In the U.K, where Billy Ocean lives, his new “Here You Are” album features his take on classics by artists he admires. In the United States, the collection also includes his own hit parade.
Ocean, 67, shot to fame in Great Britain in 1976 with “Love Really Hurts Without You.” He began making waves in the United States that year with “L.O.D. (Love on Delivery),” but it would take nearly another decade before “Caribbean Queen” would top the charts on this side of the pond.
“After Europe, my dream was to have successful music in America. By the grace of God, that did happen,” he said from a recent tour stop in Worcestershire, north of the home he shares with wife Judy in Sunningdale, Berkshire.
Other hits quickly followed in the mid-'80s, with “Loverboy,” “Suddenly,” “When the Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going),” ”There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car.”
He’s bringing those hits and his re-imagining of the classics to the Riverside Casino Event Center on Saturday night (9/30), accompanied by a nine-piece band that includes vocals from his daughter, Cherie.
He took a hiatus in the ’90s when his four children were young, but in 2007, he resumed touring and recording.
“They’d grown up, and everybody was independent and looking out for themselves, and I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I just felt I should be doing what I’m supposed to be doing with the God-given talent that I’ve got,” he said. “I just thought I should get back in the saddle, as they say.”
Coming off a Sept. 22 concert in Mozambique, his Riverside appearance will launch his U.S. tour, which continues through October before heading back to Europe through November.
“I look forward to everything,” he said about being on the road. “The hardest part of it all is the traveling — the nicest part of it is actually the performance.
“You’re out there in room full of people that really came to see you. It took me a long while to understand what somebody said to me a long time ago: ‘There’s nothing to be nervous about. All the people who are there are your friends. They came to see you.’ As you get older, it does make a lot of sense. We need people like myself to inspire us, to give us hope, to give us faith, to give us joy, to give us memories. I think it’s necessary.
“And that’s part of reason I came back out again, because I just thought, ‘Why not share this time and make people happy?’”
Born in Trinidad, his family moved to London when he was 7. While his calypso roots still run strong, he also grew up with the music his parents listened to on the radio, as well as rock from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
A prolific songwriter in his own right, his latest album reflects his musical memories.
“This current album is something I’ve always wanted to do — an album with renditions of other people’s good songs. Standard songs from the legends like Sinatra, Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole — the sort of people that inspired me as a kid growing up — music my parents would listen to.
“I took the opportunity to do it, and I even included a Bob Marley track, ‘No Woman, No Cry.’ It’s just songs that inspired me, basically, from my childhood to now,” he said. “These songs do inspire you.”
Choosing them was no easy feat.
“There’s so many good songs written. Beautiful songs. The ones that I’ve done are really songs that I’ve remembered, that came to mind very quickly. ‘Time is a River’ is the first song that I heard when my father bought a little radio, a battery-operated radio, and when he switched it on, that’s the first song that I heard. All the others I heard over a period of time,” he said. “The melodies I remembered, the lyrics I had to search out, obviously, but I remembered all the melodies. They were good demonstrations to lead to doing my interpretation of them.”
The collection also includes “It was a Very Good Year,” made famous by Frank Sinatra, and “These Foolish Things,” which was a hit for Billie Holiday, as well as Sinatra and other stars, from Etta James to Rod Stewart and James Brown.
Ocean takes the classics and makes them his own, by doing them the way he feels them.
“I’ve got a very good original to go to,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean I have to copy the original. What comes out is what I hear, and that’s it. I hope I do the best job of it that I possibly can, and I hope people could recognize my interpretation of them, and appreciate it.”
His own musical style still is evolving.
“I think most songwriters would say their best work is yet to come. I still feel I’m improving,” he said. “There are things I’d love to do better, (that) I’d like to improve on — mainly lyrics, which I always find very difficult. As time goes by, hopefully I’ll be able to express myself better. It might be easier in the state of the world, with more things to write about, very topical things. Hopefully, I’ll achieve my aim.
“As I get older, I’ll get braver. I’ll feel more secure and comfortable in what I’m saying. I look forward to many things.”
WHAT: Billy Ocean
WHERE: Riverside Casino Event Center, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday (9/30)
TICKETS: $35 to $55, Casino Gift Shop or Riversidecasinoandresort.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Billyocean.com