Graham Parker

The Live Vandelay

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Graham Parker's third volume in his ongoing series of "Art Vandelay Tapes" releases (which preserve rare and collectable material from his archives) devotes itself to a concert Parker played in Chicago on July 4, 1988, as he was touring the United States in support of the album The Mona Lisa's Sister. The show was recorded on multi-track and mixed for later broadcast on radio, so these takes are decidedly higher in fidelity than much of the material on the second "Art Vandelay Tapes" release, which primarily focused on live recordings (though the version of "Durban Poison" that appears on that disc originated from this show, so completists will end up owning it twice). Parker is in solid form on this show, which has previously circulated in bootleg form; longtime GP sidemen Brinsley Schwarz and Andrew Bodnar share the stage with him here, and the set list offers a compelling mix of (then) current tunes and established favorites. However, as good as this is, The Live Vandelay doesn't have the sharp, fiery snap of Parker's best live recordings, possibly due to the fact Parker was one of a handful of acts on an all-day bill and it sounds as if he's playing for an audience who largely isn't that familiar with him. It also doesn't help that Parker's smart, witty rage, always one of his greatest assets, seems to have been turned down a few points for this gig. Graham Parker loyalists will find this enjoyable listening, but The Live Vandelay isn't ever going to replace Live Sparks or Live! Alone in America in the Parker pantheon.

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