Ringo Starr – Old Wave (1983)

History: Ringo, ever the one to swing back and forth on methods for recording his albums, decided this time to stick with just one producer. He chose Joe Walsh of The Eagles for the task, and the two of them cowrote most of the songs on the album. Ringo had a lot of trouble getting a record label, eventually finding RCA Canada who was willing to release it.

My own personal history and initial prediction: Part of me hoped with a name like this we’d be getting RIngo’s version of a classic rock and roll album, but alas the tracklist suggests that’s not the case. I’m not terribly familiar with Joe Walsh’s solo work nor could I really tell you his main contributions to the Eagles’ catalogue, so knowing he wrote a lot of these songs doesn’t give me much to go by on what to expect. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I probably won’t find this terrible but I probably won’t love it either.

Review: So I’ll admit it, this one kind of surprised me. Maybe my expectations were just low, given how little interest the record labels had in it at the time. To my ears at least, this is a pretty solid country and blues album. I can now get a good feel for what it is that Joe Walsh brought to the Eagles, because he’s bringing it here as well. The genre is well suited for Ringo, who clearly is enjoying it, and for once the backing vocals actually match his vocal style rather than clashing with him. I would not go so far as to say I love this album, as you probably know by now that these aren’t genres I personally gravitate to. But I think it’s well constructed for what it is.

I also found it a little funny that the first song on the album, “In My Car” shares a very similar lyrical theme as the popular new wave song “Cars” by Gary Numan. They sound dramatically different, of course, but to title the album Old Wave and then do a song with similar theme but different sound was a fun sort of twist, intentional or not. Can you imagine a whole album like that? Someone doing a country song that matches “I Ran”? A big band “Take on Me?” A jazz “Good Two Shoes”? It could be a lot of fun!

Lyrically there’s not a whole lot to really stand out here, though I did find it interesting that “Hopeless” seemed to be Ringo taking his alcohol addiction straight on. Of course it’s hard to say which parts were written by Ringo and which by Walsh. Though I can say “Be My Baby” which Walsh wrote alone isn’t much stronger.

“She’s About a Mover” was a really great cover, a song I had never heard before but has a lot in common with Ray Charles’s “What I Say.” There’s a great horn section at the end that definitely made me think of New Orleans style jazz. “I Keep Forgettin” was also interesting to hear. I’m only familiar with Michael McDonald’s song “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” which is not exactly the same but close enough that McDonald had to give the original writers of this song, Leiber and Stoller, credit on his. There’s definitely a lot of connective threads here he took to build his song.

There were two songs I didn’t care for too much, one being “Picture Show Life” which is talking about the difficulties of living in Los Angeles but comes off a bit whiny and repetitive, and also “As Far As We Can Go” which I don’t care for mostly because ballads are not his strength. The album then ends with two songs that are basically jam sessions. The first “Everybody’s in a Hurry But Me” also includes Eric Clapton and John Entwistle from The Who. It’s good for what it is. The second is just credited to Ringo and Walsh, so I guess they just let the whole band jam together for that one. Once again it’s fine, but having just sat through another jam session I didn’t necessarily want two in a row. But I guess the end of the LP is a good place for these kind of songs to go.

This will be Ringo’s last album until 1992. I’m sure the lack of interest by record labels was probably a big contributor to that. Hopefully that time off will allow him to find some things he really wants to sing about.

Next Time: Paul takes the leftover songs from Tug of War and adds some new ones for Pipes of Peace.

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