As a general rule, it's gratifying and rather joyful to watch rock musicians age gracefully and continue to release quality original music. In the case of British roots rock singer-songwriter Graham Parker, it's probably as good as it gets. One of the most lauded album releases of 2012, in fact, was most certainly Three Chords Good, Parker's first new LP in more than 30 years recorded with his old band The Rumour. By almost all accounts, we're not talking about merely decent or competent here; the 62-year-old's most recent effort has made a lofty critical splash not unlike his classic work of the late '70s and the many graceful moments culled from an underrated '80s output.
Of course, that's precisely what I'm here to discuss in this space, as you may rightly suspect. This is a prime time and perfect place to celebrate the modestly successful but always raw and emotionally direct songs Parker released throughout the '80s - essentially as a solo artist. Selecting a particular track to spotlight actually turns out to be one of the easier tasks to tackle, if only because Parker's songwriting so stubbornly insists upon memorable melodies and genuinely heartfelt artistry. In its own way, that actually makes such a choice most difficult unless one takes the path of hasty selection and dives right into whatever treasure awaits. "Wake Up (Next to You)" is nothing short of a warm, rich standout from a long career punctuated by precise expressions of emotion that run the gamut of guitar rock possibility. Parker has been known lyrically to focus on controversial subjects (the powerful "You Can't Be Too Strong"), but in this case the singer-songwriter beautifully targets domestic bliss with an ease and appreciative joy that is plenty infectious. Parker simply doesn't bother to record unworthy songs, and his soulful vocals deserve a lot more credit than simply being compared to deservedly praised fellow pub rock/new wave contemporaries Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. If you're unfamiliar with this tune, that feeling won't last long upon initial listen, and if you're well acquainted with Parker's brilliance a knowing smile will most certainly come across your face as you read and savor. And believe me, that second verb refers exclusively to Parker's role in this piece; I grasp the situation here.
- Sample or download "Wake Up (Next to You)" here.
- Compare prices on Graham Parker CDs here
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Rhino/Elektra