Ringo Starr – I Wanna Be Santa Claus (1999)

History: Ringo and Mark Hudson wrote a couple original Christmas songs together, and eventually decided to make a full album that was a mix of originals and traditional Christmas songs with the help of family and friends. It was critically well regarded but not promoted very much by the label at all, which led to poor sales.

My own personal history and initial prediction: I feel like a Ringo Christmas album isn’t a completely foreign idea to me, so I must have heard of this release. I’m not sure I’ve ever really listened to any of the songs on it though. Working in retail kind of ruined Christmas songs for me for many years, but I’m finding that there finally may be enough distance now that I can appreciate them a little more. I also find it interesting to see that a good portion of the album is originals, so I’m curious to see how those turn out.

Review: It’s definitely a little weird to listen to these kinds of songs in July, but I did my best to get into the spirit. Ironically, while you might think the traditional songs would be the highlight and the originals just filler, I found it to me the opposite. Perhaps it’s just that he’s not bringing too much unique or special to the standards. I actually had the thought in the middle of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” did Ringo just create this album in the hopes of paying off debt? Because his versions are just so bland. Even “Little Drummer Boy” which is an absolute given for him to do, there’s nothing special about it. “Blue Christmas” is probably the one that is best suited to him, where he leans into the country feel of it and embraces that music he loves. “White Christmas” starts with a lot of island instruments, and I get what he’s going for there, but overall it’s still just the same old song you already know. “Christmas Time (is Here Again)” is just as repetitive and boring as when the Beatles did it.

His originals are a lot better. The first one, “Come On Christmas, Come On” isn’t quite so good, it’s a decent rocker but that’s about it. But as the album goes on he leans more into his central themes of peace and love Christmas style, and it really works. “I Wanna Be Santa Claus” is a cute song about wishing to give all the people of the world gifts and make them happy, and “Dear Santa” is a Christmas wish for peace for everyone. “Christmas Eve” and “The Christmas Dance” are love songs with Christmas clothing, the first about missing someone who left and the latter about working up the nerve to ask someone to dance with you. They both fit him really well and are better for being slowed down. The whole album ends with “Pax Um Biscum”, which is heavily inspired by the Indian music we’re normally hearing from George, but it all does create this wonderful sound of meditative peace.

From what I can tell Ringo never made any music videos for these songs, which is a shame. I feel like there probably could have been some nice humor and his trademark charm that could have been brought to some of these. As for me, I have to admit I probably won’t be returning to these too much in the future. While I found it a mostly enjoyable listen, I also didn’t find anything here to really love and want to come back to when Christmas time arrives.

Next Time: Paul returns to classical music once again with Working Classical.


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