A look at the 79-year-old Starr’s 20th solo endeavor
Artist: Ringo Starr
Album: What’s My Name
★★★ 1/2 (3.5/5 stars)
It’s no accident that the Beatles were billed as “John, Paul, George…and Ringo.”
Given their overwhelming skills as singers, songwriters and innovators, it’s only natural that Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were billed as the band’s prime movers. As for Ringo, his role was best suited to being the group’s comedian and oftentimes, the most beloved mop top.
That persona has accompanied Starr his entire professional life, and 20 solo albums on, he still seems to eagerly embrace the carefree, happy-go-lucky peace and love persona given to him early on. His love of life is evident, and why not? If his albums don’t quite measure up to the Beatles brand, they do convey the gregarious giddiness of a man who recognizes his good fortune and the fact he’s been forever enriched by it.
Nearly 50 years after his understated solo debut Sentimental Journey, the debate still lingers — was Ringo worthy of the adulation he received simply because Pete Best was tossed at the behest of George Martin and he was lucky enough to be tapped as his replacement? Yes, he was–and remains–a damn good drummer, one who piled his percussion with savvy, subtlety and skill. And yet, with the exception of Ringo and Goodnight Vienna — both of which were fortified by marquee names and songs contributed by his former bandmates — none of his subsequent solo work comes close to meeting that impossible Beatles bar.
VIDEO: 1974 TV ad for Goodnight, Vienna
Yet with ever impending effort, pundits wonder, “Will this be the one?” Will Ringo prove worthy? Has he exceeded himself?
Naturally then, with Ringo’s 20th album, What’s My Name (its title is taken from the question Ringo gleefully asks his audiences), the expectation of a masterpiece still springs eternal. That’s despite the fact that with all the sappiness and superficiality Starr manages to serve up with each successive effort, all remaining hopes fade significantly following the release of each successive offering.
Of course Ringo’s not alone in this predicament. Individual albums by most members of well established groups seem to suffer in comparison to their ensembles’ outings. Mick Jagger’s solo albums proved a prime example. Lennon, Harrison and McCartney fared well, but did they make anyone yearn any less for a Fab Fours reunion?
VIDEO: Ringo talks about What’s My Name with legendary Canadian radio host Alan Cross
Well, no, and What’s My Name won’t either. Most of it fits the formula Starr’s repeatedly etched over time — some throwaway rockers, various odes to a life lived large and a ballad designed to show that he can be tender and touching when he wants to be. In this case, “Grow Old With Me” is the best of the bunch, and the fact it was written by John, and Paul shares yet another cameo moves it ever so slightly towards the largess the Fabs faithful long for. Ringo even suggests it represents a reunion of sorts, given that the guitar solo has Harrison’s signature sound etched all over it.
So, too, a remake of “Money (That’s What I Want),” Starr’s solo showpiece during the band’s seminal live sets, seems intended to notch up the nostalgia as well.
VIDEO: Ringo Starr “Grow Old With Me”
As for the remaining tracks on the album, suffice it to say that if you can’t get enough of Ringo’s endless exhortations about peace, love and his own luxurious lifestyle, then songs such as “Life Is Good,” “Send Love, Spread Peace,” “What’s My Name?” and “Thank God For Music” will win you over at the outset. On the other hand, if you get the suspicion that Ringo is simply on autopilot, you’ll more than likely file this record away with every other Ringo album you’ve accumulated over the past 40 plus years, call yourself a completist and likely not give it another listen.
“How many times can you tell yourself that something’s good,” he croons on this album. “A thousand times? Sometimes it’s not enough.”
Exactly. When your name is Ringo, a thousand times apparently isn’t enough indeed.
AUDIO: Ringo Starr “What’s My Name”