A Grey Area Musically, Perhaps, But a Lot of Grey Matter
guitarsolo | Charleston, SC | 08/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first post-Rumour effort, and significantly the only album in the 1980s without Brinsley Schwarz on lead guitar. This album was recorded with slick American studio musicians which takes away some of its soul. Brinsley Schwarz' guitar work on many GP efforts is nothing short of phenomenal: great solos, great vamps, but overall a wonderful interplay with the vocals that gives the songs texture. The danger of recording an album with a studio guitarist is that if he should lay down a hot lead that has his signature style, anyone else who plays that song onstage will fall short. Perhaps with this in mind, there are no real guitar solos on this album. "Another Grey Area" itself would benefit from a real ripping lead; "Big Fat Zero" kind of stops abruptly; "Hit The Spot" screams for Brinsley. From a pure songwriting standpoint, there is a wealth of great material here, but developed in the confines of an over-priced studio with overpriced musicians and an overly slick producer, some of the typical GP charm is absent. Its predecessor, The Up Escalator, had more than its share of finesse. For all the wit behind Another Grey Area the delivery sounds just a bit too sterile for our beloved pub rocker. Then again, worlds better than anything else from that era."
The Many Shades of Another Grey Area
Peter Walenta | Long Island, New York USA | 06/12/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Many unkind words have been written about this 1982 record that even Graham Parker himself apparently acknowledges as right down there among his least favorite efforts. Yet, twenty-five years after it's March 1982 release, American Beat Records has done a faithful job of reissuing this much maligned Parker album at a bargain price, which, contrary to the pundits and Parker, does contain some pretty good pub rock music. Most loyal Parker fans will have a copy of this album, however, for folks who've recently discovered Heat Treatment, Howlin' Wind and Squeezing Out Sparks, and are wondering what in the Parker catalog to listen to next, Another Grey Area is a good to very good early Parker record. Parker's writing is sharp and focused on the first track "Temporary Beauty", a soulful though good natured jab at all of us, Parker included, who need a brief reprieve to just cut loose and have a good time even though the consequence, "just might be love in vain". Despite the absence of his original backing band, The Rumour, the studio musicians assembled for this record by producer Jack Douglas could, when inspired, rock out confidantly as they do on "Big Fat Zero". Parker infused his best records with a few reggae style songs and on Another Grey Area, he delivers "No More Excuses" and "Thankless Task" with reggae beats to good effect. Parker's clever wordplay that occasionally gave Elvis Costello a run for his money is in evidence on tracks like "Can't Waste a Minute" and "You Hit the Spot" in which our love smitten hero spits out that he'd rather "burn than singe". Ironically, the worst song is sequenced right before the best song on the record. On one hand, "It's All Worth Nothing Alone" shows both Parker and band running out of ideas and coasting on fumes. On the other hand, the next track "Crying for Attention", is a great unrequited love song where Parker is "screaming to be heard, everybody's listening but you." He asks his girl in a brutal yet candid query, "how do I get you to notice, do I have to break and shatter?" A few songs are marred by cryptic lyrics alluding to some unexplained claustrophobic-like fear, but with Parker even the enigmas are interesting listens. While not in the same league as Parker's greatest albums, Another Grey Area, shows Parker in top form channeling his love and career frustrations into a collection of eleven very good (and a few classic) post-pub rock tunes. The 2007 re-issue also includes a live version of "Mercury Poisoning"."
I'd rather burn than singe
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 03/26/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"After the confounding lack of success afforded Graham Parker's The Up Escalator, Parker and The Rumour parted ways, and Parker holed up with producer Jack Douglas to start on the follow-up. "Another Grey Area" is a cleaner album than its predecessor, but also a noticeably more subdued one. The missing Rumour mates deprived the music of its spark, and Douglas' studio cats have a tough time matching the energy of Parker's best work.
Parker did, however, come to the proceedings with a sturdy batch of songs. They show that he was beginning his arc into almost folky pub music, and was certainly intrigued by Bruce Springsteen (who he sang with on "Escalator's" "Endless Night"). The lead single, "Temporary Beauty," is one of Parker's personal bests and smolders with a Dylan-esque vocal atop one of his better love-lyrics. Yet there is a note of melancholy under it all, as Parker professes that it "Might be a love in vain."
There are a couple other high points, including the oddly danceable "You Hit The Spot" and the grand "(I'm not) Crying for Attention" ("I'm shouting to be heard"). The very in-characther line in "Spot" could be a single lyric description of Parker's music:
"You hit the spot, everybody makes me cringe. It's worth a shot I'd rather burn than singe."
When the rockers come, however, that is when The Rumour are needed most. "Big Fat Zero" sounds more obligatory than inspired, and the title track could have used their punch. Overall, a good album from a man that has a great one (Squeezing out Sparks) under his belt."
A very underrated gem
Jeff Monroe | Syracuse, NY USA | 10/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think this album has been unfairly maligned both by fans and the artist himself over the years. Sure, there are a few stabs at pop here, and the back up band seems a bit "canned" (pun intended) at times, but overall the songwriting is excellent and the performances are top-notch. "Big Fat Zero", "Another Grey Area" and "You Hit The Spot" are classic GP, and "Temporary Beauty", "Crying For Attention", and "Fear Not" are loaded with hooks. I wouldn't say this is Graham's best album, or even that someone who is new to GP should buy this one first, but its definately worth buying and is better than just about anything that was released by other artists at the time......"