Three interesting facts about Ringo Starr: 1. Mention him only by his first name and everyone knows whom you’re talking about. 2. He’s 75 years old and in fighting trim, looking the best he’s ever looked. 3. With the release earlier this year of Postcards From Paradise, he has now released 18 solo albums. He’s currently on a North American tour in support of the record.
Clearly the man is a force of nature. Anyone who was around for his adventures with The Beatles could never have predicted any of this. Ringo was the comic relief, the one who was given the topical songs (such as “Act Naturally” and the truly regrettable “Yellow Submarine”) for a lark. And he’s endured decades of not so subtle remarks about his musicianship. These days, though, talents such as Todd Rundgren and former members of Santana and Mr. Mister are happy to appear on Ringo’s famed world tours, backing him up. Ringo was always the underestimated one, but now he’s getting his just desserts – critical appreciation.
Here’s what the legendary guitarist, Steve Lukather (from the famed but underrated band Toto) had to say about Ringo in a recent interview:
“He looks 40 and he’s as funny as he was in A Hard Day’s Night and he plays his ass off. I don’t give a shit what anybody says — I’ve played with the man. I’ve played with the best drummers in the world — I kind of know what a good drummer is. Ringo Starr started it all. Those Beatles records? That was real — there was no click track, that was Ringo. Was he super flashy? No. Was he in the pocket? Every time.”
As for the new album, it’s a surprisingly competent, mature and enjoyable affair. It was produced by Starr and recorded at his home studio in Los Angeles. Guest artists include Joe Walsh, Benmont Tench, Dave Stewart, Ann Marie Simpson, Richard Marx, Amy Keys, Peter Frampton, Nathan East and Glen Ballard. The songs are entirely original material written by Ringo, who says he composes by playing the drum parts, and later on inviting other stellar players to fill in their parts. The results are unexpectedly cohesive.
It may be stating the obvious that this album could have been made anytime during the past thirty years, but even so the musical pleasures within are considerable. The lyrics, the song structures, the guitar fills – none of them are revolutionary, but the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and the whole is very listenable. Ringo is in fine vocal form and projects an energy and vitality that belies his age.
Key tracks: “Rory and the Hurricanes” (a tale of Ringo’s first band, of which he was the star), the title track “Postcards From Paradise”, which just may be one of the best post-Beatles songs any of the group composed – it’s simple, effective and memorable with a killer refrain -, and the moving “Not Looking Back”, which provides about as much wisdom as any of us needs to get through life. Another standout track is “You Bring The Party Down” – as much as for its truth-telling as for the superb drumming from the man himself. The entire album is characterized by Ringo’s infectious good nature, which was always known to us. Perhaps we’ve been concentrating a little too much on that, and not enough on his musicality. Like his friend Luke says, “Was he in the pocket? Every time.”
Brian Miller is the Publisher and co-Editor of Vivascene. A former record store owner and business writer, his interests range from vinyl records and high-end audio to design, photography, and succinct writing. Email: email@example.com