Graham Parker : Fool's Gold
Heat Treatment may have been too good for Graham Parker's career. Released the same year as his debut, Howlin' Wind, the album split the votes by critics in the prestigious Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics poll, paving the way for Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life to finish at the top.
Heat Treatment finished in second with 234 points, 58 points behind Stevie Wonder's album. But note that Howlin' Wind came in fourth with 215 points. Combined, Graham Parker and the Rumour would have won by a large margin.
The fact that Parker wasn't a huge success baffled both critics and record execs. In his memoir, The Soundtrack of My Life, Clive Davis writes " Who can explain why Graham Parker's one-two punch of Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment didn't do for him what My Aim is True and This Year's Model did for Elvis Costello?
Some of the blame may fall on Parker's prickly personality. He told an interviewer Heat Treatment might be overrated:
You know, Heat Treatment is not my favorite album. I think there's some lame material on there. Mona Lisa's Sister is a far more powerful and stronger record I think. But at the time, Heat Treatment was like an amazing thing that in 1976 somebody was making music like that. And Squeezing Out Sparks transcends the medium. I don't think there's anything as good as that by anybody anywhere. And I don't even take credit for it. I don't know what happened. I blacked out.
Perhaps Heat Treatment is made up of Howlin' Wind rejects, and perhaps Parker feels his voice isn't up to the task, but it's an excellent , often rowdy collection of pub rock tunes as well as songs Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart would have been proud to pen. In fact Stewart later covered "Hotel Chambermaid".
My deep cut choice is "Fool's Gold", sung with passion and honesty. Looking back, I wonder if Chairman Parker was actually too smart for his own good.