Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio [extended]

  • Raydio [Arista, 1978] A-
  • Rock On [Arista, 1979] B+
  • Two Places at the Same Time [Arista, 1980] C+
  • A Woman Needs Love [Arista, 1981] B+
  • The Other Woman [Arista, 1982] A-
  • Greatest Hits [Arista, 1982] A-
  • Woman Out of Control [Arista, 1983] B
  • Chartbusters [Arista, 1984] B-
  • Sex and the Single Man [Arista, 1985] B-
  • After Dark [Geffen, 1987] C+
  • I Love You Like You Are [MCA, 1991] Neither
  • I'm Free! [RP, 2006] Dud

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Raydio: Raydio [Arista, 1978]
In a depressing time for readymades, here at last is a group--led by a session ace, no less--that seems delighted enough with the tricks it's stolen to put them together with some flair. This trails off into filler on side two, but I like five of its eight songs more than the smash hit "Jack and Jill." Black pop music like they've almost stopped making. A-

Raydio: Rock On [Arista, 1979]
Ray Parker's idea is to synthesize the old black-music tradition of the male vocal group with the new one of the self-contained funk band, and here he proves that he has what it takes as a composer to keep the idea going. None of these songs stands out like "Is This a Love Thing" and "Me" did on the debut, but every one is danceable/listenable fun. B+

Two Places at the Same Time [Arista, 1980]
Leading off with one polite Chic rip and closing out with another, this well-named piece of product is the kind of hither-and-yon effort that signals commercial alarm. Sometimes fawningly pop, othertimes hyperbolically party-hearty, it scores in neither mode. And with this guy, scoring is all. C+

A Woman Needs Love [Arista, 1981]
Parker's mild-mannered description of what happens to those stingy with, er, respect--"You might come home early and get your feelings hurt"--typifies his understated autofunk. Playing guitar, synthesizer, piano, and drums as well as his home bass, which doesn't sound like a lead instrument either, he serves up eight tunes that bump and/or swoon into ear and/or ass with undeniable and virtually unrecallable effectiveness. I like every one, really. But don't ask me which is which--or why it matters. B+

Ray Parker Jr.: The Other Woman [Arista, 1982]
Blessed with a one-track mind in a twenty-four-track world, he provides all the basic vocal and instrumental parts on an unannounced concept album about "romance," i.e., sex with all the fixings. Sometimes he's merely raunchy--"The Other Woman" and "Streetlove" are male and female versions of sex-for-its-own-sweet-obsessive-sake, and in "Let's Get Off" they come together. But at other times he gets serious, which is to say raunchy and romantic, upping the ante with leave-him-for-me speeches and patient propositions ("anyplace you like" refers to body parts, not apartments). Even when he proposes marriage it's only because the lady's stuff is so good he wants his name on it. Couldn't say how many positions he knows--in "It's Our Own Affair," he swears his partner to secrecy. But I'm sure he's got them all written down for the follow-up. A-

Ray Parker Jr.: Greatest Hits [Arista, 1982]
Parker is that ever rarer prize, an inspired journeyman. His music is eloquently unobtrusive, and while he doesn't talk his songs, he has no need for vocal pyrotechnics he couldn't muster--his stylishly textured conversational timbre, halfway between a murmur and a purr when he's turning it on, is a cunning interpretive device. In a subgenre whose practitioners hone their sexual personas as sharp as Cole Porter rhyme schemes, he can't be said to have come up with something new--the secure, sincere superstud is a role Teddy Pendergrass exploited less cleverly for years. So this collection is just the thing for those benighted who can't believe they need more than one piece of long-playing ass-man jive. Well, actually they don't--necessity has nothing to do with it. A-

Ray Parker Jr.: Woman Out of Control [Arista, 1983]
"I Still Can't Get Over Loving You," his sweetest, sexiest hit ballad ever, rips Brit synth-pop as shamelessly as "The Other Woman" ripped the Stones, but his grip becomes less definitive on the very next tune, which barely loosens the hem of Prince's garment. And side two holds on strictly to Ray's tried and true. B

Ray Parker Jr.: Chartbusters [Arista, 1984]
Greatest Hits is definitive, "Ghostbusters" a contemporary classic available in seven- and twelve-inch formats, and this a redundancy from an artist whose contract is coming up. B-

Ray Parker Jr.: Sex and the Single Man [Arista, 1985]
Maybe Ray is getting jaded--pussy comes so easy now that he no longer bothers to hone his come-on. Whether he's scoring on sensitivity (oh really, "Men Have Feelings Too"?) or studsmanship (though I do enjoy the bone and puddy-tat lines in "I'm a Dog"), he's putting out just enough to get her into the car. The sole exception is "I'm in Love," in which a workaholic falls for "an interesting girl" who doesn't have a job. Workaholic--now that sounds like the real Ray to me. B-

Ray Parker Jr.: After Dark [Geffen, 1987]
No no no, Ray--"Let you play with my tool after dark" isn't really a double entendre. It's a little, you know, obvious. And forget Alexander O'Neal--he can sing. That's why he doesn't need double entendres. C+

Ray Parker Jr.: I Love You Like You Are [MCA, 1991] Neither

Ray Parker Jr.: I'm Free! [RP, 2006] Dud