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  Ray Parker Jr.

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You Can't Change That

It is hard to believe now, but Ray Parker Jr. was once one of the r&b world's most prominent session men.  Born and raised in Detroit, Parker got his introduction to the music business early, backing up hometown favorites on the Invictus and Motown labels in the late 60s and early 70s.  By the middle of the decade, he had moved on to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Bohannon, and Barry White, earning a reputation as a very capable and dependable guitarist.  

Finally tiring of a backing musician's role, he put together Raydio in the late 1970s with Arnell Carmichael, Darren Carmichael, Larry Tolbert, Jerry Knight and Charles Fearing. Signing with Arista, their first release "Jack and Jill" was one of 1978's more pleasant singles, reminding some of Sly Stone's lyrical phrasing and mastery of pop and soul formats.  The song went gold, becoming the foundation of Raydio's success.

The hits kept coming over the next few years: "You Can't Change That," "For Those WHo Like to Groove," "Two Places At the Same Time," and "A Woman Needs Love," most of which had Parker exchanging lead vocals with Knight and Arnell Carmichael.  After "Woman" hit number one in 1981, Parker decided to be a full-fledged solo act. 

"The Other Woman" came close to hitting number one on the r&b and pop charts, but it unfortunately set the standard for Parker's solo career.   Instead of making soul records that happened to make the pop charts, Parker joined fellow former funky people Kool and the Gang in a quest to remove any trace of blackness from his work in a deliberate reach for pop success.

His approach reached its commercial zenith (and artistic nadir) with the theme to the 1984 flick Ghostbusters. Driven by the movie's immense popularity, the song rode all the way to the top spot on the pop charts, his dream fulfilled.  He kept recording until the early 90s, when labels realized nobody cared about him anymore.

Ray Parker Jr.'s Deepest Grooves

Raydio (Arista, 1978)

Rock On (Arista, 1979)

Two Places at the Same Time (Arista, 1980)

A Woman Needs Love (Arista, 1981)
At this point, the group is Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio, leaving little doubt that he was about to follow in his peer Lionel Richie's steps and bolt for solo stardom.

The Other Woman (Arista, 1982)
First solo album.  Has a couple of hits, but already you miss Raydio.

Greatest Hits (Arista, 1982)
In its original configuration, this was a wonderful thing: the highlights of the Raydio years plus his first couple of solo hits, stopping thankfully before that nauseous movie song.  Note that editions manufactured after 1984 take you through the indignities of "Jamie" and "Girls Are More Fun" in addition to "Ghostbusters."  

The Heritage Collection (Arista, 2000)
Essentially the original issue of Greatest Hits under a new title, this is as close to essential as a Ray Parker album is going to be.

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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