestopino's banjo is not just a novelty but a comment on the lyrics of the reggae-inflected "No More Excuses." The playing mirrors the composing throughout Another Grey Area and vice versa and, thanks to Mark Wilder's expert mastering, the superb audio quality of this 40th Anniversary Edition ensures those details are readily discernible (hear the popping of the bass and the alternating slapping, punching drums).

Likewise discernible are the insightful observations of essayist Geoffrey Himes in his liner notes; the writer is passionate but nonetheless discriminating with his prose. So, five bonus tracks may or may not be the piece de resistance of this CD; if available in good quality, perhaps the entirety of the concert from which two live recordings derive— Hammersmith Palais, London, England from April of 1982, the year this album originally came out— might've been included in addition to the B-side of a single, "Habit Worth Forming," an alternate version of "You Hit the Spot" in extended form, plus an instrumental dub take of "No More Excuses" (rabid Graham Parker addicts may wonder if the half-century anniversary package might be even further expanded to include that concert material, including personnel credits within comparably varied, colorful graphics).

All three selections suggest the wealth of ideas emanating from the recording sessions. As a result, the sum total of content on this Another Grey Area release does in fact complete a portrait of Graham Parker that's a wholly natural extension of the tough and tender persona he had begun to fashion via his preceding record. At once accurate and indelibly memorable, the impression thus implanted ratifies a notion that, if the purpose of such vault endeavors is to illuminate virtues of an artist's work heretofore both known and unknown, then this one not only validates that prototype, but vividly depicts the earthy, intelligent and ever-so-slightly sweet soul in its creator's rock and roll pop music.

Track Listing

Temporary Beau; Another Grey Area; No More Excuses; Dark Side of the Bright Lights ; Can’t Waste a Minute; Big Fat Zero; You Hit the Spot; It’s All Worth Nothing Alone; Crying for Attention; Thankless Task ; Fear Not; Habit Worth Forming; You Hit the Spot; No More Excuses; You Hit the Spot; Another Grey Area.

Personnel

Graham Parker: voice / vocals; Hugh McCracken: guitar; Nicky Hopkins: piano; George Small: keyboards; Doug Stegmeyer: bass; Michael Braun: drums; Paul Prestopino: banjo; Kurt McGettrick: saxophone; Jack Douglas: percussion; Krystal Davis: voice / vocals; Karen Lawrence: voice / vocals; Eric Troyer: voice / vocals; Fred Hostetler: voice / vocals.

Additional Instrumentation

Graham Parker: electric & acoustic guitars; George Small: ondioline Hugh McCracken: harmonica; Kurt McGettrick: flute; Jim Clouse: saxes.

Album information

Title: Another Grey Area 40th Anniversary Edition | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Iconoclassic Records

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