Friday, September 12, 2014

Billy Ocean - Suddenly

Today (September 12th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Suddenly, the fifth studio album from British R&B singer Billy Ocean. The multi-Platinum selling album went to number 43 in Germany, number 35 in New Zealand, number 23 in the Netherlands, number 14 in Canada, number 13 in Australia, number 10 in Finland and number 9 in the UK. Here in the US, it spent eight-six weeks on the Billboard Album chart with a top spot of number 9.

Ocean provided lead vocals and primary drums. Additional percussion was provided by Terry Silverlight, Tony Maroni and Andy Newton. Timmy Allen and Keith Diamond played bass, while Clarence Brice, Eddie Martinez, Geoff Whitehorn and Vic Linton contributed on guitar. The saxophone on the album was done by Jeff Smith.

Side one begins with “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)”. This first single went to number 23 in France, number 13 in Finland, number 7 in Ireland, number 6 in the UK, number 2 in Australia, and number 1 in Canada, New Zealand, and across the board (Billboard Hot 100, R&B and Dance charts) in the US. It won Ocean the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, making him the first British artist to win in that category. A variant titled version called “European Queen” went to number 82 in the UK, number 38 in Italy, number 21 in Belgium, number 20 in Austria, number 15 in the Netherlands, number 3 in Switzerland and number 2 in Germany. The album version is a nearly eight minute long cut of the song, including an amazing intro sax solo by Smith and Diamond’s funky bass riff.

The mid-tempo “Mystery Lady”, the fourth single, only got to number 79 in Australia, number 49 in the UK, number 38 in Canada, and number 24 on the US Billboard Hot 100. As with the first track, Ocean here is enamored with a lovely woman who has suddenly come into his life.

The foundation of “Syncopation” is a smooth bass groove that was great for those mid-tempo dance floor grinds back in the day. If you and your partner were moving in perfect rhythm, then you knew you were on the right track. Ocean even dabbles with some of that spoken-word testimony that was a growing part of R&B at the time.

A cover of the Beatle’s 1970 ballad “The Long and Winding Road” closes off the side. I always liked how Ocean crafted his vocal phrasings on this one, giving each word the proper weight for maximum emotional effect.

Side two starts with “Loverboy”, the album’s second single. It climbed to number 20 on both the US Billboard R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, number 15 in the UK, number 13 in Switzerland, number 12 in Germany, number 7 in Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden, number 6 in Canada, number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The track was written by songwriter/producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, and it includes a great hook that always got the crowd going.

On a side note, I always liked pairing “Loverboy” with Teena Marie’s 1985 hit single “Lovergirl”. They just seemed to be a complimentary set of tunes to me. I have always wanted to hear a club deejay do a mash up of these two, blending them back and forth.

The B-side to the third single was “Lucky Man”, a mid-tempo dance track about a man who counts his blessings for having a certain girl in his life.

There is no room to doubt that “Dancefloor” was targeted for that exact locale. The synths on this one pop right along with the bouncing beat.

The tempo shifts back down to the mid-grade on “If I Should Lose You”.

The album ends with the title track “Suddenly”. As the third single, this ballad peaked at number 4 both in the UK and on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also reached number 50 in Germany, number 38 in New Zealand, number 20 in the Netherlands, number 15 in Australia, number 5 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 1 (for two weeks) on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. This one quickly became a slow-dance favorite, and it paired nicely with Lionel Richie's "Hello".

Back in the day, I owned a copy of Billy Ocean’s Suddenly on vinyl. I remember very clearly receiving it as a Christmas present in 1984, and I played the record countless times in the years to follow. Thanks to the huge club hits and overall rhythms of many of the deep cuts, this was one of my go-to records when getting ready for a night out on the weekends. Most of the songs made for a good, light warm-up for an evening of dancing. To this day it still remains a favorite album of mine from 1984. Just listening to the opening track takes me right back to my college clubbing nights.

For more Billy Ocean, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

While the lovely "Caribbean Queen" was the initial draw to this album for me, it was "Loverboy" that has kept me coming back all these years. Billy can sing a tender ballad ("Suddenly") and his handling of the Beatles fragile "Long And Winding Road" is among the best Beatles covers ever in my book but the propulsive "Loverboy" especially in its Extended Club Remix form. Gonna put that one on pronto!