only improving with age

Passion Is No Ordinary Word: The Graham Parker Anthology (1976 - 1991) (Rhino)
Graham Parker

By Allen Howie

Graham Parker has often been linked with punk music, but like Van Morrison, whom he admires, Parker is a soul man at heart. For proof, check out Rhino's superb new collection, Passion Is No Ordinary Word. The anthology draws from twenty years' worth of scabrous rock, rhythm and blues, spreading 39 selections over two generous discs.

Half the first disc focuses on Parker's acknowledged classics: 1976's Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment, and 1979's Squeezing Out Sparks, all cut with Parker's formidable pub-rock band the Rumour. Full of fury and raw energy, the records had many pegging Parker as a punk pioneer.

But an objective listen to these songs, shot through with swinging horn charts, unassailable rhythms and an undeniable sense of melody, makes the case for Parker as something more. While his venomous lyrics certainly reflected the anger of the times, his was a broader vision that drew on a variety of styles and influences, even at his most acidic.

The second half of the collection makes an equally forceful argument for Parker's later work, documenting a career that, two decades later, shows no sign of letting up or of sacrificing quality for mega-stardom.

Rhino Records has done their usual masterful job, packaging the set with a 50-page booklet that includes a commentary on every song, plus a complete list of the personnel who played on each album.

While Parker's fans may nitpick over missing tracks (I would have included "The Raid," from the ill-fated Stick To Me, and his sweet, soulful version of "Cupid"), this collection is certainly the cream of a bountiful crop, spiced with enough live and hard-to-find tracks (the legendary "Mercury Poisoning," a bitter assault on his former record label, and a cover of the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" among them) to satisfy the most judicious collector.