Picks and Pans Review: After Dark
Ray Parker Jr.
With the exception of the three ballads and the instrumental on this album, nearly every song is markedly influenced by the oeuvre of Marvin Gaye. Having cultivated the image of the soulful ladies' man throughout his whole career, Parker would seem to fit into Gaye's old domain. In fact most of the time he comes across as a plastic-wrapped, sanitized version of Gaye. The most obvious resemblance comes on the slinky single I Don't Think That Man Should Sleep Alone. What with its coy message, its squeeze-me-baby musical mood and the little growls that punctuate Parker's pleas for company, this could be Sexual Healing remade for the timid of heart. In general, Parker's singing on the record is more restrained and bleached-out than in the past. That makes his collaboration with Natalie Cole on the Burt Bacharach-Carole Bayer Sager ballad Over You more of a walkover than a duet. With no apparent effort, Cole's voice conveys infinitely more feeling when she dominates the song; it's because of vocal might, not ladies first, Parker does include some nice production touches, like the bell that clangs throughout Lovin' You, providing the feel of a message sent in an old telegraph office. As always, Parker's music is graceful and attractive. As always, it's hard not to like. As always, it lacks the spark of passion, making it hard to love. (Geffen)
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