Ringo Rama Album reviews.
Release Date: 03.25.03
Record label: Koch Records
Oh My God I'm Giving a Ringo Starr Record a Good Review
by: matt cibula
First Hall & Oates, now this -- am I just a huge sucker for comeback boomers or what? Actually, no. I have never heard a Ringo album before, only the odd (and I do mean "odd") single here and there, and been thoroughly unimpressed by them. I appreciate Ringo's lack of pretention, his sense of humor, and his doggedness, as well as his drumming (I've gone on record as saying that he was the best Beatle, which meant that I lost my Critic Identification Card for a year). But did I really expect to like a 2003 solo record by him? Um, no.
So why do I like this? Well, first because it's so unrelentingly (and often unintentionally) weird. There are some things here that just boggle the mind. Guest appearances, for example: David Gilmour playing a harmonized guitar quartet with himself on the cheesiest song in history, a country-adultcontemporary piece called "Missouri Loves Company"? Charlie Haden -- who was the bassist for Ornette Coleman's first recorded band, fer chrissake -- busting out the low notes during the psychedelic breakdown of "Instant Amnesia"? An Cyrano de Bergerac tune called "Write One For Me" where the guest vocalist is Willie freakin' Nelson? Forget about it, this stuff is so classic it stings.
And even the songs that DON'T have high-priced cronies falling by have their moments of unrelenting strangeness lurking beneath their calm Mark Hudson-produced exteriors. Did we know any of these people could rock as hard as they all do on "Eye to Eye"? Did they really do a tribute to George Harrison (and other dead comrades de rock) that manages to be touching and tuneful? ("Never Without You," and yes they did.) (And yes, Eric Clapton shows up to peel off a very George solo.) Is there any damned excuse for some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard all butted up against really classic ones? ("Missouri Loves Company," in particular, is a groaner, but "Elizabeth Reigns" and "I Think Therefore I Rock and Roll" are maybe even worse, word-wise.)
But even through all that what comes through is Ringo-ness, Ringo-osity, the personality and drive of the strange funny big-nosed little man from Liverpool with the slurry sailor voice. He's not hiding behind any silly "hey look at me" games anymore; he's just making music, man, with no apologies. And that allows some of these melodies -- cheesy and manipulative as they might be -- to seep in and chemically bond to the pretty LA-sound-on-a-budget arrangements. The overblown orchestral stabbings of "Imagine Me There" sound hilarious right up next to the T.Rexisms of "I Think Therefore I Rock and Roll" and therefore great: "It don't take brains, just heart and soul / I think, therefore I rock and roll!"
Honestly, the fact that this record comes with a "Making Of" DVD made me like it even more. Studio footage is inevitably boring, but it's a nice comforting sort of boring, and it shows the actual process of making music. Ringo shows himself to be nobody's puppet, even bitching out the professionally goofy Hudson a couple of times for stupid ideas. I appreciated the chance to see that this wasn't some multi-million dollar session deal, and thanked God for that. It helped me appreciate -- and even have a little crush on this show. I recommend this approach wholeheartedly, as long as the album is as fun as Ringo Rama. 25-Jul-2003 9:28 AM