While Trinidad-born soul singer Billy Ocean was one of
the biggest R&B singles artists of the 80s, it was always tough to place him in the
scene. He was not quite as popular as Lionel Richie. He was not
quite as good a songwriter, producer and interpreter as Luther Vandross.
He didn't have quite as strong a voice as Peabo Bryson or James Ingram.
He wasn't quite as funky as Frankie Beverly or George Clinton. His
slow jams weren't quite as memorable as those of Anita Baker or Freddie
However, in a career that lasted almost two decades
(and was white hot for five years), Billy Ocean dropped a truckload
(okay, at least a compilation-load) of hot singles. Listening to this
new overview of his career, you can't help but remember that while the guy
was in the
zone, he was a singles machine.
At this point, he is best remembered for his smooth,
funky and extremely long-titled dance tracks ("Caribbean Queen [No More Love
On the Run]," "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" and "Get
Outta My Dreams Get Into My Car"). While he was perfectly good at
that, I find the songs that stand out the best were his more quiet ones. He had a way with a ballad. Songs like
"Suddenly," "Love Is Forever" and particularly "The Colour
of Love" are still strikingly lovely.
Interestingly, his best up-tempo single, to my way of
thinking, actually came out eight years before he took up permanent
residence on the pop charts. "Love Really Hurts Without You" was a
giddy Motown pastiche that introduced Ocean to the Top 40 in the
There are a few misfires here (an uninspired cover of
the Beatles' "The Long & Winding Road" comes immediately to mind) and a few
songs sound a little dated ("Loverboy" and "License To Chill" are tres
80s). Overall, though, Billy Ocean's body of work still holds up