30 Days: 30 Albums | Graham Parker + The Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks

This was an instance of me buying a later, DLX RM of an album for the upgrade of the bonus material. I somehow managed to get the first Arista US copy of “Squeezing Out Sparks” on CD, probably at a CD Warehouse, if memory serves, in the late 90s. Any of the first half of Parker’s career is surprisingly scarce on CD format, while the used LP bins are rife with the material. This CD had the promo LP “Live Sparks” appended to it so when it was in front on my eyes for a modest price, I went with the flow. After all, I was getting so many Parker CDs I needed in L.A., why not “upgrade” his best selling opus?

Arista ‎| US | CD | 1996 | 07822-18939-2

#19Graham Parker + The Rumour: Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks US CD [1996]

  1. Discovering Japan
  2. Local Girls
  3. Nobody Hurts You
  4. You Can’t Be Too Strong
  5. Passion Is No Ordinary Word
  6. Saturday Nite Is Dead
  7. Love Gets You Twisted
  8. Protection
  9. Waiting For The UFO’s
  10. Don’t Get Excited
  11. Discovering Japan [live]
  12. Local Girls [live]
  13. Nobody Hurts You [live]
  14. You Can’t Be Too Strong [live]
  15. Passion Is No Ordinary Word [live]
  16. Saturday Nite Is Dead [live]
  17. Love Gets You Twisted [live]
  18. Protection [live]
  19. Waiting For The UFO’s [live]
  20. Don’t Get Excited [live]
  21. I Want You Back (Alive)[live]
  22. Mercury Poisoning [live]

We have a new record for most tracks per disc in this thread since Parker here bested his former producer Nick Lowe, who previously held the record for most songs on one album with the 21 tracks on “Jesus Of Cool.” Parker gets the count up a notch. “Discovering Japan” was a energetic start to this classic album with the pub rock of The Rumour getting tweaked up to New Wave levels of vigor. It all started back in 1979 for me with one song: the US single “Local Girls” was a track that the local FM Rock I was listening to then played more than once, so it was my entrée to Parker… and possibly the reason why I paid little attention to him for so long. Against the spectrum of 1979 the tune was nice, but nothing to write home about.

The compassion and power of “You Can’t Be Too Strong” would have passed me by completely at the age of 16. I would not have been mature or empathetic enough to relate to the lyric; which was everything here. The liner notes by Parker were most revealing when he admitted to initially burying the tune in a fast, busy arrangement until producer Jack Nitzsche called him out on his ability to put the song forth in as direct, uncompromising way.

I love the relentless pace of the chorus in “Passion Is No Ordinary Word.” The way the syllables of the chorus hammer home the gist of the lyric is very memorable. “Protection” shows only a toe dipped [barely] into ska while his earlier albums featured reggae tracks. The arrangement of “Waiting for the UFO’s” was like nothing else in the Parker canon I’ve heard before or after. The odd arrangement was fairly busy over a near-disco rhythm section and the harmonized backing vocals of the repeated title used every member of The Rumour save for the non-singing Andrew Bodnar on bass. Every band usually has one vocal holdout, it seems! Being British, they use the Brit pronunciation of “U-Foes” that anyone who saw the early 70s sci-fi series of the same name will remember. “Don’t Get Excited” ended the album on an upbeat note following the quirky preceding track.

And then you got to hear the same album all over again, albeit in live form. And with a non-LP single added as a bonus. As a live album, “Live Sparks” captured The Rumour in full flight. The backing vocals were pretty high in the mix, so that lends a difference to the sound. Which is good, since Parker, at this early stage of his career, tends towards the monochromatic. “Protection” and “Excited” were particularly fiery here, and I can certainly see why the senior who sat next to me in my 11th grade physics class was so big on Graham Parker + The Rumour; whom he’d seen in concert. He called him the only New Waver he really liked.

But if I may take a controversial stand, let me admit that “Squeezing Out Sparks,” while being a fine example of the early Graham Parker oeuvre, does not press the “classic album!” button for me. It’s a solidly good album; I don’t think Parker has a dud in him. But is it my go-to GP album? Naaaw. That would be “Deepcut To Nowhere” for me! I did appreciate the upgrade to this version. The live version was good to hear, and this kind of tough pub rock can benefit from a live setting. My biggest appreciation was for the great GP liner notes as well as Ira Robbins’ [Trouser Press] additional essay on the album and it’s position in the GP canon. My original Arista CD was ultra skimpy on that front.

CONCLUSION: enjoy…just not as much as everyone else seems to think that I should

 

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4 Responses to 30 Days: 30 Albums | Graham Parker + The Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks

  1. Taffy says:

    I think for me, the reason I enjoy Squeezing Out Sparks is that Graham Parker was (again…for me) the lesser talent of the initial trio of “angry young British men” of the post-pub rock/early new wave scene (thinking of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson being the other two) and the only album I fell for of his was Sparks. It’s stayed with me all these years, and to be honest I haven’t really explored a lot of the rest of his catalog. I’d sooner play Jackson’s Look Sharp or Costello’s This Years Model, but when I want to hear Parker, it’s gonna be Squeezing Out Sparks for sure.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – In the heady days of ’78-’81 I felt the same way. Why listen to GP when there’s EC + The Attractions burning it up with their best work ever? Let it not be said that The Attractions couldn’t smoke The Rumour for breakfast with out trying too hard. It wasn’t until the 90s when I began looking back at GP and discovered that he may not have the stylistic range of Jackson or Costello, but that also meant that he could never produce a “North” or a “Will Power.” The man simply wouldn’t know how to make such pretentious drivel. I then found out that GP may have a deliberately constrained stylistic range but his songwriting is of a consistent high caliber. I actually prefer his “mature” phase as his razor wit has been honed considerably with age. I honestly want all of his albums since they are all of merit to my ears. I can’t say that for EC or JJ. Also, GP is much funnier than EC or especially JJ.

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      • Taffy says:

        Hmmm, maybe I’ll seek out some latter day Parker beyond the one compilation I own. I actually stopped buying Elvis Costello albums after Punch The Clock, and Joe Jackson albums after Body And Soul…so by 1983/84 I was “all done” with that genre of music (or perhaps I just wasn’t interested in what those artists were doing next). Therefore I’ve never really experienced the pretentious stuff still to come from them!

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Taffy – Wow! You won the “Angry Young Men Of New Wave” sweepstakes!!! You stopped buying Costello albums at a fantastic point!!! It was all steeply downhill from 1983. You have been spared much heartbreak. Jackson still had “Big World” in him but after that I’m indifferent. I hear you about genres being “done.” As I age I find I have more time for competency of songwriting over novelty of production, and Parker comes out ahead on that score. But when I was young to hell with Graham Parker! Gimme those ZTT 12″ers!

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