Discog Fever - Rating and Reviewing Every Ringo Starr Album (Part 2)

by Jeff Fiedler

Discog Fever is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com, rating and reviewing a band's entire catalogue of studio albums

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Old Wave (1983, RCA)                                                                       

C –

Passed over for release in both the U.S. and the U.K., which tells you just how far Starr’s stock had fallen by this point, this disc was only available as an import until 1994, when The Right Stuff re-issued it domestically on CD. There’s an awful lot of star power here: Joe Walsh, who also produced the album, plays guitar throughout, and Eric Clapton, The Who’s John Entwistle, and Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker are just a few notable names who all make appearances. But there are too many pointless covers here, and most of the originals are weak, though “In My Car” is a keeper (the song also popped up years later on Walsh’s solo album Got Any Gum?). The album would bomb in every one of the few countries it was released in, however, and it would be nearly ten years before Ringo would make another solo record.

Time Takes Time (1992, Private)                                                                   

B +

An undeniable creative reawakening, Time finds Starr in the production hands of Jeff Lynne, Peter Asher, and Don Was and with the strongest set of material he's had in a very long time, particularly "Weight of the World,"  "Don't Go Where the Road Don't Go," the Posies-penned "Golden Blunders," and the Jellyfish-penned "I Don't Believe You."  There are also quite a few guest stars here never before heard on a Ringo album, among them Brian Wilson, Andrew Gold, and half of The Knack.  All of this adds up to a very fun album, Ringo's best outing since 1973's Ringo.

Vertical Man (1998, Mercury)                                                                        

B –

A slight misstep from the album before it, Ringo is produced here by Mark Hudson (of The Hudson Brothers fame and, more recently, a co-writer/producer for Aerosmith), who makes an excellent collaborator for the drummer.  The material, on the other hand, is a step backwards from its predecessor.  The single "La De Da" is really cringe-inducing (if just for the dreadful chorus), and there are two pointless covers here (one of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" and one of the Beatles' own "Love Me Do"), but there are some gems to compensate for the more forgettable material: "What in the World" and "King of Broken Hearts" especially shine. 

Ringo Rama (2003, Koch)                                                                             

B +

Every bit as good as Time Takes Time, this is easily one of Ringo's three or four best solo albums.  Hudson is back as producer, but he and Ringo have rounded up a much better song selection this time, the best cuts being "Eye to Eye," "Never Without You," and "Memphis in Your Mind," though nothing here is especially weak. 

Choose Love (2005, Koch)                                                                            

B –

Very much in the same formula as the two preceding albums, Choose Love is ever-so-slightly inferior to Ringo Rama in terms of the song quality, but it's nearly every bit as strong and fun an album, highlighted by the opener, "Fading In, Fading Out.”  

Liverpool 8 (2008, Capitol)                                                                           

C +

Y Not (2010, Hip-O/Universal)                                                                                  

C

Starr had a falling-out with Mark Hudson during the making of Liverpool 8, which led to Hudson being replaced mid-recording by ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart, and Starr's albums unfortunately have suffered for it ever since.  The material's not as strong or as hook-laden as the best material on Ringo Rama, as Liverpool 8 and Y Not both prove, and too often Ringo sounds like a parody of himself, not in the least because of his post-Hudson obsession with paying tribute in song to his old home of Liverpool, there being at least one such tribute on every album since.  Nostalgia is wonderful, but each subsequent Liverpool homage makes Ringo seem increasingly short on ideas.  Y Not has the more fun set of special guests - including McCartney, Joe Walsh, Billy Squier, and Edgar Winter, to name just a few - but Liverpool 8 is the more consistent of the two, Y Not taking a real dive in its second half.  

Ringo 2012 (2012, Hip-O/Universal)                                                            

C –

Easily Ringo's worst album since the early '80s, Ringo has never seemed so short on ideas as he does here.  First of all, there's yet another tribute to Liverpool here ("In Liverpool"), his third consecutive album to bear one, and, for another, there are only nine tracks here, two of which are covers (Buddy Holly's "Think It Over" and Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line") and another two of which are, aggravatingly enough, re-recordings of largely forgettable songs from Ringo's '70s output ("Step Lightly" and "Wings.")  The rest of it is okay, if never exactly memorable, but, even in its best moments, it's hard to escape feeling like you didn't get a whole heck of a lot for your money and it just screams more than any other Starr disc in a long time of being little more than a cash-in.

Postcards from Paradise (2015, Universal)                                                   

B –

Definitely a stronger disc than his previous three outings, Starr seems a little more creatively re-energized here, even going so far as to produce himself for a change (to surprisingly good results). It might mean little that he’s surrounded by an all-star cast here – including Peter Frampton, Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, Richard Marx, Toto’s Steve Lukather, Journey’s Gregg Rolie, and Mr. Mister’s Richard Page, to name just a few who get in on both the performing and the songwriting – if he hadn’t also brought a decent set of songs to the table as well, which he does.  The album gets off to a really discouraging start with yet another tribute to Starr’s roots in “Rory and the Hurricanes,” which ends up coming across as a rather cliché track given Starr’s recent penchant for nostalgia, but after that, the songs get much better, highlighted by the fun Rundgren-co-written title track (which cleverly works in countless Beatles song titles into the lyric) and the driving, hook-loaded “Touch and Go.”

Compilations:
The 2007 Capitol single-disc package Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr is fantastic, containing all but one of his twelve Top 40 hits (the only missing hit is “Oo-Wee” from Goodnight Vienna) and a well-chosen selection of album cuts, rarities (including the great “Early 1970,” the B-side of “It Don’t Come Easy”) and latter-era singles.

Live Albums:
If you want a good representation of what a Starr concert is like, the best place to go is one of the All-Starr Band discs; there’s a sizable handful to pick from, and the one you’ll like best really will depend on your fondness for the special guests contained within, since there’s a different cast on each one and each guest typically gets at least two turns at the mike. While it doesn’t really capture a typical Starr concert, the 1998 package VH1 Storytellers might be the most entertaining of Starr’s live albums, if only because it features the ever-charismatic drummer getting to engage with the audience at length and tell the stories behind the songs; the format suits the personality quite well.