Get Struck by... Graham who?!??!
ewomack | MN USA | 10/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Graham Parker sits prominently amongst our generation's best songwriters. Always critically acclaimed, he consistently cranks out quality material handled with intelligence, dignity, and integrity. So of course mass sales have eluded him. Nonetheless he still carries on, like Bob Dylan's never-ending tour, after some thirty years in the business. Along the way some absolutely amazing gems have resulted from his seemingly endless output. 1991's "Struck By Lightning" is one of these.
At least one of the best songs ever written graces this album: "They Murdered the Clown" mixes heavy rhythms with Parker's mambo-snake venom lyrics. Some of his nastiest lines lie in wait in the second verse. The circus organ and pounding guitar and drums make an amazing combination that combines the extremely danceable with the extremely disturbing. No one could accuse Parker of sugar-coating reality. He tells it like it is, and on this song he hits home with even more than the usual umph. "They Murdered The Clown" justifies this album alone, but of course much more awaits. Parker's ode to lost youth, "The Kid With the Butterfly Net" contains some nice violin riffs and a longing akin to Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". The pleading "Wrapping Paper" could entice any partner to forgiveness: "Speak to me girl, speak to me darling; You're not a princess, I'm not Prince Charming". Many other of the album's songs will provide food for thought for years: "Children and Dogs", "Over The Border (To America)", "Weeping Statues", "When I Was King". Parker's trademark innovative songwriting and orchestration run throughout the entire album. The album's sound is unique; it's crisp and lively; it may be one of his best sounding albums.
For years "Struck By Lightning" languished in the category of "out-of-print". It looks like "Lemon Records" has brought it back. Parker's material, like his career, somehow survives major label indifference. Happily, most of it can still be obtained thanks to various independent labels. Parker shows no signs of slowing (he's probably now in his 50s); many consider his most recent material to be his best. If that is true, it can sit happily next to "Struck By Lightning"."
This Is What A Grown Man Writes About
Mike B. | 03/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After his celebrated "Angry Young Man" recordings, Graham Parker married, settled down, and had kids. This record reflects his new-found maturity. As he's fond of saying on stage (to great laughter from the audience, who have grown up themselves): "I'm not an angry young man anymore - it was too exhausting."
Though earlier albums had sensitive songs here and there, this one is chock full of them. His meditation about his daughter growing up is the most beautiful and moving song he's ever written ("The Kid With The Butterfly Net"). In "Wrapping Paper", he requests that his wife "pull your skin like wrapping paper around my heart."
But before you think he's completely wimped-out, he hits you with the best rock song he's ever written. That would be "A Brand New Book", which features the lines "The words come out/Not "Twist and Shout"/'Cause that's not what a grown man writes about."
I've been listening to this for years, and every time I hear these 3 songs my jaw drops. I sit and marvel at how powerful and perfect they are, and think all over again "what an amazing songwriter!" In fact, Parker's had that effect on me for a long time. To this day I discover a line or a quick turn of phrase on one of his many recordings that I'd not noticed before - and I'm struck with wonder once again.
This is my favorite album of his, but it's hard to say that it's his best. There's too many contenders for that title that I hold in equal high esteem. If someone were to ask me which ones are "essential", I'd recommend (from his "angry" phase): "Howlin' Wind", "Heat Treatment", "Stick To Me", and "Squeezing Out Sparks". From his on-going more "thoughtful" phase: "The Mona Lisa's Sister", "Struck By Lightning", "Deepcut To Nowhere", and "Don't Tell Columbus." These are his most consistently good albums, although I feel they're all worth checking out. The quality of his output is very rare. Most artists have some bad albums, but Parker does not. Of his immediate peer group, the only other artist I can think of that's sustained such a long winning streak is Elliott Murphy.
Like Lou Reed's wonderful "Growing Up In Public" CD, this was the record on which Parker fully "came of age", addressing adult subject matter with wit, grace, and hope. I'm pretty sure I'll always collect him, and will grow old listening to him.
P.S. - If you ever have a chance to see him perform "live" - don't miss it!"
Hudson River Valley acoustic domestic folk-rock bliss
J. Rosenberg | Portland, Oregon | 09/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Graham Parker's handful of masterpieces, along with his first two albums, Squeezing Out Sparks, and this album's true precursor, The Mona Lisa's Sister (Yes, the Human Soul album came in between these two, but it's kind of an aberration, with a glossy hit-desperate sound that's in contrast to the acoustic textures of the two great albums on either side of it).
As many times as I hear it, the romantic one-two punch of "Wrapping Paper" and "And It Shook Me" never fails to choke me up. And "The Kid with the Butterfly Net" is one of the most evocative songs about childhood I know. The album features contributions from other Upstate N.Y., Woodstock-area greats like Garth Hudson, John Sebastian and "Civil War" violinist Jay Ungar, whose infectious contribution to that last song is among the record's treasures.
Even if you're not sure whether you like GP or not, if you love singer-songwriter music, you will not be disappointed with this warm, heartfelt collection of songs."