Review: “After Dark” by Ray Parker Jr (Vinyl, 1987)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1987 album After Dark by American RnB singer, and one-time Ghostbusters caller, Ray Parker Jr. Will you forever hold a torch for this album, or should you pray for a power cut? Read on…

Ray Parker Jr - After Dark (1987) album
Ray Parker Jr – After Dark (1987) album

The album opens with lead single I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone, which is a nice mid-tempo love lust song. This track really shows off Ray’s vocals, and at times it reminds me of the soulfulness of Alexander O’Neal. The female backing vocalists (which may include Karyn White in this track – she’s credited throughout) really help to add a great contrast alongside Ray’s building vocal layers. The song is sultry, and follows on from his concerns about single men getting sex (as heard in previous album Sex And The Single Man). It struck a chord with the UK, and gave him a #13 hit in the singles chart. It’s a really nice gentle start to the album.

Next up is Over You which is a duet with legendary soul singer Natalie Cole. Not only that, but the track is written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager (their first of two songs on this album), and so this type of music pedigree should result in something spectacular. Natalie’s vocals really shine here, and give a complimentary contrast to Ray’s. The track is somewhat of a nice sturdy plodder, but it’s clearly the lyrics/vocals, and the saxophone solo that are key points. Natalie grabs some more great vocals as the track comes to an end. Despite all this, when the track hit the UK charts as the album’s second single, it stalled at #65.

Lovin’ You is next, and we’re now treated to a more up-beat sound. It’s not long though before I’m able to make out what sounds very much like Madonna’s hit Holiday in the backing track – it’s not of course, but it can’t be far off. Ray’s vocals are soft here, and sometimes they get lost in his own backing vocals. The track sadly doesn’t really go anywhere.

That’s followed by You Shoulda Kept A Spare, a song about keeping an emergency partner in reserve in case your lover cheats on you. It’s a weird song, set over a track that’s attempting to be all sexy-like. The saxophone sections sound great but over all it’s a weird concept to put in a song. The track was released as a single in the UK, backed with later track I Love Your Daughter, but failed to chart.

The Past brings side one to a close. It’s a slow side-closing broken hearted ballad, and that allows Ray’s vocals to shine perfectly as the track gives this first half a nice ending.

You Make My Nature Dance opens side two, and yes, that ‘nature’ just has to be Ray Parker Jr’s penis with lyrics such as ‘I’m a loaded gun’, ‘got me ignited’, ‘about to blow my fuse’ and ‘It’s getting hard to keep control’. Lyrically it makes this song somewhat cringeworthy but not quite to a comedy level as it’s played straight in this song, but musically it is quite a nice upbeat song, and the backing vocalists work wonders with the highly sexualised lyrics. There’s a momentary musical riff that will lead your brain straight to his hit Ghostbusters, but then it’s gone.

Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager’s second offering, Perfect Lovers follows this. It’s a gentle wandering song that seems fairly effortless in its wanderings. Ray make’s light work of it, but over all, it doesn’t really build much and travels very little distance.

After Midnite follows this, and it is an instrumental. It seems odd that this full-length musical track – which is actually rather good – didn’t manage to have any lyrics applied to it. I wonder if this was always intended for this song. As a result, it sounds like the kind of music used in late night scenes in early Grand Theft Auto, or the radio stations you can use in Cities: Skylines game as you move around your metropolis.

By contrast, I Love Your Daughter is up-beat, bursting open with drum machines, synths, and a wave of warm backing vocals. The bass and wah-wah’s sit well here too. However, this song is somewhat sinister in its lyrics, as Ray tells a Mrs. James how he is in love with her daughter but asks her not to tell her.

The album closes with the titular After Dark, which once again is loaded with wah-wah, and we’re treated to a song that builds nicely. The lyrics are playful and cleverly constructed, and as you’d expect – loaded with euphemisms. The track is a great mid-tempo song and Ray gets to show off his vocal range perfectly. It’s a good choice for the closing track.

Ray Parker Jr’s lead single ‘I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone’.

Verdict

Over all, this album, like Ray’s Sex And The Single Man from 1985, is a mixed bag. It is definitely written and performed by an utter hornbag.

The inclusion of Natalie Cole in a duet on Over You is a brilliant move, as Ray’s vocals sit comfortably in contrast with hers, and the album’s opening (I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone) and closer (After Dark) are both great songs.

Sadly though, there are some low points – the missed opportunity of After Midnite is just odd, but the lowest points are some of the albums most sexualised songs – You Shoulda Kept A Spare and You Make My Nature Dance just become a bit uncomfortable to listen to now.

Despite the collaboration with Bacharach and Bayer Sager, their tracks aren’t of their strongest work, and they become just two of several on this album that are ‘nice’ or ‘alright’ songs.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1987 UK CHART PEAK POSITION: #40
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a British Heart Foundation store.

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