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Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks (Remastered)

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Editors’ Notes

There are good reasons why Squeezing Out Sparks is widely considered Graham Parker's finest hour. For one thing, it was the leanest, meanest moment on record by Parker and The Rumour. Here they left behind the soul-slathered pub rock of their acclaimed early albums in favor of a stripped-down sound that had more in common with the new wave scene for which they'd helped lay the groundwork. The twin guitars of Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont are at their fiercest here, spitting out barbed-wire lines around Parker's vociferous vocals, and drummer Steve Goulding's streamlined strength gives it all a powerful push forward. Parker was also shedding some skin lyrically—"Passion Is No Ordinary Word" and "Nobody Hurts You" are as emotionally unguarded as anything else in his catalog, though no less fiery for it. And when he and The Rumour rein things in for the ballad "You Can't Be Too Strong," a cold-eyed look at abortion, they achieve their most visceral impact of all. An album's worth of live bonus tracks intensifies the experience even further.

Customer Reviews

Underappreciated

This is one of the classic albums of the new wave era. Few songs match the emotion of "Passion Is No Ordinary Word" and "You Can't Be Too Strong." "Protection" remains a personal favorite with lines like "It ain't the knife through your heart that tears you apart, it just the thought of someone sticking it in." Indispensible.

No Ordinary Album

"Passion Is No Ordinary Word", and the same sentiment applies to what many feel is Graham Parker's finest work. While he was never as popular as Joe Jackson, nor as acclaimed as Elvis Costello, his early albums have stood the test of time as well as "Look Sharp" or "This Year's Model", and he matched their subsequent ability to segue from youthful rock rage to mature genre experimentations. Of course, Jackson and Costello owed some credit to their excellent backing bands, and the same is true for Parker, who benefitted from the tight musicianship of The Rumour. The centerpiece of "Squeezing Out Sparks", and the track that provides the album's title is "You Can't Be Too Strong", which is, ironically, a ballad among rockers. Yet the details of an unexpected pregnancy/abortion from the perspectives of him, her, and the doctor is stunning. A cheerfully innocent melody resembling a baby's lullaby is juxtaposed with disarmingly candid lyrics as Parker's cynical sneer fails to disguise his underlying guilt and shame. The more mainstream (though no less biting) side of Parker is exemplified by "Local Girls", an FM-radio favorite that still can stir memories of the era as well as bigger hits of the time. Other peaks include the exasperated "Protection" and the wistful "Waiting For The UFO's" (even if it sometimes sounds as if Parker is saying "U-Boats" instead). A reissued version of "Squeezing Out Sparks" with bonus live tracks is overkill, but the original album is worth discovering as much as Japan.

An Undeniable Masterpiece

Parker was at his absolute peak as a lyricist and singer on this album, and the Rumour was literally on fire. The first five cuts will leave you breathless, and althought two of the tracks are mediocre, on balance it's an indespensible tour de force that still packs hell of a wallop after 35 years. The best albums catch a rare moment in time perfectly, and this is one of them.

Biography

Born: November 15, 1950 in East London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Stereotyped early in his career as the quintessential angry young man, Graham Parker was one of the most successful singer/songwriters to emerge from England's pub rock scene in the early '70s. Drawing heavily from Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones, Parker developed a sinewy fusion of driving rock & roll and confessional folk-rock, highlighted by his indignant passion, biting sarcasm, and bristling anger. At the outset of his career, his albums crackled with pub rock energy, snide witticisms,...
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