Recording information: Avatar Recording Studios, NY; East Bay Recording Studios, Tarrytown, NY.
For such a modest album, Here You Are: The Music of My Life has a remarkably complicated release history. Originally released as a ten-track album by Aqua Music in 2013, it was re-released as a 12-track album -- an acoustic version of the title track was excised and three new tracks were added -- paired with a 19-track The Best Of bonus disc in 2016. That double-disc set only appeared in the U.K., although Ocean did wind up making a promo appearance on the American television show The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Here You Are: The Music of My Life finally saw an American release in the summer of 2017 in an edition that split the difference between the two U.K. releases. The single disc contains ten of the recently recorded covers, then adds Ocean's five biggest American hits: "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)," "Suddenly," "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car," "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going," and "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)." The oldies don't necessarily jibe with the new tunes -- they're bouncier and livelier, bearing all the neon trademarks of the '80s -- but the contrast is also appealing, as the hit singles don't suggest the relaxed, friendly singer Ocean now is. If the arrangements sometimes seem a little too simple -- everything is a little too clean and airy, the instruments sometimes sounding synthesized even when they're not -- the Spartan surroundings keep the focus on Ocean's warm presence. He seems happy to be singing the songs that inspired him to begin singing, and it's hard not to smile at his joy. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine