Benjamin Orr

The Lace

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The Cars' bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr lent his immaculate pipes to a few of the band's most enduring FM hits ("Bye Bye Love," "Let's Go," and "Drive"), but he wasn't able to step out from behind the shadow of guitarist/bandleader Ric Ocasek until 1986. The Cars had reached a new level of fame with 1984's Heartbeat City, and that success was beginning to cause some friction within the tight-knit Boston collective, so they did what any smart band would do: they released a Greatest Hits compilation and Ocasek, guitarist Elliot Easton, and Orr all recorded solo albums. Despite appearing on numerous collaborative projects, The Lace would be Orr's only proper solo release -- he died of pancreatic cancer in 2000 -- and of the three mid-'80s solo flights, only his retained the melodic snap that made the Cars such radio staples. Produced by Orr, Larry Klein, and Mike Shipley -- the latter mixed Heartbeat City -- The Lace sits sonically snug between that album and 1987's Door to Door, using programmed drums, keyboards, guitar (courtesy of Easton), and Orr's impossibly solid voice to deliver a record that never achieves greatness but still feels good all the way through. It gets a little midtempo heavy near the end, as if every other song is carefully positioned to remind listeners that this is the man who sang "Drive," but "Too Hot to Stop," "Hold On," and "Stay the Night" would have been highlights on anything the Cars ever put out.

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