Ringo Starr


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It's hard to judge Ringorama, Ringo Starr's 12th proper studio album, by most standard critical criteria. Even comparing the record to his previous solo work doesn't quite work, since so many of his albums are so driven by his persona -- a combination of his actual personality and what his team of collaborators (always including a bevy of guest stars, of course) perceive his persona to be. Apart from 1973's towering Ringo, and its good follow-up, Goodnight Vienna, Starr was never consistent, partially because of his decadence in the '70s, but also because he never relaxed -- he was always shooting for the charts and shifting his collaborators seemingly haphazardly. It wasn't until the '90s, after he settled into his regular All-Starr summer tours -- and after he had made a well-received comeback with 1992's Time Takes Time -- that he relaxed with a regular band and set of collaborators, led by producer Mark Hudson; all return for 2003's Ringorama. Prior to the record's release, Hudson stated that he wanted the record to have a harder edge than its predecessor, Vertical Man, which it often does, at least in that it has very bright, rock-oriented productions, and is given a hard surface sheen via Pro Tools. Not exactly the intended edge; but it does mean that it's brassier than recent Ringo efforts, which isn't necessarily a plus. What is a plus is that it's likeable, particularly because everybody concerned -- from Ringo's regular band to such guests as Eric Clapton; David Gilmour; Timothy B. Schmit; and Willie Nelson -- seems to be having a good time. In another set of hands, such songs as "I Think Therefore I Rock N Roll" would be too silly, but here it's easy to accept; as are his frequent dips into self-references, since it's just Ringo being Ringo. Which brings us back to the point that his albums are sold as much by who Ringo Starr is, as they are by what his mood is. Though there is more care and consideration on Ringorama than on Ringo the 4th, the linch pin in the whole affair is his persona, and whether he has a comfortable, suitable platform or not; and, even if he does, it's likely not to play outside of those that really, really love Ringo. Fortunately, he's relaxed enough now not to care about the wider audience, so he's now making records that are fun and relaxed, even if the production doesn't quite work or if the songs are a little silly. So, Ringorama winds up as a good, enjoyable Ringo Starr album -- not as warm or rich as Time Takes Time; and a little more uneven than Vertical Man, but still good; which means this is first string of three good records in a row since the early '70s. And that does count for something.

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