Graham Parker & The Rumour: Live at Rockpalast 1978+1980

During their original alliance, Graham Parker and The Rumour never released a live album that accurately represented how powerful they sounded in concert (the execrable The  Parkerilla is only worth mentioning as an aside. These double-disc packages, however, stand as essential documents of the early stages of the partnership between this supremely smart songwriter and a crack band.

Oddly positioned as the second disc(s) in each package, the live recordings from 1978 present Parker and The Rumour complemented by a horn section, replicating the R&B-drenched arrangements of tough-minded pop/rock ‘n’ reggae tunes on the first two Nick-Lowe produced albums, Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment. Playing numbers like the latter’s title track and “Fools’ Gold,” the entire band sound absolutely thrilled to be playing music they are obviously proud of.

During the complete Rockpalast concert from two years later, the music Parker & co make on their cover of Little Feat’s “Tripe Face Boogie,” is as driven as it is celebratory. There’s an extraordinary chemistry at work here in this union of ragtag pub-rockers: Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont’s guitars grind like buzzsaws, Andrew Bodnar’s bass stabs through the mix and although Stephen Goulding’s drumming has a bounce, it nevertheless sounds like a heartbeat threatening to run wild on culls from the brilliant Squeezing Out Sparks’ "Passion Is no Ordinary Word" and "Discovering Japan."

At this point, Nicky Hopkins was playing with his usual grace, in place of original Rumour keyboardist Bob Andrews, but as with his stints accompanying The Who, The Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane; Hopkins found a place for himself within the ensemble during “Empty Lives” and “Stupefaction.” As a matter of fact, the superb British pianist added polish to the sound of the band as a whole, without detracting from their unity.

The slightly dislocated rapport so evident on the video of the later show, where the German TV studio audience may actually be more excited in anticipation of openers The Police, remind why Graham Parker never connected with the mainstream; he never created a palatable persona, preferring to remain his own irascible self. With his oversized shades and relatively fancy garb on the cover photos of Live at Rockpalast, he might seem to be playing the part of the rock star, but the intelligent defiance in his attitude, combined with the deep soulful finesse of his band, dares the audience to question his right to play the part.

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