There is certainly no dearth of Graham Parker live albums. Counting commercial and promotional ones, this is at least the tenth. And yet, when a performance as impressive as the one heard here is being brought to light, it's hard to complain about the glut. King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Graham Parker looks back more than 18 years to Parker's tour in support of his seventh studio album, The Real Macaw, and a show at the Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY, on September 16, 1983. Parker had dispensed with his original backup band, the Rumour, after his fifth album, The Up Escalator, and was using studio musicians as well as submitting to the ideas of hot producers like Jimmy Iovine (Another Grey Area) and David Kershenbaum (The Real Macaw) in an attempt to give Arista Records a breakout American hit. Those production styles tended to emasculate his music in order to conform to '80s pop/rock studio fashion, making the records sound somewhat dated. But in concert, Parker, backed by a band with the same instrumentation as the Rumour (and boasting former Rumours guitarist Brinsley Schwarz and former Records guitarist Huw Gower upfront), gave the same songs the kind of rock fervor that had made earlier albums like Howlin' Wind classics. Songs like "Passive Resistance" (introduced to the radio audience who heard this show in the '80s as an attack on radio) and "Just Like a Man" sounded much tougher than they had on The Real Macaw, and the uncharacteristically optimistic "Life Gets Better," which would go on to become Parker's first U.S. singles chart entry, seemed more substantial. Add in some of the better songs from the Parker masterpiece Squeezing out Sparks ("You Can't Be Too Strong," "Local Girls," "Protection," "Discovering Japan"), and it made for an exciting show.
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Graham Parker Review
by William Ruhlmann