Howlin' Wind

Graham Parker

Polygram Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Scott Floman

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/17/1997

Long touted by rock critics and ignored by the record buying public, Graham Parker was a key figure in the mid to late 70's rock scene. Howlin' Wind, Parker's debut, bristled with a manic energy and personal anger that predated the punk movement that soon followed.

Like most punk bands, Parker sounds as if he needs rock n' roll, declaring "I feel like I've been a living to die, but when that rhythm plays I don't know how to cry." He boasts a far more sophisticated musical attack than those (generally) stylistically limited bands, however, owing more to the r & b of prime Van Morrison and 50's rock n' roll than The Stooges or Velvet Underground. His heavy Cockney accent also paved the way for bands such as The Sex Pistols to rail about societies ills in a defiantly British manner.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another obvious influence on Parker is Bob Dylan; both share a knack for clever wordplay (example: "I've got a lady doctor, she kills the pain for free, oh there ain't nothing wrong with me.") and seek catharsis through song. Fortunately, Parker is more lyrically straightforward than Dylan, though he unfortunately shares with Dylan a tendency to become lyrically repetitive, especially come chorus time.

Although Parker isn't a spectacular singer, his voice more than capably coveys his thoughts with a knowing intensity. His backup band, The Rumour (Brinsley Schwartz, Bob Andrews, Martin Belmont, Stephen Goulding, Andrew Bodnar), isspectacular, providing perfect atmospherics on the mellower numbers while lashing out along with Graham on the up tempo rockers. Especially noteworthy is the swinging rhythm section anchored by Bodnar's melodic bass work and the alternately swirling keyboards and sprightly piano, while the horns are inventively arranged and performed, creating a full-bodied sound.

Howlin' Wind is an album that repays repeated listens and hasn't dated one iota, unlike many 70's artifacts. It is a heartfelt triumph by a brash young man with the talent (and the band) to fulfill his lofty ambition. Although it falls slightly short of being a great album since it boasts consistently good rather than great songs, personal favorites being "Silly Thing," "Between You And Me," "Howling Wind," and "Don't Ask Me Questions," Howlin' Wind confidently announced the emergence of a fully mature artistic force, and I highly recommend it.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Scott Floman and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polygram Records, and is used for informational purposes only.