It’s been 44 years since the Beatles began their quest for world domination and became culturally ubiquitous mainstays. Ringo Starr, the band’s drummer, is now 67-years-old. He and Paul McCartney are sadly now the only Beatles left. Thankfully, Ringo’s new record “Liverpool 8,” (the number indicating his neighborhood in Liverpool) showcases exactly what one expects from a Ringo record.
As a songwriter, Ringo always paled next to his other band-mates. But then again, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were all titans in their prime. No one can blame Ringo for not being able to measure up to that bar. That being said, Ringo did write two notable Beatles classics in “Octopus’ Garden” and “Don’t Pass Me By,” so he’s still worthy. But as a solo artist, with the exception of “It Don’t Come Easy,” he’s rarely gotten his due.
“Liverpool 8″ is a complete nostalgia trip. The title track is shockingly vital and gorgeous. It stands among his best singles to date. That is somewhat surprising considering that it’s been a while since he really delivered a memorable single. His albums are usually reasonably decent, but how many songs from his solo career have really infiltrated your mind and not left? The title track to “Liverpool 8,” sticks with you in a classically Beatle-like way.
One of many tracks co-written with Dave Stewart of the Eurhythmics, the song chronicles Starr’s rise with the Beatles from working-class boys from Liverpool to all-around superstars. Sure, George Harrison did this kind of track at least twice with his hits “All Those Years Ago” and “When We Was Fab,” (the latter being hugely under-rated!) and just about all of Paul’s last album, last year’s excellent “Memory Almost Full,” was built around such self-celebration, but here, from Ringo’s perspective, the whole experience is told in such wide-eyed awe.
More so than with any of the rest of them, you get the feeling that Ringo knows exactly how lucky he is, considering he replaced original drummer Pete Best right before the band took off. It probably scares him to death to think that if things had gone a slight bit differently, Pete Best could’ve been living the high life instead. It is this sense of good fortune that adds sweetness to the song. The song has the strong aroma of pride.
By far, that opener is the best song in the record, but nowhere does Ringo embarrass himself in any way. He continues to be the jovial, enjoyable, unique personality generations have come to love. Love, in fact seems to be his favorite topic. Four tracks have the word in the title. Perhaps the best is “If It’s Love That You Want,” which possesses a very plucky early-period Beatle-esque quality. It equally recalls “From Me To You” and “Come And Get It.” The other three love themed songs are the gentle, “Love Is,” the slow, mellow, goovier, “Tuff Love,” and the funked-up “For Love,” which sounds like something Lennon would’ve recorded somewhere around the time of “Cold Turkey” or “Power To The People.” The latter is a very big song, and it serves Ringo very well.
“Think About You” also recalls the early seventies, and seems dated, but in the long-run, this really doesn’t matter. It’s an enjoyable track, despite the fact that the background singing recalls the cheesiest moments on the Traveling Wilburys’ records.
“Gone are the Days” has some nicely tweaked-out doses of psychedelia, but the sense of innovation felt in the opening notes is slightly diminished when one realizes that the chorus consists of the once-again recycled phrase of “It Don’t Come Easy.” It makes what could have been something really cool, come off as a mere rehash.
“Give It A Try” also sounds a little like an early Beatles out-take. The kind of song you’d expect would have been delegated to Ringo on “Please Please Me.” It’s a pleasant, vaguely skiffle-fueled boogie.
“Harry’s Song” has an almost tin-pan alley vibe whereas “Pasodobles” interestingly casts Ringo as mellow Latin crooner.
“Liverpool 8″ as an album does not strike up a revolution. It doesn’t change Ringo’s image in any way, shape or form. Instead, it’s a statement that he can still deliver a reasonably good record. His voice hasn’t really changed that much over the years and he has aged extremely well.
Like McCartney’s last two records, “Liverpool 8″ has a strong sense of revitalization. No doubt, the two of them are in similar boats. Watching their friend George Harrison die of cancer a few years ago must’ve left lasting scars, and from their musical output since, it also seems to have firmly placed both of them focused and in the moment. It’s as if they’ve realized that time is a finite commodity, and that there isn’t enough time any more to make sub-par records. Let’s hope Paul and Ringo continue to make enjoyable records for many years to come.
An interesting side note: Currently, EMI seems to be having a great deal of business related problems. Job cuts were just announced and many artists on the label’s roster are wonder if the company is equipped to properly promote them. Recently, McCartney angrily parted ways with EMI subsidiary, Capitol in order to record for Starbucks’ label. It should be noted that against the trend, “Liverpool 8″ marks Ringo’s return to the Capitol roster after spending the last few years recording for the indie label Koch.