Friday, July 18, 2008

Before Ray Was A Ghostbuster He Worked In Raydio

Before Ray Parker Jr. became a ‘Ghostbuster’ or fooled around with ‘The Other Woman', he was in a little band called Raydio, who commanded a great deal of airtime on the radio back in the late 70s. And long before Raydio, Ray Parker Jr. had established himself as a musician/songwriter of rare distinction.

Detroit born Parker was a session guitarist in high demand whilst still in his teens. He was on the roster at Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax Records, playing with the likes of Freda Payne and Honey Cone in the early 70s. After touring with the Spinners for a time, Parker was hand picked by Stevie Wonder to tour with him in 1972 and played on Wonder’s 1972 album ‘Talking Book’ and the acclaimed ‘Innervisions’ (1973). The talented guitarist then moved to L.A. and was soon playing with Barry White. He was also honing his craft as a songwriter and co-wrote tracks for Rufus and Chaka Khan, along with the 1976 Barry White hit ‘You See The Trouble With Me’.

It was time now for Ray Parker Jr. to strike out on his own as a recording artist. Initially he was unsure of his own singing ability, so recruited the line-up of musicians that would be dubbed Raydio. The line-up included vocalist Arnell Carmichael, bassist/vocalist Jerry Knight, guitarist Charles Fearing, keyboardist Larry Tolbert and drummer Darren Carmichael. The band was essentially put together as a touring unit, as Parker himself handled most of the instrument playing on Raydio’s recordings.

Raydio’s eponymous debut album was released in early 1978, and was preceded by the single ‘Jack And Jill’. Jerry Knight sang the lead vocal on ‘Jack And Jill’ which reached #8 in the U.S., #4 in Australia and #11 in the U.K. ‘Is This A Love Thing’ proved a strong follow up hit in the U.K. (#27) and the album went gold. Raydio then released their second album ‘Rock On’ (US#4) in mid ‘79, featuring the superlative ‘You Can’t Change That’. The song featured Arnell Carmichael and Ray Parker Jr. trading lead vocals, and surged to #9 in the U.S. and #6 in Australia.

Always the man behind the band, Ray Parker Jr. moved his name out front of Raydio in 1980, scoring another US#30 hit with ‘Two Places At The Same Time’ from the album US top 30 album of the same name. Parker would leave the Raydio turned on for one final album, with 1981’s ‘A Woman Needs Love’ peaking at #13, the title track ‘A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)’ (US#4, OZ#47) and its follow up ‘That Olf Song’ (US#21) proving fitting swansongs for the Raydio brand (US#4, OZ#47).

Ray Parker Jr. then decided it was time to go it alone, releasing his debut solo album ‘The Other Woman’ (US#11, OZ#27) in 1982. The album’s title track proved the perfect vehicle for Parker to commence the next chapter in his career, and was one of my fav tracks of '82. ‘The Other Woman’ became his first #1 hit in Australia in August ‘82, having already reached #4 in the U.S., with the follow up ‘Let Me Go’ reaching US#35. The single ‘Bad Boy’ (US#35, OZ#37) filled in the gap between albums in 1983, before Parker’s next album ‘Woman Out Of Control’ was released in late ‘83, featuring the hit ‘I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You’ (US#12).

1984 saw Ray Parker Jr. score the biggest hit of his career. The producers of the film ‘Ghostbusters’ were looking for a title song to accompany the Ivan Reitman comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It took Parker two days to write and record ‘Ghostbusters’, the song spending three weeks at #1 in the U.S., peaking at #2 in both Australia and the U.K. Ivan Reitman also directed the promo vid which featured a stack of cameos as well as the films stars. It’s well known of course that Parker was accused of plagiarising the melody of ‘I Want A New Drug’ by Huey Lewis & The News for ‘Ghostbusters’. The case was settled out of court, but to be honest I don’t think that detracts from ‘Ghostbusters’ standing as one of the classic hits of the decade.

A compilation album ‘Chartbusters’ was released in 1984 to cash in on the whole ‘Ghostbusters’ fever thing. The single ‘Jamie’ was lifted from it and peaked at a respectable #14 in the U.S. in late ‘84. Throughout this period Ray Parker Jr. didn’t stray too far from the solid pop/R&B formula that had worked so well for him to that point. 1985’s ‘Sex And The Single Man’ featured more of the same but yielded only one minor hit in ‘Girls Are More Fun’ (US#34, UK#46).

In 1987 Parker moved over to the Geffen label and released the album ‘After Dark’ (US# ,UK#40), featuring the UK#13 hit ‘I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone’. The more soul infused album also featured the minor hit ‘Over You’ (UK#65). Ray Parker Jr’s biggest hits were behind him by the close of the 80s, and he featured only once more inside Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, this time featuring on the 1990 Glenn Medeiros hit ‘All I’m Missing Is You’ (US#32).

Of the other Raydio alumni, Jerry Knight went on to form one half of the duo Ollie & Jerry who scored a 1984 hit with ‘Breakin’…There’s No Stopping Us’.

After taking a 15 year long sabbatical to attend to family matters, Ray Parker Jr. released the CD ‘I’m Free’ in 2006, featuring the song ‘Mismaloya Beach’. Ray is still going strong in 2008 touring as a solo act and with his group The Crusaders.

Thanks to YouTube user gnowangerup for uploading the video clip to the ultra hip Ray Parker Jr. hit 'The Other Woman'

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