The Ringo Album (1973)

This was the closest the four Beatles ever got to a reunion, working on Ringo’s third solo album.  The other three ex-Beatles worked on the album, but not at the same time.

Up to this point, Ringo had released an album of pop standards, Sentimental Journey, maybe the first pop musician to use the songbook of standards including Hogie Carmichael, Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter.  He used different arrangers on each track including George Martin, Quincy Jones, Elmer Bernstein and Paul McCartney.  The album sold as a curiousity, reaching number 22 on the chart and selling in excess of 500,000 copies.  Beatles fame has cash value.

ringo-recording-session-john-lennon-ringo-starr-1973-richard-perry
Richard Perry with several former Beatles

His second album, Beaucoups of Blue, ventured into country music.  Recorded in Nashville and produced by Pete Drake, Ringo got his boots dirty.  The album charted on both the pop and country charts, but failed to make a lasting impact.  It’s not a bad album, but there is nothing special about it except the tunes are sung by an ex-Beatle.

In between these projects, Ringo released two singles, actual pop music, so fans got a taste of Ringo on his own. “It Don’t Come Easy” was written by Ringo and George Harrison, but mostly Harrision, who recorded the backing track in his studio.  It reached number four on the chart, and has that signature Harrison guitar.  The B-side was “Early 1970” written by Ringo, again with help from Harrison.

His next single was “Back Off Boogaloo,” again co-written and produced by Harrison. The song reached number nine on the chart.  The flipside was another Ringo written song, “Blindman,” a song intended for the film of the same name but not used. Ringo co-starred in the Western.

Ringo knew producer Richard Perry from the Harry Nilsson albums, Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson.  Perry had also produced Carly Simon’s very successful album, No Secrets.  Perry seemed like a safe bet to give him a pure pop sound.

This is an upbeat, old-time rock and roll type affair.  Perry builds complimentary arrangements around Ringo, as his friends provide the backing tracks. If you are looking for anything groundbreaking, keep looking.  You get “Octopus’s Garden” and “Yellow Submarine” type songs, easy going and familiar.

Side one

“I’m the Greatest” (John Lennon) – 3:21  Written and piano by Lennon, with a nice arrangement by Perry.  Lennon, Harrison and Ringo all appeared on the song, the first time all three had worked together since 1969.  A perfect song for Ringo, and a great lead-in for the album.

“Have You Seen My Baby” (Randy Newman) – 3:44  An old-time rock andn roll arrangement with honkeytonk piano and a lead guitar by Marc Bolin (T-Rex).  Enjoyable cover.

“Photograph” (Richard Starkey, George Harrison) – 3:56 The best song on the album and one of the best by an ex-Beatle up to that point. Harrison had recorded an early version of the song, but hadn’t used it.  The core of Ringo, Harrison, Klaus Voorman, Nicky Hopkins and Bobby Keyes recorded the basic track.  Other musicians contributed to the finished track.  A number one chart hit and a million singles sold.

“Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away Raymond)” (Harrison) – 2:45  A rather odd song by Harrison. Most of the The Band appeared on it. A countrified type song.

“You’re Sixteen” (Bob Sherman, Dick Sherman) – 2:48  Ringo liked old rock n roll and novelty songs, they fit his “good-time” and “don’t take life too seriously” approach to life. Perry gave him the right about schmartzy arrangement that actually turned it into a number one hit. Paul McCartney appears on the song.

 

Side two

“Oh My My” (Starkey, Vini Poncia) – 4:16  A nice effort from Ringo and Poncia, who would become his writing partner for a few albums.  Billy Preston adds some lively piano to the track.  The track cracked the top five on the chart.

“Step Lightly” (Starkey) – 3:15  A sophisticated pop arrangement for a somewhat slight song.  It fits Ringo’s style.

“Six O’Clock” (Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney) – 4:06  A very light, fluffy pop song. Not a bad song, just a by-the-numbers kind of thing. Not very inspired, but a few gentle melodic hooks for a pleasant listening experience.

“Devil Woman” (Starkey, Poncia) – 3:50  A nice guitar riff opens the song, Perry surrounds Ringo with a nice arrangement.  Probaby the hardest rocking song on the album (that’s not saying much).

“You and Me (Babe)” (Harrison, Mal Evans) – 4:59  A song to wind down the album, a thank you to those who appeared on the album, with a nice guitar riff from Harrison. Interesting, Harrison saved some of his best guitar work for his friends albums.

So, all in all, a very successful album.  This would be the high-water mark for Ringo’s chart success.  These were the best songs given to him by his former bandmates too.  The “party atmosphere” on the album would be repeated again, with lesser success.  Perry gave Ringo a great showcase for his personality and limited vocal abilities.  It reached number two on the charts and sold over one million copies.  That’s a very successful result. Spin it from beginning to end, you’ll enjoy the experience.


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