Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Artist: RIC OCASEK
Album: THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
As 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 for 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.