We gave it a B+
On Struck by Lightning, Graham Parker sets aside his innate bitterness and ponders the sunny side of life. Such mellowness has enfeebled many a singer-songwriter, but it suits Parker. Coming on the heels of 1989’s Human Soul, an unlistenably mean-spirited record, the kick-back-chill-out words and music of Lightning are a relief. Parker spins allegories about dashed romantic and career dreams in ”Ten Girls Ago” and the fiddle-driven ”The Kid With the Butterfly Net,” ponders the onset of a comfortable middle age in ”A Brand New Book,” and even allows himself to get all gushy and sweet on ”The Sun Is Gonna Shine Again” and ”Wrapping Paper.” (In that last song he sings, ”Pull your skin like wrapping paper ’round my heart,” as romantic a line as he’ll ever pen.) Working with a small combo that includes ex-Band keyboardist Garth Hudson and former Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, he’s fashioned an appropriately warm, hearth-like sound, heavy on the strummed guitars, organs, and folk roundelay melodies; it’s the sound of Parker’s early pub-rock, once the pub empties out for the night and the musicians unwind. Parker still takes swipes at obvious topics like American pop culture (”Now don’t make us out to be peons or fools/We’re into Zeppelin and Paula Abdul”), and his mildly misogynistic side creeps into ”She Wants So Many Things.” But this time his grumblings are free of the self-pity and sourness of his recent work. Even a twisted old scarecrow like Parker realizes that, once in a while, it helps to blow away the clouds and let a little sun pour through.