Billy Ocean

Zomba, 1984

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


If, like me, you can’t wait for summer to get here, you might want to seek out the Suddenly album by Billy Ocean. The #1 dance/pop hits “Caribbean Queen” and “Loverboy” are both there, as well as the show-stopping ballad title track. It is the only album by Ocean worth owning by far, despite the fact that everything he touched turned to gold back in the ‘80s. Personally, I always found follow-up hits like “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going,” “There’ll Be Sad Songs To Make You Cry” and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” ponderously overrated. Thankfully, such long song titles don’t happen as much anymore. Seriously, Billy, WTF?

The first #1 straight out of the gate was, of course, “Caribbean Queen,” and on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Suddenly we are treated to the full-length extended dance mix. Over the years, this song has grown on me, and now I am quite fond of it. For a dance track, it’s a mid-tempo cut that has just enough to hold one’s attention. Compared to the stuff that is on the radio these days, it is a quality song that is actually pleasant to the ear. On the other hand, I’ve always loved the dynamically catchy “Loverboy,” which was released around the same time as Teena Marie’s “Lovergirl.” Between the two, I’d be hard pressed to choose which one I like better.

Two other songs that I can recommend are “Mystery Lady” and “Dance Floor.” Unfortunately, the rest of Suddenly does fall a little flat. More variation in tempo would have been a nice change of pace, though Adult Contemporary and Black radio probably wouldn’t have changed a thing. It fit in with their formats seamlessly back then, heralding Billy Ocean as a true crossover artist. His sound was for the older generation, so including a cover of the Beatles’ “The Long And Winding Road” was an appropriate choice.

While this album is worthy of inclusion in my extensive collection, it isn’t an album I play all that much anymore. Only when I delve back into the history of #1 Billboard hits do I feel the need to play “Caribbean Queen” again. It’s just not one of those albums that has a timeless appeal that warrants repeated listens. Even back in the ‘80s, it seemed to have a short shelf life. The material is harmless, but it also leaves you with the feeling of “So what?”

To be honest, I was a little surprised to discover that Billy Ocean’s name came up twice when I was sifting through the Billboard list of #1 Club Play songs. Billy Ocean? Really? And this was before the age of remixes, which begs the question what these songs would sound like given the remix treatment. We must have danced a lot slower in those days. Which would make sense…it was the decade of Ronald Reagan, after all.

Rating: C-

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zomba, and is used for informational purposes only.