Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ric Ocasek - Fireball Zone

1 Rockaway
2 Touch Down Easy
3 Come Back
4 The Way You Look Tonight
5 All We Need Is Love
6 Over and Over
7 Flowers of Evel
8 They Tried
9 Keep That Dream
10 Balance
11 Mister Meaner
12 Fireball Zone

Review by Jason Damas
Fireball Zone marked the beginning of the second half of Ric Ocasek's solo career. His first two releases, 1983's Beatitude and 1986's This Side of Paradise, were really extensions of Ocasek's work with The Cars; instead of sounding like grand statements made by solo albums, they both sounded like extensions of what The Cars were doing at the time. This was especially true of the latter album, which even featured a handful of hit singles that were more popular than any that The Cars would score in the remainder of their career. After the demise of that band in 1987, Ocasek went on hiatus and returned to recording in 1991 with Fireball Zone, his first post-Cars solo album. Surprisingly, however, it isn't as much of a departure as one might imagine. The same elements that made The Cars music so accessible and enjoyable is still all in place, and Ocasek wrote a much stronger batch of songs this time around than was featured on the final Cars collaboration, the dismal Door to Door. Fireball Zone is also easily the sunniest Ocasek solo collaboration; much of the material is relatively sprightly and colorful, and the disc includes some musical experiments that Ocasek would never have touched when he was still with The Cars. The album is led by the uptempo "Rockaway" (one of the album's first singles) and the first 8 tracks are nearly infallible; "Touch Down Easy" and "Come Back" are easily two of the most Cars-ish songs that Ocasek ever released, and "All We Need Is Love" has a light reggae vibe. Many of the songs feature a choir of female background singers, something that is a surprising and major departure for Ocasek; and unfortunately one that only works part of the time. Unfortunately, towards the end of the album, things begin to fall apart: Ocasek throws in a bunch of metallic, bottom-heavy numbers that almost completely lack hooks, and they keep Fireball Zone from truly being a great album. While this disc was a major commercial disappointment, failing to produce any real hit singles, the Heartbeat City-era sounding ballad "The Way You Look Tonight" has become a staple on in-store play lists of fast food restaurants and discount department stores nationwide.



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