I really enjoy Graham Parker, but many of his albums on CD are scarce to find. Especially from the ’81-’85 period. None of them were early CDs and they filtered out, sometimes on 3rd party labels in the 90s and have been OOP for some time. Fortunately, in Southern California, these releases are not so thin on the ground as they are in the Southeast. What I see here are the GP titles I’ve had for many years in large numbers as I attempt to obtain his entire discography. The 70s albums on LP are abundant! “Another Grey Area” is technically the first album be cut without The Rumour. I say “technically,” since the preceding “The Up Escalator” was sold as a Graham Parker album in America, but The Rumour still got in the title in the UK.
#28 • Graham Parker: Another Grey Area US CD 
- Temporary Beauty
- Another Grey Area
- No More Excuses
- Dark Side Of The Bright Lights
- Can’t Waste A Minute
- Big Fat Zero
- You Hit The Spot
- It’s All Worth Nothing Alone
- Crying For Attention
- Thankless Task
- Fear Not
- Mercury Poisoning
I recall seeing the video for “Temporary Beauty” on the earliest days of MTV and the delicate ballad was more tender than we associate with Parker’s body of work. While he was the prime “Angry Young Man of New Wave” [he predated Costello and Jackson on wax by several years] he was also on album seven at this time, and he was fighting record label interference. The sound here was more smoothly planed than what he was known for at the time, but I put that down to the small army of session players co-producer Jack Douglas enlisted to record the album.
The title cut is lively Pub Rock-cum-New-Wave with lots of prominent Nicky Hopkins piano figuring in the mix. Upbeat, perky stuff. “No More Excuses” was from the time when Parker still would include a reggae cut or two in the mix. “Can’t Waste A Minute” prefigures the upbeat pop sound that Elvis Costello would be mining about 5-6 years later, but the songs on “Spike” weren’t this good. And Costello’s production was even more “80s baroque” than what Parker rails against here in the typically caustic liner notes.
GP typifies the album there as “slick as a slimeball,” but I really have to say that to these ears, this album slots in well with the ones that preceded it. There are no reverbed, gated drums here! No Yamaha DX7s [though in 1982, there couldn’t be…] but the fact was that GP claims that this album went $200,000 over budget, which makes my head hurt at what the cost must have been if that was just the overrun! GP is fond of saying that he now makes 5-6 albums for the cost of a single one in the 80s, but that’s not to say that “Another Grey Area” is a soulless, compromised album. Contrary to what GP insinuates in the liner notes.
“Big Fat Zero” could be on “Stick To Me” or “Squeezing Out Sparks” easily, and it’s the high energy rock tune to close out side one. It’s a classically sardonic serving of Parkerilla in the classic mode, even if it was recorded at the Record Plant. “You Hit The Spot” oozes Parker cool. GP delivers another reggae number with “Thankless Task” which was enlivened by a startling baritone sax solo from Kurt McGettrick that simply oozed greasy swagger. “Fear Not” was a closing piano led rocker to go out on a strong note, but Razor + Tie thought to include the four year older GP classic “Mercury Poisoning” to become the bonus track for this CD. Yeah, even Parker scratches his head with the reasoning behind that in the liner notes, but I’m happy to have it on CD somewhere.
Parker rails against his production in the 80s but I;’m not hearing much to decry here. Douglas does do one thing that probably riled Parker. He puts Nicky Hopkins piano front and center. Often with George Small’s organ adding texture. The guitars [of Parker and Hugh McCracken, and David Brown] are minimized in the mix. So this is a keyboard heavy recording, of some taste, I must say. It still sounds late 70s instead of mid-80s which was something of a feat in 1982! GP says “slick as a slimeball” and I would instead typify it as tight and professional without crossing the line to soullessness.
These songs are still good, with perhaps less biting wit than GP is capable of delivering than on this outing. Only “Big Fat Zero” has the chip largely missing from his shoulder on the rest of these songs. But yes, I too balk at the amount of cash spent on albums like these in the 80s. There are artists today who have carved out careers for the outlay [remember: this was $200,000 over budget] on an album like “Another Grey Area.” Could it be more spontaneous? Yes. Cut half of the session players and record on an 8-track and you might have something like “Mercury Poisoning” but Parker had already done that and this was the time to stretch wings a bit as Arista [soon to be waving bye-bye to GP] tried to market him.