Friday, October 21, 2016

Ringo Starr gets some long overdue musical respect – from the Russians

A new two-disc Ringo Starr collection, “Ringo Starr Greatest Hits,” showed up on Amazon recently. Thanks to the design and much of the packaging, complete with logos, it looked it could have been a legitimate issue. But it wasn't. It was really an unauthorized Russian issue composed completely of all previously released material. Besides the tiny Russian type on the back cover that gives it away, the cover also shows the listings on “Dick One” and “Dick Two.”

The funny thing is, though, that if it was a legitimate release it would get a four-star rating. Why? Because the music itself is great. For better or worse, the work of the other three Beatles is almost always mentioned ahead of his. And if you count the Beatles as a group, it's fifth. But after listening to this set, that shouldn't be the case. As we said, there's nothing new or nothing anyone with a complete Ringo Starr CD collection doesn't already have. Why would it be a necessary buy if it was a legitimate release?

Unlike the other Beatles who at times have gotten off in tangents in their solo careers either lyrically or musically, Ringo's music has always, even in its few vanity detours (like “Beaucoups of Blues” and “Sentimental Journey”) been down-to-earth. And that's what this set is all about.

The first disc begins, not surprisingly, with 1973's “Photograph,” the first of his two Billboard No. 1 hits. The other was the follow-up, “You're Sixteen,” from the same year, which is the second track on side one. The first disc, with 24 tracks, includes the A-sides of all his top 100 Billboard hits through 1981 – “Beaucoups of Blues” (his first Billboard charter in 1970); “It Don't Come Easy”; “Back Off Boogaloo”; “Oh My My”; “No No Song”; “(It's All Down to) Goodnight Vienna”; “Only You”; “A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll”; “Hey Baby” and “Wrack My Brain.”

Also on the disc, but certainly not filling it out, are “Drowning in the Sea of Love”; “Wings” (which he recently remade); “Lipstick Traces”; “Heart on My Sleeve”; “Private Property”; “Stop and Take the Time To Smell the Roses”; “In My Car” and “I Keep Forgettin'.”

The second disc features more recent material, starting with “Weight of the World.” Some of the other tracks on the disc are the rockin' “Don't Go Where the Road Don't Go”; “King of Broken Hearts” with George Harrison's tender slide solo; “Never Without You,” his tender tribute to Harrison; another rocker, “Give Me Back the Beat”; “Choose Love”; “Liverpool 8”; “Peace Dream”; “Walk With You,” his duet with Paul McCartney; “Rock Island Line,” his cover of that vintage song; and “Postcards From Paradise,” the title song from his most recent album.

It's only on the second disc that the programming of songs falls off a little. But so much of this disc is absolutely wonderful listening and points up Ringo's talent as a singer. (Yes, we said that.) What connects the songs is the fact that Ringo never appears to be putting on airs. His humanity shines through on this set. The set includes several cover versions and also a surprising number of songs about the Beatles, Liverpool or songs with Beatles references. 

Now, if only he'd do a few more of these in concert. Though the album is no longer on Amazon, it can be found on eBay, at least for now. See the full track list from the back cover below.  The funniest thing about this is that Ringo has long talked about putting out a new career retrospective. It's happened, but he didn't do it. 

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