As he creeps up on 70, Ringo Starr may be the only Beatle that really ever mattered. The drummer has returned to Capitol Records and recorded his most magnificent solo effort since 1974’s Goodnight Vienna (ironically, his last album with Capitol) — Liverpool 8. Longtime collaborator Mark Hudson, the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and a host of other studio pros pitch in to help give the record a sleek, stylish edge. But it is Starr himself who rises to the occasion, nailing some spectacular performances within the context of 12 new tracks.
Out of the four former mop tops, it was Ringo whom many feared would fall by the wayside, never to be heard from again. During the first part of the 70s, he stayed busy, making records like a madman and appearing in a number of classic films. His star dipped a bit in the 80s, but the launch of his All-Starr Band in 1989 opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Starr not only created a means of staying on the road and playing music for himself; he also made it possible for other well-known, someone neglected musicians. For Ringo, being a Beatle has never been a liability.
Now with Liverpool 8, his fifteenth studio release, Starr has gone back and embraced his roots. The autobiographical title track boasts a smooth and catchy melody, delivered in the same spirit as George Harrison’s “When We Was Fab.” The upbeat, lively tempos keep coming — “Think About You,” “For Love,” “Now That She’s Gone Away” — with Starr’s nasally tuneful voice and unmistakable beat digging into the pocket and showing no wear with age. Going for broke, Stewart builds a wall of ‘Backwards Fabulousness’ for “Gone Are The Days” before the song shimmy and shakes its way to a gleeful conclusion. John Lennon would be proud.
From there, Ringo gets schmaltzy on “Harry’s Song,” a tribute to the late, great Harry Nilsson; blatantly romantic on “Pasodobles”; and gallantly evocative on knee-slappin’ fare like “R U Ready.” In a world where Paul McCartney keeps getting repeated Grammy nods and accolades, one could only imagine Ringo Starr churning out a decent record like this and reaping up some long-deserving praise for himself. Wouldn't that be nice for a change?
~ Shawn Perry