Graham Parker

Ultimate Collection

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Ultimate Collection Review

by William Ruhlmann

There is no dearth of Graham Parker compilations, but this is the first single-disc collection to draw from most of the singer/songwriter's label affiliations and thus assemble a comprehensive look at the highlights of his career. Hip-O Records, the reissue arm of the major label Universal Music, has specialized in such multi-label licensing projects in its Ultimate Collection series, but compilation producer Mike Ragogna had his work cut out for him with Parker, who began on Mercury (in the U.S. at least), now controlled by Universal, but then went on successively to Arista, Elektra, RCA, Capitol, and his present affiliation, independent label Razor & Tie. Though Ragogna has made generous choices from Parker's early work, including four tracks from his debut LP Howlin' Wind, for example, more than half the album consists of tracks licensed from other companies. Following Parker's critical and commercial history, Ragogna has delved deeply into the artist's most celebrated album, Squeezing Out Sparks, for four tracks, but has otherwise been highly selective. Parker himself, in the revealing and savvy remarks he makes in Jim Bessman's liner notes, naturally rejects the notion that he did his best work from 1976 to 1979, but the compilation itself seems to confirm that notion, drawing three-quarters of its contents from that period. Parker fans will miss many favorites, but it's hard to argue with this selection of 20 tracks at a running time of more than 76 minutes. If you want more and still don't want to start collecting the individual albums, there's always Rhino's 1993 two-CD, 39-track set Passion Is No Ordinary Word: The Graham Parker Anthology 1976-1991, which contains all but one of the titles on this disc and more. As far as single CDs go, however, this is the one to get.

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