Graham Parker & the Rumour / Graham Parker

The Parkerilla

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In 1978, Graham Parker & the Rumour's career was on the rise in the U.K. and going nowhere in America, despite rave reviews for his first three albums and a growing reputation as a powerful live act. Most observers, including Parker himself, blamed his U.S. label, Mercury Records, for failing to give him the promotion he needed Stateside; eager to find a more suitable corporate partner, Parker opted to finish off his contract with Mercury via that time-honored form of contractual obligation filler, the double-live album. In many respects, The Parkerilla practically screams "Let's get this over with," from the skimpy running time (54 minutes, including a studio re-recording of "Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions" that filled side four) and unimaginative set list, to a slightly dodgy mix that keeps losing track of the horn section, and a sequence that has a hard time keeping one of the most exciting acts of the day in forward gear. However, Parker and the Rumour were too good on-stage for The Parkerilla to feel entirely like a throwaway; Parker's vocals are tough and soulful at every turn, the Rumour get more of a chance to show off their instrumental prowess here than they did on their studio recordings, and when the players connect with the right song, as they do on "Back to Schooldays," "Soul Shoes," and "Gypsy Blood," it's hard not to wish this hadn't been such an obvious rush job, since the potential for a great concert set was clearly there. (The live take of "Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions" is also superb, and makes mincemeat of the silly disco-influenced studio recut that closes out the album.) The Parkerilla has a reputation as a tossed-off disaster, and while it's a lot better than that, you don't have to know the back story to hear a band biding their time until something better comes along on this set.

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