Being a favorite of the critics is all well and good. But it's not always the exalted perch so often perceived. Though record labels liked to sign 'prestige acts', they lost their nerve once the sales numbers failed to match the reviews. So they rushed out a compilation album in a reckless attempt to turn a profit before dumping the act.
A performer or band who's earned great reviews will usually get picked up. But moving from label to label undercuts efforts to build momentum.
That description fits Graham Parker & The Rumour. His mid-70's class-conscious debut album "Howlin' Wind" and sophomore set "Heat Treatment" were hits with the critics; not so much with the public. The two albums put Parker at the forefront of the U.K.'s New Wave movement that would eventually be led by the likes of Elvis Costello, Paul Weller and Joe Jackson.
While albums and singles released by Parker & The Rumour charted, they often peaked in the lower reaches. Even an attempt to break into the American market with '77's "Stick To Me" came up short (U.S. #125) though the album broke the Top 20 on the U.K. Albums Chart (#19).
Having moved from the Mercury label to Arista and recording with producer Jack Nitzsche, Parker & The Rumour issued "Squeezing Out Sparks."
The '80 album was notable for the absence of the Rumour Horns. It was later considered to be a creative high water mark for the group (it was #335 on an '87 List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time).
That same year, "The Up Escalator," produced by Jimmy Iovine, was Parker's highest-charting album in the U.K. (#11/#40 U.S.). The album's front cover only credited Parker, not "Graham Parker & The Rumour. The Rumour were soon no longer part of the equation. However, individual members rejoined Parker at various points.
Parker also published an illustrated science fiction novella, The Great Trouser Mystery.
'85's "Steady Nerves," credited to Graham Parker and The Shot (Parker's second post-Rumour set), included his only U.S. Top 40 hit (#39), the romantic ballad "Wake Up (Next to You)."
Parker spent the late '80s and much of the '90s recording for Atlantic (who failed to release anything), RCA (parted company) and Capitol (dropped) without much commercial success though Rolling Stone ranked '88's "The Mona Lisa's Sister" at #97 on its list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s.
Twenty years after The Great Trouser Mystery, Parker published Carp Fishing on Valium, a set of short stories, His novel, The Other Life of Brian, appeared in '03.
The re-release of Rumour-era recordings in the early part of the century led to renewed interest but it wasn't until '12 that Parker & The Rumour released "Three Chords Good." Parker and Rumour even played themselves in the Judd Apatow film This Is 40.
That was followed in '15 by the album, "Mystery Glue."
Graham Parker & The Rumour
1976 Howlin' Wind
1976 Heat Treatment
1977 The Pink Parker EP
1977 Stick To Me
1979 Squeezing Out Sparks
1980 The Up Escalator
2012 Three Chords Good
2015 Mystery Glue
Graham Parker & The Shot
1985 Steady Nerves
1982 Another Grey Area
1983 The Real Macaw
1988 The Mona Lisa's Sister
1989 Human Soul
1991 Struck By Lightning
1992 Burning Questions
1994 Graham Parker's Christmas Cracker EP
1995 12 Haunted Episodes
1996 Acid Bubblegum
1999 Loose Monkeys (outtakes)
2001 That's When You Know ('76 demos + Live At Marble Arch)
2001 Deepcut To Nowhere
2004 Your Country (featuring an appearance by Lucinda Williams)
2005 Songs Of No Consequence (with The Figgs)
2007 Don't Tell Columbus
2010 Imaginary Television