Friday, July 19, 2013

Graham Parker - The Real Macaw

After a number of years performing as Graham Parker and the Rumour, the British singer-songwriter went solo in the early 80’s. This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of The Real Macaw, his second solo studio album from 1983. While it failed to chart in the UK, it did reach number 59 on the US Billboard Hot 200.

Performing with Parker on the record were Mel Collins (saxophone), Kevin Jenkins (bass), Squeeze member Gilson Lavis (drums), Morris Pert (piano), the Rumour member Brinsley Schwarz (guitar), and George Small (keyboards).

Side one begins with “Just Like a Man”, an up-tempo analysis of a guy’s posturing and mistreatment of his lady.

“You Can’t Take Love for Granted” was released as the second single in the fall of 1983. It reminds us that love is something that requires constant input and effort; if you forget to give it proper care you will lose it. I like its soft salsa-like sway on the verses.

“Glass Jaw”, a song about the transformational power of love, was the B-side to the second single.

Things slow down a bit with “Passive Resistance” is a bit of social commentary on those that make their dissenting opinions known by doing nothing.

For “Sounds Like Chains”, Parker and the band get a little reggae in the rhythm. It is definitely my favorite track on this first half, closing out the side on a solid note.

Side two starts with the first single “Life Gets Better” which charted at number 94 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 35 in Australia. This song is about discovering the joys of maturity and settling down, something Parker was familiar with at the time.

“A Miracle a Minute” bounces along next, with a strong rocking guitar riff and slinky sax accents.

“Beyond a Joke” questions the status of a relationship that is slowly unraveling.

At the heart of “Last Couple on the Dance Floor” is the message that sometimes it does not matter what is going on in the world around you when you are in love.

The B-side to the first single was “Anniversary”, an intimate love song with a beautiful piano and sensual saxophone accompaniment.

“(Too Late) The Smart Bomb” closes things out with a funky mid-tempo dance tune.

Graham Parker is one of those artists that did not have as much commercial success here in the US and thus had only a small amount of radio airplay, As such, this review was my first full exposure to The Real Macaw, and I rather enjoyed listening to it. In a number of ways, Parker reminds me a bit of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. I definitely need to add more of his stuff to my music library in the future.

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