Ringo Starr – Ringo Rama (2003)

History: Ringo once again changed record labels after feeling Mercury had let him down. He signed with independent label Koch and made another record with Mark Hudson and Dean Grakal, calling in famous friends like Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, and David Gilmour this time around. He also got permission from Paul to use a bit of “Let ‘Em In” for one song on the record.

My own personal history and initial prediction: The standout on this one is of course “Never Without You,” his tribute to George. I love this song, it’s such a touching tribute that obviously meant a lot to Ringo. I remember this song getting a lot of airplay at the time and I would always stop to listen when it came on. The cover of this album also looks really familiar to me, I feel like I remember seeing it being promoted a lot as well. I notice these songs largely have the same songwriters he’s been working with on the last couple offerings so I imagine this is going to be another good not necessarily great effort from Ringo.

Review: As predicted, this album is good, not great. I do feel like Ringo is improving lyrically quite a bit, perhaps because he mostly seems to be writing about things that mean something to him rather than trying to go for typical love song themes. As such there’s a whole lot of peace and love being mentioned, but there’s also a bit of cleverness as well. I think “Never Without You” does a really good job of taking some of George’s song titles and turning it into a proper tribute for his friend. I also really enjoyed the witticism of “Missouri Loves Company” even if it does get a bit cheesy sometimes. Yes, it’s essentially dad jokes, but I think dad jokes suit Ringo just fine.

A lot of these songs do trend toward country territory which is probably why musically the album isn’t doing as much for me. It’s good, it’s fine, but most of them are hard to comment on beyond “that was pleasant.” I do like the Willie Nelson collaboration “Write One For Me,” as it makes me nostalgic for the Willie Nelson songs I heard a lot when I was a kid. It’s also a cute story, that he apparently reached out and said he wanted Willie to write a song for him, and what came back was this narrative of a man who wants to express his heart to his love but can’t and is instead asking a musician to do it for him.

The song that starts the album, “Eye to Eye,” is an exception to the country feel, and instead comes off sounding really modern for that time period without also sounding like Ringo is trying too hard to be young and cool. I just wish they had continued to explore that sound a little bit more on the album, because it really perked my ears up and got me excited but the rest of the album was more the standard. “Memphis in Your Mind” is where we hear a Roy Orbison growl (sent with permission from Orbison’s wife) but unfortunately it’s just otherwise a decent country song.

I do like the way the album closes out though, with a quick song painting a scene of himself, Barbara and their dog Buster together in their garden, with the little bit of “Let ‘Em In” thrown in to highlight the casual nature of it all. The album even technically has a brief secret track, one where Ringo performed all the instruments himself. I feel like it shows a lot about his personality, and also why I will never feel like my time with a Ringo album is wasted, even if I may never be compelled to listen to some of the songs again.

Next Time: Paul continues to dabble in electronic music as part of the duo Twin Freaks.


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