Ringo Starr

Choose Love

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There's nothing surprising, or even all that different, about Choose Love, Ringo Starr's 13th studio album: it's firmly in the tradition of his 1992 return to recording, Time Takes Time, which itself was an attempt to recreate the breezy, good-natured vibe of Starr's biggest and best album, 1973's Ringo. But where that album and the two records that followed it -- 1998's Vertical Man and 2003's Ringorama -- were star-studded affairs, the only guests here are Robert Randolph and Chrissie Hynde, who stops in for a duet on "Don't Hang Up." That means Ringo relies on his longtime collaborators Mark Hudson (who is also the record's co-producer), Gary Burr, and Steve Dudas, who form the core of his touring and recording band, as well as function as his co-writers, and by this point, they've been together nearly a decade. This is a relaxed, comfortable group, but that familiarity pays off here. Instead of sounding lazy, Starr sounds assured and confident, and he has a strong set of tunes that know how to make the best of his endearingly limited vocal range and lovable personality. The music here is well within his comfort zone -- partway between the amiable yet splashy Richard Perry productions of the early '70s and classic mid-period Beatles (the title track has plenty of direct allusions, from the "Taxman"-styled riff to a quote from "Dizzy Miss Lizzy") -- but it all works, largely because it never sounds like Ringo and the lads are straining to capture that vibe: it just seems to come naturally to them now. It also helps that Choose Love has a warm, rich sound that is far removed from the digital brightness of its two predecessors: it helps give the album a friendly aura that's hard to resist if you've ever loved Ringo. And if you've ever loved Ringo, take comfort that this album will be one of the few records of his that you can play without guilt and enjoy from start to finish. It's not just a good record for Ringo, it's just a flat-out good record.

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