Graham Parker

Blue Highway

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Graham Parker's appearance at Grant Park in Chicago on the Fourth of July, 1988, sees release on disc nearly 15 years after the fact with Blue Highway, a British CD. The packaging by the Alchemy Entertainment label leaves a great deal to be desired, starting with the album title. "Blue Highways" with an "s" was the name of one of the songs on Parker's then-current studio record, The Mona Lisa's Sister, and it adds insult to injury to not only get the song title wrong, but then to use that mistaken title for the name of the album itself! Keyboard player James Hallawell also has his name misspelled, while the obscure Knight Brothers song "Sinking Low," the disc's only tune not to have appeared on any other Parker album, is rendered as "Sinkin' Low," which is almost right. The liner notes by remastering engineer Ross Landau tell readers more about the first Parker gig he attended, back in 1976, than about the show heard on the album. Also included as liner notes, though hard to read due to the graphics, is a reprint of Stephen Thomas Erlewine's All Music Guide biography of Parker. All of that is the bad news. The good news is that, as Landau quotes Parker reacting, "The tapes...sound amazing!" This is a good recording of a hot show. Parker, backed by a four-piece band including former Rumour members Brinsley Schwarz and Andrew Bodnar, may be intent on promoting The Mona Lisa's Sister (with five tracks out of 12 devoted to it), but he chooses the album's best songs and also includes some of his evergreens, such as "Local Girls" and "Passion Is No Ordinary Word" from Squeezing Out Sparks and "Howlin' Wind" and "White Honey" from Howlin' Wind. Also included, and the album's other rarity for fans, is a full-band version of "Durban Poison," which would not turn up on disc until the following year as a solo performance on Live! Alone in America. Add it all up and, despite the typos, this is a good purchase for Parker aficionados.

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