Paul McCartney creates a splash whenever he releases a new album, but Ringo Starr stays a bit on the sidelines, cranking out records and tours to a smaller, dedicated audience. Starr is under no delusion that he might suddenly have a Top 10 smash: he's happy to be a working musician, which is all he ever wanted to be. After all, he was a working musician before he was a Beatle, a beginning he celebrates on "Rory & the Hurricanes," the opening track of Postcards from Paradise, his 18th studio solo album. "Rory & the Hurricanes" is part of a long line of latter-day autobiographical tunes from Ringo, and that's not the only similarity Postcards from Paradise shares with the records Starr has made in the new millennium. Like anything from Choose Love on, Postcards is pleasingly low-stakes, studded with fond memories and sunny odes to peace and love, but unlike Y Not and Ringo 2012 -- two amiable records that threatened to drift away on their own good cheer -- this 2015 album is anchored on some sturdy craft, much of it coming from the mid-2010s incarnation of the All-Starr Band. The whole gang -- Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather, Richard Page, Gregg Rolie, Gregg Bissonette and Warren Ham -- kicks in on "Island in the Sun," but Lukather and Rundgren each get their own session with Starr, providing a foundation that is just different enough from new millennium Ringo records and setting off good contributions from the returning Dave Stewart, Joe Walsh, Richard Marx, Van Dyke Parks, Gary Burr, Glen Ballard, and Gary Nicholson. Ever since he split with Mark Hudson -- sometime during the making of 2008's Liverpool 8 -- this has been Starr's running crew, and while none of them deliver something out of the ordinary (apart from Marx's reggae number "Right Side of the Road"), the record veers closer to the woozy good times of Goodnight Vienna than the going-through-the-motions shrug of Y Not. Part of this is material -- it's fun to hear Ringo lay into "into the low-key soul groove of "Confirmation" -- but Starr's production is bolder than before, allowing a bit of blood into the production. Plus, he doesn't shy away from being a bit of a goofball, either when he's romanticizing Rory & the Hurricanes or working with Rundgren to stitch together Beatles song titles into a bit of cheeky psychedelia, and that proud silliness and sentimentality have always been a key to Ringo's appeal. He makes no bones that he's here for a good time, and the appealing thing about Postcards from Paradise is that it's as much fun to hear as it must've been to make.
Postcards from Paradise Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine