Reviewed on this page:
Sentimental Journey -
Beaucoups Of Blues - Ringo - Ringo's Rotogravure - Stop And Smell The Roses -
Time Takes Time - Vertical Man
Ringo was always considered the accidental Beatle, the classic example of being in the right place at the right time, and few expected his solo career to amount to much. But in fact he cranked out Top 10 singles for the next half-decade after the Beatles' demise, writing some catchy singalong tunes like "It Don't Come Easy," and getting assistance from big-name friends, including but not limited to the rest of the Fab Four. He ran out of steam amid a morass of personal problems in the late 70s, and dropped off the scene for almost a decade, before resurfacing as a superstar oldies act. (DBW)
Two other notes. First, I don't think Ringo's success was an accident; he may well have been the best rock drummer in England when the Beatles decided to replace Pete Best in 1962, and he's my personal favorite of all rock drummers. Famous for contributing only one true drum solo to any of the Beatles' 200-odd songs, he's the master of understatement, aiming to complement the music instead of pounding his drums to death or showing off his technical expertise. His creativity, common sense, and class are rarely matched.
Second, almost nobody listens to a rock record for the drumming, and I have to admit that Ringo's solo work is the least substantial of any of the Beatles'. However, he did contribute to a variety of other artist's records throughout the 70s, sometimes credited only by a pseudonym. I've put together a set of links to those guest appearances just to prove the point:
- The Band, The Last Waltz
- Bob Dylan, Shot Of Love
- George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
- George Harrison, Living In The Material World
- George Harrison, Concert For Bangladesh
- George Harrison, Cloud 9
- John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band
- Paul McCartney, Pipes Of Peace
- Paul McCartney, Give My Regards To Broad Street
- Steve Stills, Stephen Stills
- Steve Stills, "As I Come Of Age"
- Doris Troy, Doris Troy
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but there's a Ringo Starr web site. (JA)
Sentimental Journey (1970)
With tongue firmly planted in cheek - as always - Ringo chose to start his involuntary solo career with a collection of utterly retro, elaborately orchestrated standards.
The big joke: every track is arranged by someone different.
The bigger joke: the collection of arrangers could hardly be more bizarre, including Paul McCartney (a totally overblown version of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust"), old Beatle associate Klaus Voorman (the elegant and sleepy "I'm A Fool To Care"), and even Maurice Gibb (a banjo-driven "Bye Bye Blackbird").
On the pro side, there's producer George Martin (Johnny Mercer's "Dream," like a tepid 60s TV soundtrack), Quincy Jones (the sleek and truly sentimental "Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing"), Richard Perry (the genial title track), even Elmer Bernstein (the ludicrous, joke-filled 60s disco-style "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?," easily the funniest moment).
Actually, some of this stuff is more-or-less entertaining, especially when Ringo's turned into 50s big band star (Chico O'Farrill's take on Cole Porter's "Night And Day"; Oliver Nelson's "Blue, Turning Grey Over You"; saxophonist John Dankworth's "You Always Hurt The One You Love").
But elsewhere almost everything is placid and dull (Ron Goodwin's "Whispering Grass (Don't Tell The Trees)," ukuele and all), whenever it's not nauseatingly sweet (Les Reed's "Let The Rest Of The World Go By").
Ringo's voice is as comfortable as an old shoe, and there is plenty of camp value here.
But at LP length it's overkill. (JA)
Beaucoups Of Blues (1970)
Ringo next cut a set of country-western tunes with a bunch crack Nashville session musicians, like pedal steel masters Peter Drake (who produced) and Ben Keith; drummer D. J. Fontana; Elvis Presley backing singers the Jordanaires; and guitarist Charlie Daniels. Only "Coochy Coochy" is a Ringo original - the other songs were supplied by professional writers like Chuck Howard, Larry Kingston, and Sorrells Pickard (Howard and Pickard join the horde of backing guitarists). The result is a thoroughly traditional country record with plenty of fiddles, 2/4 standup bass lines, and rich, lower-register cowboy harmonies.
It's surprisingly gentle, tasteful, and pleasant, with Ringo's voice sounding more tender and expressive than on almost anything he recorded with the Beatles; his duet with Jeannie Kendal on "Wouldn't Have You Anyway" is a good example. Some of the lyrics are so retro and un-PC they're annoying (Pickard's bathetically patriotic Vietnam commentary "Silent Homecoming" and dopey road musician monologue "$15 Draw"), but the record's an amusing lark anyway. (JA)
- If you must buy a Ringo solo album, this is the one to have: it includes both of Ringo's #1 hit singles, the corny 50's rocker
"You're Sixteen," which features Paul on kazoo (!), and "Photograph," which came out a few months earlier and was cowritten by Ringo and George. Ringo's own "Oh My My" somehow hit the Top 10 despite its sappiness. But despite the commercial success, this isn't a very enjoyable record.
Ringo coaxed tunes out of all the other Beatles, but they're hardly top quality: John's "I'm The Greatest" is an embarrassing self-parody; George's "Sunshine Life For Me" (featuring The Band) is a hokey country-western romp; and Paul's "Six O'Clock," complete with instantly recognizable McCartney piano and string arrangement, is a standout here though it would be filler on any of Paul's own albums from this period.
And only one of Ringo's compositions has his characteristic light humor (the smooth "Step Lightly"); elsewhere he indulges in random venting ("Devil Woman"). Other high-powered guests include
Marc Bolan, Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Tom Scott, Bobby Keyes, etc. Produced by Richard Perry, but his influence isn't really evident: it sounds like all the assembled stars were really calling the shots, resulting in a drab all-star-jam sameness. (DBW)
- Everything Wilson dislikes here strikes me as good, clean fun: "I'm The Greatest" is clever, "Sunshine Life For Me" is a joyful hillbilly romp, "Six O'Clock" is dippy but has some good hooks, and "Devil Woman," whose misogynism is entirely tongue-in-cheek, shows that Ringo had successfully assimilated glam rock.
And I like all the hits: "Oh My My" (with Merry Clayton, Jim Horn, and Martha Reeves) is campy and ecstatic, "You're Sixteen" does the late-50's doo wop parody schtick almost as well as Frank Zappa, and despite Jack Nitzche's saccharine orchestral arrangement, "Photograph" is a pleasant example of George's early 70s style.
None of this suggests all-star jamming; it's lighthearted but crafted.
Ringo's deadpan delivery carries even the sappiest of the many sappy tunes; Scott's horn arrangements bring things up to the then-current glam rock sound; and the record finally answers the "what if the Beatles reunited" question (answer: they'd be wimpy and out of ideas, but entertaining anyway).
The CD version is particularly worthwhile; it includes Ringo's deserved smash hit "It Don't Come Easy" and his hysterically funny "Early 1970."
Klaus Voorman (bass) is on most tracks, and bit players include David Bromberg, Steve Cropper, Chuck Finley, and Milt Holland. (JA)
Goodnight Vienna (1974)
This must have been eagerly awaited after Ringo's unexpected successes on his eponymous record of the previous year, and it did well in the charts. Ringo's first two singles from this record also sold strongly, hitting the Top Ten: "Only You," and "No No Song." The later-released "It's All Down To Goodnight Vienna" was also a Top 40 hit. And there's also some star power here: Elton John donated the tune "Snookeroo" and also made a guest appearance on it. (JA)
Ringo's Rotogravure (1976)
- A star-studded disaster. Once again Ringo collected songs from John, Paul and George, but they're dull
- this was the last record with new songs by each of the four, and Lennon's retro "Cookin' In The Kitchen Of Love" was his last new composition released before his househusband retirement.
Then there's a guest appearance by Eric Clapton on his amazingly repetitive "This Be Called A Song", and Peter Frampton is also in effect. You know you're in trouble when a record's best track is a minute-long compilation of studio chatter ("Spooky Weirdness"). I got this
on vinyl for 49 cents, and it wasn't worth the money. (DBW)
- Hate to say it, but Wilson's being a tight-ass here.
Feather-light and never a rock record, this is harmless, over-produced pop, entertaining and eclectic.
Sure, the guest stars are wasted.
But there are arguable keepers here like the doo-wopping, smiley-faced sendup "A Dose Of Rock 'N' Roll" (his last Top 40 single for a long while), and "This Be Called...," which has a perky calypso vibe.
His own tunes are admirably tongue-in-cheek: the mellow Nashville number "Cryin'," the dead-pan mariachi tune "Las Brisas," and the sappy-but-snappy pop ballad "Lady Gaye."
But I admit that the Beatle songs are weak (Paul's super-retro slow dancer "Pure Gold" and George's dreary "I'll Still Love You," both saturated with strings; at least "Cookin'" has a bit of a beat).
And everything else is total fluff; "You Don't Know Me At All" is really egregious.
Produced by Arif Mardin; the other players include Jesse Ed Davis, Dr. John, Jim Keltner, Danny Kortchmar, Harry Nilsson, and Voorman. (JA)
I seriously doubt that you hated saying that. (DBW)
Ringo The 4th (1977)
After the all-star embarassment Ringo's Rotogravure, fans were smart enough to avoid the follow-up - it sank like a stone on the charts, and didn't score even one Top 40 hit. (JA)
Produced by Arif Mardin (DBW)
Bad Boy (1978)
I think this is the one Ringo sued to prevent the release of, and lost. Lucky us. (DBW)
Stop And Smell The Roses (1981)
Was there ever any reason besides nostalgia to listen to a Ringo album?
Probably not, which is why this collection features two 50's rockers:
"Sure To Fall," a Carl Perkins tune the Beatles used to do before Ringo
even joined the band, and "You Belong To Me" - produced by McCartney and
Harrison respectively, they're fun in that genial Starr manner.
Things go overboard, though, on the Van
Dyke Parks-arranged, Harry Nillson-produced cover of Starr's own
"Back Off Bugaloo" that stuffs in quotes from a dozen other Beatle and
solo hits, sort of Ringo's answer to the "Stars On" phenomenon. Worse
yet, there's also a lot of tired-sounding new material: McCartney's
"Attention" and "Private Property" are 70s-smooth arrangements of
assembly line tunes tossed with lyrical platitudes; Harrison's "Wrack My
Brain" (the album's single and a minor Top Forty hit) has the album's
most interesting lyrics, but a perfunctory arrangement that brings out
the ordinariness of the tune. Everyone already knew these guys were
dinosaurs, but they didn't have to rub our faces in it. Nillson's two
compositions will doubtless delight his legions of fans, but they sound
silly and contrived to me ("Drumming Is My Madness," title track). Ron Wood co-wrote the bluesy thumper "Dead
Giveaway" with Starr,
while Stephen Stills' "You've Got A Nice Way" is
the kind of insubstantial ballad a skilled singer probably could have
pulled off. As usual in this period, Jim Keltner is the backup drummer;
other players include Ray Cooper,
Richie Zito on guitar, and
Al Kooper on keyboards. (DBW)
Old Wave (1983)
This one was produced by Joe Walsh, who has contined to collaborate with Starr. Apparently it's a batch of oldies along the lines of Lennon's Rock 'N' Roll or McCartney's Back In The USSR. (JA)
Actually it's new material, much of it written by Walsh and Starr, plus "As Far As We Can Go" by the estimable Russ Ballard. (DBW)
Ringo Starr And His All-Starr Band (1989)
This was the first step in reviving Ringo's career after a long hiatus. It documented the first of what became a long series of tours. Like the later ones, this outing featured a massive lineup of rock stars who mostly made their names during the 70s: Rick Danko and Levon Helm of the Band (the other one - and yeah, they do sing "The Weight"); Dr. John; Nils Lofgren; Billy Preston; and Joe Walsh, who does "Life In The Fast Lane." (JA)
Time Takes Time (1992)
Unabashed nostalgia as coproducers Don Was, Jeff Lynne, Peter Asher and
Phil Ramone compete to see who can most effectively ape the less
experimental aspect of the Beatles sound. At times they come pretty
close ("All In The Name Of Love," "I Don't Believe You"), but the
crassness of the effort is off-putting (not to say off-pissing). "Golden
The tunes come from various sources, including a couple co-written by
Ringo himself, and there's not one you'd run back into a burning
building to save. The lyrics sound like they were generated by a
computer living on a diet of Hallmark cards ("Don't Know A Thing About
Love" is the worst). There aren't many celebrity guests for once, just
Jim Horn, Waddy Wachtel, Lynne and
Robbie Buchanan, and Ringo handles his own drumming. (DBW)
Live From Montreux (1992)
Another All-Starr record, this time with Lofgren and Walsh joined by Dave Edmunds, Todd Rundgren, and Walsh's Eagles buddy Tim Schmit, who of course does "I Can't Tell You Why." Ringo and his son Zak both drum. Walsh does both "In The City" and "Desperado," which he had nothing to do with in its original Eagles incarnation; Rundgren appropriately serves up his "Bang On The Drum." (JA)
Ringo Starr And His Third All-Starr Band (1997)
An unusual lineup here, with John Entwistle (bass) being the only really big name.
Everyone else is a third-stringer: Billy Preston and Felix Cavaliere (keyboards) Bachman-Turnover Overdrive mastermind Randy Bachman (guitar), and a couple of true no-namers. Ringo and son Zak both are on drums again. (JA)
Vertical Man (1998)
Most of the material here was written by Starr with guitarist Mark Hudson (who produced with Starr), bassist Steve Dudas
and somebody named Bruce Grakal. They use the same Beatlesque approach to composition as Time After Time (there's even
a cover of "Love Me Do"), but it works a whole lot better, partly due to the Wilbury-ish unvarnished rock-pop production, and a surprisingly high
energy level ("What In The...World," with a guitar solo from Walsh). Add that to the facts that the tunes are generally
pleasant (aside from the bathetic "King Of Broken Hearts") and that Ringo actually sounds like he's having fun on the drums
(title track), and this might even be the best Ringo solo album of them all.
There's an endless list of guest stars: Harrison and McCartney contribute some instrumental parts,
Steve Cropper plays guitar on "Drift Away" and "I Was Walkin'," and vocals are added by Tom Petty,
Steve Tyler, Brian Wilson, Rose Stone,
Stone Temple Pilot Scott Weiland, Alanis Morissette and Ozzy Osbourne.
VH1 Storytellers (1998)
Another live record, with the track listing being dominated by Beatles ("With A Little Help"; "Don't Pass Me By"; "Octopus's Garden") and 70s solo favorites. There are also four new tunes from Vertical Man plus the "Love Me Do" cover. (JA)
Choose Love (2005)
A new studio album. (DBW)
Y Not (2010)
I can think of several reasons.