Graham Parker & The GoldTops – Last Chance To Learn The Twist (Big Stir)

The title of this new Graham Parker album is playful, yet somewhat ominous, which describes its 13 songs rather perfectly.

Graham Parker has one of those voices. It cuts through the BS like a knife, it did back in 1976 when he and The Rumour released their first album, Howlin’ Wind, and it still does 46 years later.

These days Parker is howling with a band called The Goldtops that features original Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont along with players such as Simon Edwards (bass), Geraint Watkins (keyboards)  and drummer Jim Russell.

At age 72, Parker’s voice has lost none of its power or its trademark cynicism…his is a sneer that rings loud and true.

This new album (Parker’s first in 5 years) begins, appropriately enough, with The Music Of The Devil. An organ swell kicks the track off and reggae beat slips in as Parker snarls, “Now time on this planet is limited enough, miserable for many, brutal and rough”. Same old Parker…and that is a good thing.

Grand Scheme Of Things follows, a soulful ballad that reminds me of Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me. Granted, Parker is no Sam Cooke, but he gets the job done with passion and intensity.

We get a beauty of a guitar solo from Belmont on Sun Valley as the horn section swells and a big chorus takes it home.

I’m liking Pablo’s Hippos, a dark ode to drug lord Pablo Escobar and his private zoo. Is that a “Stranded In The Jungle” beat I detect? Great Googly Moogly!

Another highlight is We Did Nothing  where Graham proves he still has a way with words…”The tone of your sky was a gunmetal grey” as he melts “the iceberg of indifference’ with his passion and fury.

I could go on…Last Stretch Of The Road stares death in the eye while album closer Since Your Left Me Baby ramps up a New Orleans vibe to send us dancing to our own end.

I’ve been listening to Graham Parker for over 40 years and I can honestly say he’s never made a bad record. My personal faves are The Mona Lisa’s Sister, Squeezing Out Sparks and Heat Treatment. Given a bit more time, I’m guessing Last Dance To Learn The Twist will be added to that list.

Marty Duda

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