Ringo Starr defined his solo career through his collaborations, scoring his first big hit with the assistance of his fellow Fabs and later sustaining himself through his All-Starr Band, so his decision to produce 2010’s Y Not on his own appears to be a big deal. Of course, those collaborators sharpened Ringo’s focus but never altered his amiable pop -- that friendly, shambling sound is Ringo, something Y Not proves without a shadow of a doubt by sounding virtually interchangeable with its immediate predecessors despite a production that inexplicably feels like a response to George Harrison’s 1987 comeback, Cloud Nine. Since Ringo bathes himself in unrepentant nostalgia, this 20-year flashback is odd but appropriate because Starr is all about cheerful reminders of happy times filled with Peace Dreams and memories of “The Other Side of Liverpool.
For Beatlemaniacs, the (rubber) sole reason to buy Ringo Starr’s latest is ”Walk With You,” which features a prominent harmony vocal by Paul McCartney. As many times as we’ve studied the Fab reissues, a near-duet between Paul and Ringo is something cool we haven’t heard before. But Y Not mostly makes you wonder ”Why?” The Beatlesque affectations of Starr’s recent discs have been replaced with determinedly bland ’80s production, although there are still enough painfully underwritten peace ‘n’ love aphorisms to make even a Rip Van Winkle hippie wince.
It’s nice to imagine that Ringo Starr’s post-Beatles inability to produce much of consequence stems from his band-established character: the malapropisms, the weird non sequiturs, the half-clownish affability—not exactly materials for a sturdy solo career. But this failure, as especially evidenced on Y Not, seems more predicated on some dearth of actual songwriting talent than the near-novelty quality of his persona. That might seem overly insulting for a capable drummer who provided a consistently even backbone for the Beatles, but each poorly conceived solo album seems like the further watering down of an already thin legacy.