It’s a touch disrespectful that The Rumour don’t warrant a front credit on this bumper box anthologising their guvnor’s lengthy career. Of the total 124 tracks, they’re absent from just 19, chosen to represent the 15 albums (ie the lion’s share of his canon) Parker made without his trusty cohorts, post-split and pre-reunion.
That reunion, in 2011, reminded us just how much the band brings to Parker’s party. The following year’s Three Chords Good was distinguished by a firm but flexible discipline, and a sense of danger often lacking even from Parker’s most lauded solo output (Mona Lisa’s Sister, Struck By Lightning).
A template of sorts was set by Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment, released within three months of each other in ’76; a vital hybrid of pub-rock rhythms, Van Morrison soul and feisty lyrics as ragingly articulate as those of Parker’s most oft-referenced contemporary, Elvis Costello. The high-water mark was 1979’s Squeezing Out Sparks, born out by 10 of the album’s songs (in various forms) accounting for 21 tracks here.
It may seem churlish to gripe when presented with such riches, but repetition is an issue. Who does it really serve to fill two of the six CDs with one show from Parker’s 2015 UK tour, and then include almost the entire same set from a gig a few days earlier on the DVD? A wiser selection would have freed up more space for sans-Rumour tracks, to provide a more balanced overview of one of this country’s most accomplished but frequently under-appreciated singer-songwriters.