KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – RIC OCASEK “THIS SIDE OF PARADISE”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]

Artist: RIC OCASEK
Album: THIS SIDE OF PARADISE

Ric Ocasek - This Side Of ParadiseAs I mentioned in last week’s post about Benjamin Orr’s The Lace, Ric Ocasek was the chief songwriter and main lead vocalist for The Cars, one of my favorite bands since the late-‘70s. After they scored a major hit in 1985 with “Tonight She Comes” off their Greatest Hits album, the band took a year off and both Orr & Ocasek released solo albums. Ocasek’s sophomore effort was his most commercially successful, and fans would have a hard time distinguishing many of its songs from his work with The Cars. Perhaps appearances by Orr, guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes had something to do with that, although the album featured other notable musicians like bassist Tony Levin and guitarists Steve Stevens (of Billy Idol’s band), Tom Verlaine (of Television), Roland Orzabal (of Tears For Fears) & G.E. Smith (of Hall & Oates, Saturday Night Live and many others). Holding everything together is Ocasek’s unique songwriting style and his inimitable vocal delivery.

The pretty programmed-drums-and-synth-laden ballad “Emotion In Motion” was a surprising choice for first single but, like Orr’s “Stay The Night,” probably appealed to fans of The Cars’1984 hit “Drive” who helped it reach the Top 20 (Ocasek’s highest-charting solo single). “True To You” was also released as a single but didn’t fare as well, even though it could easily be mistaken Ric Ocasek Photo 1986for a great Cars song. The lush synth-pop of album opener “Keep On Laughing” is another prototypical Ocasek gem, while “Look In Your Eyes” has a huge, unmistakably mid-‘80s sound and a super-catchy chorus. I believe that’s Orr singing “You got that look in your eyes.” There’s nothing as immediately catchy as these first four songs on the rest of the album but it’s nice to hear Ocasek’s slightly more ambient & experimental side, whether it’s the thunderous drums & searing guitar of “Coming For You,” the sparse “P.F.J.” featuring Hawkes on clarinet or the moody & repetitive (in a good way) “This Side Of Paradise” that closes out the album. I’m not an expert on Ric Ocasek’s solo career, as I only own his first record (Beatitude) and heard a couple of his subsequent releases back in the ‘90s, but it seems like This Side Of Paradise is the perfect gateway into his discography. I think I’m slightly more partial to Orr’s album but this one isn’t far behind, proving that 1986 was a good year to be a Cars fan even though they were on hiatus. Both are products of the era in which they were created but the same can be said for most of the band’s ‘80s output. The bottom line is that there are plenty of great songs to enjoy here, and I still love them three decades later.

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20 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – RIC OCASEK “THIS SIDE OF PARADISE”

  1. ianbalentine
    May 5, 2016

    Very nice, Rich. I am only familiar with Beatitude as far as his solo LP’s go, so this was a good post for me. Sounds right up my alley. I can vividly remember hearing the opening guitar of Good Times Roll in 1978 coming up through the vents in my older cousin’s basement bedroom and thinking “holy shit, what the hell is this?” It still makes the hairs on my arm stand up.

    That debut, Candy O, Panorama, Shake It Up and Heartbeat City are all genius albums that I listen to regularly. Move like this is terrific as well. The last official studio release wasn’t my cup of Joe, though. I wasn’t too thrilled with Beatitude at the time so maybe that’s the reason I didn’t explore further. Expectations were probably a little too high at the time.

    I will be looking for this one. Thanks!

    Like

    • Ian, I think we had similar reactions to The Cars when we first heard them, although it may not have happened for me until early ’79. The only Cars album I don’t consider to be genius is Shake It Up. I think about half the songs are great but the other half is mostly filler, something I wasn’t used to hearing on their albums. I might have mentioned this before, but I’m a big fan of the much-maligned Door To Door, which for me is a much stronger album than Shake It Up. I enjoyed Move Like This but it sounds like a Ric Ocasek solo album with the other guys playing on it. Without Orr it just didn’t seem like The Cars to me. Of course, I’m just nitpicking. It is a very good record and I was thrilled that the four of them played together again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ianbalentine
        May 6, 2016

        Another example of how subjective music is. I pretty much feel that 7 out of the 9 of Shake It Up Are perfect; only This Could Be Love and Maybe Baby are lacking in my estimation. I bought it straight off the shelves so there’s no doubt an attachment there (blinded by nostalgia a bit perhaps). It also contains my second favorite Cars song in A Dream Away, a reference, maybe, to Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream (which Ocasek produced).

        Like

      • For me it’s 5 perfect (or near-perfect) songs and 4 that are fine but never really impacted me. I also bought the album the day of release, like I did with Panorama in 1980. The latter was a huge one for me and I felt like Shake It Up wasn’t on the same level. I understand why most people don’t like…or don’t even know…Door To Door. It didn’t have any huge hit singles and they split up after the tour. It’s also darker than most of their previous work and some of the songs are heavier than anything they had done before, but song-for-song it’s really consistent and deserves reappraisal.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff Kempin
    May 5, 2016

    I’m not familiar with either this album or Orr’s from last week, aside from the hit single from each album. But I’m still loving this series! Man, I never thought 1986 had so much good stuff. I’m a Cars fan, but not a huge Cars fan. They did do some classic albums.
    Just checking in and saying hey, Rich!

    Like

    • Thanks, Jeff. I really appreciate you stopping by. I understand that The Cars didn’t appeal to everyone. I’m glad you enjoy some of their music. I can’t imagine anyone not liking something they did. They really were the only band that appealed equally to new wave and rock fans.

      I’ll never claim that 1986 was one of the great musical years of all time, but this series shows that there was a lot of good stuff coming out that year. I’m pleased to know that you agree.

      Like

  3. galley99
    May 5, 2016

    Another great album. It’s a shame “Beatitude” has never been reissued.

    Like

  4. Vinyl Connection
    May 5, 2016

    Heretic that I am, my fave Ric O moment is in John Waters’ ‘Hairspray’.
    Nice one, Rich.

    Like

  5. 80smetalman
    May 6, 2016

    I think I must have already gone to England by the time this album came out because I don’t remember it. It wouldn’t have been my cup of tea back then but the two tracks I listened to weren’t too bad.

    Like

    • I’m surprised this Ocasek album wasn’t more well known in England at the time since I think The Cars were pretty popular. Glad you at least kinda-liked a couple of the songs. Thanks for checking them out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. J.
    May 7, 2016

    Nice post, Rich. Like Orr’s album the other week, I haven’t heard this one either, so I’ll need to check it out. I really like the songs here and I’ve always liked Ocasek’s style.

    Like

    • Hi J. As I mentioned last week, your enjoyment of the Orr & Ocasek records depends on your tolerance for ’80s production choices, but since you like Ocasek’s style I imagine you’ll find at least a handful of songs to enjoy here.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. mikeladano
    May 9, 2016

    Tony Levin? Steve Stevens? Well heck. I think I’m going to wishlist this. The tracks I hear sound good to me.

    Like

  8. segwaynz
    May 10, 2016

    I immediately loved Emotion In Motion when it first came on the radio, as it reminded me of The Cars gorgeous I’m Not the One. It was a couple of years later when I finally got the album, and I remember enjoying much of it. I agree, Rich, the opening four tracks are the strongest and most enjoyable, together with the fine title track that closes the album. This album is certainly worth checking out by fans of The Cars, as there is much to like here. On the strength of This Side of Paradise, I also purchased follow-up Fireball Zone, but don’t care for it all. Years later, on a whim and with a hope of uncovering some more pop gems I picked up the much better Troublizing. Harder edged – perhaps due to the presence of Billy Corgan – again this album is front-loaded: I suggest checking out the excellent opener The Next Right Moment for a good dose of Cars-esque goodness, as well as the bouncy next couple of tracks. After that, I seem to recall it is diminishing returns until the two closing tracks.

    Like

    • Hi Phillip. Glad we agree about the strength of the first four songs and the title track on This Side Of Paradise. I don’t remember much about the later Ocasek albums I’ve heard but nothing had the same impact on me as this one (although his solo debut, Beatitude, is really good). I will seek out “The Next Right Moment” Thanks for recommending it.
      Rich

      Like

  9. Victim of the Fury
    May 10, 2016

    Thanks for this intro (for me) to Ocasek’s solo output. I took an unplanned break from music awareness in the mid-to-late 80s as reduced disposable income and new adventures (finishing studies, marriage/kids, starting a career) intervened. As such, both this and last week’s Orr completely passed me by. Following up on some of the comments here, I took in all the Cars’ albums through Heartbeat City when they were new and still really like and play them relatively often. I also picked up Move Like This when it came out and was not disappointed in the least, although of course Benjamin was missed. So how in the world have I been completely unaware until this post that a Cars album entitled Door to Door even existed? Given your positive comments here, and my Cars fandom, I’m definitely going to do some exploration. Thanks for the steer – that’s exactly what is so great about this blogging world!

    Like

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying what you’re hearing from the Orr and Ocasek albums. I really hope you feel the same about Door To Door. I haven’t met many people who like it as much as I do so please let me know if/when you hear it. I hope your disposable income situation has improved since the mid-to-late-’80s. Then again, with music so easily accessible now, you can hear a lot without paying much (or anything).

      Like

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