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Taken from Goldmine Magazine (Oct 14, 2023)

Graham Parker and his band The Goldtops, back with a new 2023 album - a full review

'70s British rocker, Graham Parker, is back with his band The Goldtops, and a sophomore album release that is a welcomed addition to his historical recording catalog.

by TONE Scott

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Graham Parker and Last Chance To Learn The Twist PhotoCollage

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One of the most underrated power pop rockers of all time, is back with a sophomore album from his current band, Graham Parker & the Goldtops. Parker was the 'under-the-radar' pre-new wave, Brit rock star who with his band, The Rumour (Graham Parker & The Rumour), conceived and recorded some of the best and earliest power pop sounds that more than likely influenced other same-genre acts like, The Knack, The Romantics, Tommy Tutone, The Plimsouls and the like. The band's debut studio album, Howling Wind (1976), entered the scene and the genre around the same time as like bands such as, The Cars, Blondie and The Greg Kihn Band, just to name a notable few. He (the band) would go on to release three addition full-length studio efforts between their debut, and the end of the '70s.

As good as their debut release had been acclaimed, the sophomore release, Heat Treatment (1976, Vertigo), and their tertiary release, Stick To Me (1977, Vertigo) would go on to exemplify musical growth and professional maturity in the realms of musicianship, writing and production. But it was the band's fourth studio effort, Squeezing Out Sparks (1979, Vertigo), which solidified the band as a bona fide power pop powerhouse. This fourth studio album would become the marker for the band, perpetually over the decades, as the one that put them on the map, so to speak. It wielded a handful of fantastic productions such as "Discovering Japan", "Local Girls", "You Can't Be Too Strong", and "Saturday Night is Dead". The album would end up garnering a position with Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, earning the 334th spot, and would more than likely end up at an even higher position when Goldmine presents our version of this 'Greatest of' list.

Graham Parker in 1979. courtesy of promotional
1979's Squeezing Out Sparks (left). Parker performing live at the New York Palladium, 1979, courtesy of promotional photo (right).

1979's Squeezing Out Sparks (left). Parker performing live at the New York Palladium, 1979, courtesy of promotional photo (right).

Parker-as many other 'legacy' recording acts have done-has reformulated himself well into the new millennium, and re-identified himself with a new band, The Goldtops (billed as Graham Parker & the Goldtops), who are now two full-length albums deep into their tenure. In 2021, Parker and the band would release their debut effort, Five Old Souls (Live In Southampton With the Rumour Brass), which included the new Goldtops line up, as well as horn section members from the original Rumour band. It was received by fans and critics with favorable but not overtly outstanding acclaim. But it was a live recording and we all know that live recording's can be an acquired taste. However, 2023 has been a breakthrough year for Parker and his new ensemble. In late summer, Graham Parker & the Goldtops released their sophomore full-length release (also their first studio effort), Last Chance To Learn The Twist, of which there has been quite a bit of hype and conversation about the album. In September of 2023, just one month ago, my colleague, Goldmine Contributing Editor, Warren Kurtz, was fortunate to sit down with Graham Parker, in an interview titled, Graham Parker on New album and flip side accompanied by Bruce Springsteen, where they both discussed their memories of Parker's earlier career, all leading up to a discussion about this brand new album, with all new material.

Graham Parker & the Goldtops - Last Chance To Learn The Twist - vinyl record & compact disc (2023, Big Stir Records)

Last Chance To Learn The Twist photocollage

Last Chance To Learn The Twist, is an album that will immediately resonate with Parker fans as a collection of music that clearly shows a great level of maturity and 'self comfort' within the artist. This is not Billy Idol still trying to 'Rebel Yell' in his late 60's (though I do love that Billy Idol still does it). On the contrary, this is a once adolescent electrifying power pop artist, who, in his mature years, still exemplifies the true spirit of Rock 'n' Roll, and hence still remains an electrifying songwriter, producer and performer, yet with a self-respect for, and a reflection of, his level of maturity ... if that makes sense. In fact, I feel very comfortable saying that Graham Parker has become an extremely self-reflective, in-depth and well thought out songwriter, just as good (or maybe better) than he ever was. In layman's terms, this is not Squeezing Out Sparks, and I truly don't believe that Parker even desired to go in 'that' direction, nor did he want to liken this recoding to that iconic record. No, but instead, I truly believe that Parker retains the musical spirit that he's always portrayed, but has honed it in, and recreated it to fit his 'earned years' on this earth, which reflects on this album with a more mature mind and musical ideology. It's very similar to the way the international music community views and respects, for example, Elvis Costello. While Costello, like Parker, entered the scene as a poster-child for great rockers with punker mentalities, Costello has respectfully maintained his lush career by recognizing his maturity, not only in himself, but in his audience, and this, as well, is Graham Parker.

Photo credit: Dion Ogust
Photo credit: Dion Ogust

As I move to highlight some of my top choices of songs from this great production, I would like to state first and foremost, if it wasn't for every song's place on this album, I would not feel the same about it, as each song earns its place and rightfully so, and makes Last Chance To Learn The Twist a very well balanced machine. "Grand Scheme of Things" is a really good example of how the entire album feels. Occurring near the beginning of the track-listing, it generates the 'core value' of the album in the most general sense. It cries a bit of circa '70s Parker, and screams the maturity of Parker in 2023, with a great vocal performance to boot. Next up comes "Sun Valley," which is by far my absolute go-to track out of the entire song sequence. Having been born in the world famous San Fernando Valley part of Los Angeles, California, and having grown up in the greater Los Angeles area, I feel like I can discern what the premise of this song is conveying. Now, whether Parker is talking about his own residing in Sun Valley, CA (an incorporated area of the San Fernando Valley in metro Los Angeles), or he's talking about a fictional geographical location for the sake of artistic expression, it makes no matter and no difference, because in my opinion, this is the most dynamic song on the album. When I play the album, I play this cut back to back quite a few times in a row. The heavily acoustic-based "We Did Nothing," is more than likely the best example of Graham Parker's personal and musical maturity, out of all the offering's on the album's sequence. It is a beautiful modern folk mid-tempo ballad that invokes the reality of not being smart enough to recognize when someone who loves you is giving you signal's that you're hurting them ... but you ignore, and you do 'nothing'. It's really an extremely prolific song, and really very sad ... but aren't all good songs about heartbreak? Lastly, "Since You Left Me Baby" is a great-and I'll say it again, "mature"-boogie woogie, rock 'n roller/bar rock track, that really does its job to balance out the track-listing and bring the album to a pleasurable close.

To be honest with myself, and my readers, and as well, Graham, and Big Stir Records, I am very surprised at the out come of this album. Not that I would have ever thought that Graham Parker would, in any way, shape or form, put out an album that would 'turn up frowns' on the faces of his fans, but, it's more that I wasn't expecting this well 'thought-out' of a body of work. I have been a fan of Parker's work since childhood, and I realized that, with the release of Last Chance to Learn The Twist, that I am a fan of Parker (and his current band, The Goldtops), more than ever. To top it off, what a great sounding vinyl record and compact disc album (as I've listened to both) from Big Stir Records. Highly recommended.

Contact TONE Scott at GoldmineMagazine@GoldmineMag.com. Please put Adventures of a Music Collector (Graham Parker & the Goldtops) in the subject line.

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