Terrence Parker: Life On The Back 9
As titles go, Life On The Back 9 is perfectly serviceable, but had it been my call I probably would have chosen Gospel. To begin with, there's definitely a ‘church' element to the album's sound, especially in those places where organ is used prominently. There's also a powerful feeling of joy and affirmation that courses through the album material, and thirdly, track titles such as “Saved Forever” and “God He Is” directly reference the album's spiritual dimension. But Detroit native Terrence Parker's the man in charge, and who am I to argue with someone who, having released more than 100 recordings since 1988, brings a quarter-century of experience to his third album and first solo long-player since 1997's Detroit After Dark. Based on the evidence at hand, it hardly surprises that Parker's not only celebrated as one of the prime ambassadors of Detroit House Music but also acknowledged as a pioneer of the so-called Inspirational House Music genre.
Already issued on a late-2013 EP, “Finally (Baby Be Mine)” makes a welcome return on the album, with Reno Ka's soulful voice sounding as good today as it did the first time around. It's an exhilarating and catchy scene-setter for the album, especially when its exuberance never flags and when Parker fashions an intoxicating backdrop of stabbing synths, sweeping strings, and piano chords for Ka's inspirational vocal. That opener's uplifting spirit carries on into the equally rousing “Night Light,” a joyous, organ-powered jam guaranteed to get bodies moving and surrendering to its luscious groove, and blossoms even more passionately within “Open Up Your Spirit,” whose uptempo house pulse receives an ecstatic boost from the female singer's contribution (“Lord, I pray you will give me strength through the rain”). Elsewhere, buoyant beats snap and swing with Parker testifying and spreading the word in sultry, late-night moodscapes like “The Friend I Lost” and “My Virtuous Woman” (Parker drawing inspiration in the latter from a special lady rather than deity), while the aerodynamic “Pentecost” ups the ante in terms of intensity. Electric pianos, strings, synths, and an occasional hit of vinyl crackle bring warmth and personality to Parker's soundworld, while crisp house grooves ensure that the rhythm details are thoroughly spoken for.
Life On The Back 9 serves up a captivating set of instrumentals and vocal cuts, and Parker repeatedly demonstrates that he can craft a tasteful house track with the best of'em. There's a lot to absorb on the eighty-minute collection, but it's never a slog when its twelve songs are so consistently tight and solid. And a final word on the title, which Parker chose for a clear reason. As he tells it, the title came from something his father said to encourage him when he was enduring a particularly difficult period in his life. The anecdote his father shared concerned a golf game that had gone especially wrong in its first half; but rather than pack it in, he persevered and played a much stronger back nine, a lesson in determination and resilience that Terrence has carried with him ever since.