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Classic of the Week

Graham Parker "Howlin' Wind" (1976), Mercury

June 17, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

At a time when the pop charts were cluttered with the incessant throb of disco and the toothless pap of the Starland Vocal Band, Graham Parker came blasting out of Britain's pubs with this scorching debut. Resurrecting an earthy, R&B-based style of rock, Parker simultaneously was looking ahead, channeling into his music much of the same anger that fueled the punk rock movement just beginning to erupt across the Atlantic. "Howlin' Wind" never really caught the public's attention; it wound up in that thankless class known as "critics' favorites." But now that raw, guitar-driven music is fashionable again, grunge fans might like to hear how muscular rock 'n' roll can be with a singer who isn't afraid to enunciate his lyrics. There's a wide range of textures here, from soul heat ("White Honey") to stripped-down resignation ("Between You and Me") to raving rockabilly ("Back to Schooldays," later covered by Dave Edmunds) to reggae-anchored existential pleading ("Don't Ask Me Questions"). In subsequent albums Parker would swing excessively vengeful or overly romantic, but on this outing (produced by Nick Lowe) the balance was as close to perfect as a mortal has a right to come.

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