TIR 33: Raydio’s Arnell Carmichael Turns It On

Raydio leader Ray Parker Jr. behind the console of his home studio with bandmates including Arnell Carmichael (second from right) circa 1978.


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in this two-part series: Lead singer-guitarist Arnell Carmichael, an original member of the dynamic and successful funk-R&B band Raydio, which eventually became leader Ray Parker Jr.’s backing group. Parker had been one of popular music’s most in-demand session guitar players and, among many other things, composed Rufus’ classic “You Got the Love.” Other band members bassist Jerry Knight and drummer Ollie Brown would go on to further success as a duo and separately, including uptempo early 1980s hits like “Breakin’ … There’s No Stopping Us,” “Overnight Sensation” and “Perfect Fit.”

Raydio’s self-titled debut album dropped in 1978 and went top 10 on the U.S. R&B chart, in large part due to the catchy and mellow hit “Jack and Jill” that scored top 10 on the U.S. pop chart. That song scarcely scratched the surface of the fierce funk that was also prominent on that record, including the top 20 R&B single “Is This a Love Thing,” as well as “Me,” “You Need This (to Satisfy That)” and the instrumental “Get Down.” The tunefulness, prominent synthesizer, rubbery grooves, stinging guitar, pervasive sense of fun, and creative vocal arrangements added up to a fantastically infectious sound, something akin to orchestral funk mastermind Norman Whitfield producing the Spinners.

Equally strong was Raydio’s second album, Rock On, which went top 5 on the U.S. R&B chart, powered by the hit follow-up in the mold of “Jack and Jill” called “You Can’t Change That,” which was another top 10 U.S. pop hit. Again, this record contained first-rate funk throwdowns in the title track “Rock On,” and also “What You Waitin’ for,” “Hot Stuff” (not the Donna Summer hit) and “When You’re in Need of Love.” It also included one of my favorite ballads by the band, “Goin’ Thru School and Love.” The hits and success kept coming as the next two albums — 1980’s Two Places at the Same Time and 1981’s A Woman Needs Love — were released under the name Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio. Both were top 10 R&B albums and A Woman Needs Love was the group’s first No. 1, that’s both the album and the single, which became an anthem for women. While it was the milder fare that continued to race up the charts, those in the know knew Raydio continued to keep it groovy, in particular with the Funkadelic “One Nation Under a Groove”-inspired instrumental “For Those Who Like to Groove” and its sequel “Still in the Groove.”

Carmichael continued to sing with Parker even as he completely dropped the Raydio name for 1982’s The Other Woman, a No. 1 R&B record that posted three top 10 R&B hits, and 1983’s Woman Out of Control, another top 20 R&B album. Unfortunately, as the band’s role was diminished the vocals became less compelling, the funk began to fade and, somewhat ironically, so did record sales. Woman Out of Control ended a run of five straight gold-certified albums. Carmichael also contributed to 1985’s Sex and the Single Man LP, which despite coming on the heels of the monster success of Parker’s “Ghostbusters,” failed to crack the top 40. Still, in total, Raydio and Ray Parker Jr. recorded six top 20 R&B albums (five of them top 10) and 14 top 20 R&B songs, as well as 13 top 40 pop tunes.

Other top-tier artists Carmichael lent his golden pipes to included Leo Sayer, LaToya Jackson, Teena Marie, Cheryl Lynn and Diana Ross. Here, a soaring voice heard on dozens of the late 1970s and early 1980s finest and funkiest tracks talks about the amazingly fertile Detroit music scene of yore, what it was like running and recording with one of the era’s most talented musicians and successful bands, and much more.

Recorded December 2017