Graham Parker: Live Alone!  Discovering Japan

Live Alone! Discovering Japan

Graham Parker

Gadfly 238

Gadfly Records, Inc.
P.O. Box 5231
Burlington, VT 05402

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz

"A diminutive, peevish-looking fellow whose shoulders hunch as protectively as a lobster's carapace, Parker releases his smoldering resentment in songs of yammering eloquence, sung in a raspy croon that swallows whole words in moments of high passion."
-Ken Tucker in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll

Throughout the years, Graham Parker has received critical acclaim, yet that has not translated to record sales. Despite a long career in the music business beginning during the New Wave movement in the seventies, Parker emerged from the same punk-pop songwriting style that gave birth to Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson. Of course, it probably doesn't help that Parker takes nearly every opportunity nowadays to dump on the lack of creativity in the music business to win him legions of fans in the biz. Nevertheless, what fans Parker does have are hardcore, as you can see from his interactions with them on his own web site:

As the title of Live Alone! Discovering Japan suggests, this album was recorded at Parker's solo acoustic shows in Japan during the early '90s. It's available for the first time in North America on Gadfly Records and is the companion CD to Live! Alone in America (no duplicate cuts). The album is disappointingly absent of liner notes. No information about the tour dates, the songs, or Parker's impressions of Japan are given.

The title comes from Parker's song Discovering Japan (from his 1979 album Squeezing Out Sparks, an album that Rolling Stone declared the 45th Best Album of 1967-1987). Another particularly relevant song is Mercury Poisoning, which takes on extra emphasis because of the mercury poisoning of Japan's coastal seafood industry in the 1950s.

The acoustic treatment of Parker's songs makes them particularly venomous, the bite coming right through for all to hear. His hits Platinum Blonde and Don't Ask Me Questions are particular standouts. The one lovely ballad on the album Long Stem Rose shows Parker's sweeter side. Parker also presents a quickie song that had been written during his travels in Japan: Chopsticks about the destruction of the rainforests to support the throwaway wooden-chopstick industry. The songs (some as old as 20 years) hold up well over time: Short Memories about the politics of war.

All in all, this is a fantastic album. If you're a GP fan, this will occupy a prominent place in your collection. If you haven't experienced GP's music, this collection is an excellent way to get better acquainted with this unappreciated talent.

Track List:

  • That's What They All Say
  • Platinum Blonde
  • Mercury Poisoning
  • Sweet 16
  • No Woman No Cry
  • Lunatic Fringe
  • Long Stem Rose
  • Discovering Japan
  • Don't Ask Me Questions
  • Watch The Moon Come Down (Revisited)
  • Just Like Herman Hesse
  • Too Many Knots To Untangle
  • Chopsticks
  • Short Memories

All songs by Graham Parker, except for Sweet 16 by Billy Idol and No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley.

Graham Parker fans should be on the lookout at Parker's web site for a new album to be released on Razor and Tie Records (home to Dar Williams and Marshall Crenshaw), entitled Loose Monkeys." It consists entirely of rarities, demos, and outtakes.

Edited by Virginia Wagner

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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