Tear Down These Walls
It speaks to Billy Ocean’s versatility that on his 1988 album Tear Down These Walls, he worked with both Mutt Lange (a 40-year-old British producer best known for his albums with AC/DC and Def Leppard) and Teddy Riley (a 21-year-old wunderkind who was just starting to reshape the sound of R&B and hip-hop). The Riley-produced title song is one of the standout tracks here, offering just a hint of urban edge beneath layers of pure pop confectionery. Of course, it was Lange’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car” that was the smash hit: a rock song disguised as a feel-good dance hit. It could have just as easily been a Def Leppard song, though it wouldn’t have been as good. Ocean exudes an irrepressible charm that makes everything he did twice as fun as it might have been with any other singer. Though all types of pop producers were clamoring to work with Ocean, he did his most soulful work with his longstanding collaborators Barry Eastmond and Wayne Braithwaite, who produced and cowrote “Soon As You’re Ready,” “Stand and Deliver,” and “Here’s to You,” three under-acknowledged gems.