Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Parker final part


Have just realised that I haven't really put in much about my own response to Junior Parker. Already possessing the Rounder CD with all the Sun sides, I recently opted to buy the Complete Blues collection (below) instead of the all-encompassing Fantastic Voyage CD, as this seemed to have most of the sides represented in the songbook.



I have now listened to it a few times and enjoyed it. Sound quality is okay, even though it comes from Snapper, a company linked to Charly Records. There isn't the clarity of the Sun recordings on the Rounder CD, though the source material for the latter would probably have been better anyway.

That sort of thing aside, I must confess that I'm not a blues expert and my only defence for writing anything here is that it's my blog. I know some of the early recordings of BB King and I've listened to Bobby Bland in his prime, but I don't have the range of knowledge which might inform my response to a doo wop record. And my response has probably already been coloured by the bits and pieces of information about Parker picked up and reproduced in recent posts.

But having got this far I may as well add my two penn'orth. You don't have to read it; if you're a blues expert it won't be interesting, and if you're not you probably won't have searched out this artist's name and arrived at this blog. Anyway, for my own benefit if no one else's, here's what I think. You don't have to click if you don't want to.

Some online critics have wondered why Parker wasn't a bigger name and didn't really cross over in the way that his peers did. I've only listened to odd tracks from his '60s output, but to judge from the '50s Duke recordings on this CD it's sort of understandable. I imagine that he would have been great live, but there is a sameiness about a lot of the tracks here: the band get into a groove and Parker's vocal rides on top, often recycling the same kind of ideas in his songs. But hey, that's okay: there's a simplicity and a directness about that, and in an intimate venue I can imagine it would blow your head off. You can tell that it's not going to go anywhere else or become anything different. And again, great: why should it? Listening in a crowded bar with a glass in your hand it wouldn't matter.

But I would suggest it doesn't have whatever the particular magic or gimmick it is that makes a crossover artist. There is one conscious attempt at rock'n'roll here, Barefoot Rock, which doesn't quite come off: it's a cross between Larry Williams and Fats Domino but you sense that Parker's heart isn't in it, or at least that his voice is congenitally unsuited to such shenanigans: he doesn't have Williams' rasp nor Domino's sense of ebullience.



Elsewhere there are further retreads of Mystery Train (Can't Understand) and Feelin' Good (I Wanna Ramble), which are perfectly fine, but ... oh, I don't know. I suppose the reason I'm writing about him in the first place is that when I first heard Feelin' Good and Fussin' and Fightin' Blues on a Charly compilation LP they sounded wonderful and I imagined that everything would be equally good. I fondly imagined that there would be one or more LPs of the Sun material which, once I'd set the needle on the groove, would lead to instant and lasting euphoria. But I suppose on those two sides I'd already sampled the essence of Parker, either boogying or in doleful mood, and the rest of his work provides variations on those themes. I never owned the Charly EP pictured top, but if you're on a tight budget perhaps that has all you really need. And again, there ain't nothing wrong with that - I mean nobody goes back to a record shop and complains of thematic overlap in the songs on a Big Joe Turner LP.

That said, I see that Parker later recorded a number of Percy Mayfield songs, which I'd be interested in hearing. So maybe this isn't quite finished. Or maybe it is. Either way, to close, an undoubtedly great side which sort of contradicts what I've said. It's Parker in a different setting, with horns:




Part Three
Part Two 
Part One

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