Ray Parker Jr.'s "The Other Woman" is the most gratifying exploration of illicit love since Boz Scaggs' "Middle Man." Slick but not sleazy, sweet but not cloying, this is soul the way God and Otis Redding intended it.
Parker brings a natural innocence and vulnerability to songs dealing with romantic treachery; one might say he puts the "purr" back in perfidy. Part of this comes from his ability to render mixed emotions realistically, and the rest springs from the easy competence of his brilliant musical arrangements.
The title track (and single) is the best example of Parker as self-sufficient hitmaker: As on most other tracks, he provides drums, bass, piano, guitar, synthesizer and, of course, vocals. But he's an emotional one- man band as well, playing lover/betrayer/penitent/preacher as convincingly as possible within the constructs of a pop song. Aside from the fizzled-out ending, the song is a perfect combination of unerring radio instinct and living-room danceability.
The rest of the album's a treat, too, from the soulful recriminations of "It's Our Own Affair" to the rakish good humor of "Streetlove" and "Just Havin' Fun." There's a quality of self-confidence, a stylish determination that never emerged during Parker's stint with Raydio, which comes not least from his decision to take his music into his own skillful hands. The result is a powerful, coherent musical package that leaves the listener longing for a third side, or perhaps just someone to slip off and listen with. THE RECORD, THE SHOW THE ALBUM: The Other Woman (Arista AL 9590). THE CONCERT: Ray Parker with Rick James, War, Cameo, Lakeside, Zapp, One Way and Experience Unlimited, Saturday at noon at RFK Stadium.