Graham Parker & the Rumour

The Up Escalator

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While it was something short of a hit, Squeezing Out Sparks did win a measure of richly deserved American recognition for Graham Parker & the Rumour, and for the follow-up, Parker's American record label, Arista, paired him up with hotshot producer Jimmy Iovine. The idea looked good on paper; Iovine had produced or engineered great sounding hard rock records for Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Patti Smith, and his tough but vibrant sound would seem the perfect match for Parker and his band. But one listen to The Up Escalator reveals that Iovine's trademark sound somehow escaped him for this project; the recording and mix are flat and poorly detailed (Brinsley Schwarz's lead guitar and Stephen Goulding's drums suffer the most), and the often mushy audio manages the remarkable feat of making the Rumour, one of the most exciting rock bands of their day, sound just a bit dull. But Parker fights the muddy sound every step of the way, and if his batting average as a songwriter is a shade lower than on Squeezing Out Sparks, he certainly offers up his share of A-list material, including the incendiary "Empty Lives," the passionate "The Beating of Another Heart," and "Endless Night," which features one Bruce Springsteen on backing vocals. Parker's singing is sharp and commanding, and even though the mix lets them down, the Rumour's performances are tough and precise throughout. The Up Escalator failed to catch the ears of the mass audience, and Parker would soon part ways with the Rumour, but if this album doesn't present them in the best light, it shows that they could play tough, passionate rock & roll that could survive even the most adverse recording conditions.

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