Why don't people take Ringo Starr's albums very seriously? Yeah, we know. The guy's 77. He was the drummer in a band that included John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. And his vocals during the Beatles days were second thoughts next to those of his compatriots.
Well, time marches on and so has Ringo. His new album, “Give More Love,” hits the streets Sept.15. And it's worth your attention. A lot of it. Ringo has taken time on his recent albums to make them home-grown with attention on studio playing and production. That's especially true here.
The album kicks off, as most recent Ringo albums have, with a blazing rocker. “We're On the Road Again,” co-written by Starr with fellow All-Starr Band guitarist Steve Lukather, features one of two guest spots by Paul McCartney, who's heard on this song on both bass and vocals. And you can't miss the vocals. McCartney screams out “We On The Road Again” and really kicks the song into high gear as it starts to wind up. One of the real highlights and one that will stay with you long after the album ends.
Up next is “Laughable,” in which Ringo takes a subtle jab at Donald Trump. “It would be laughable if it wasn't sad,” he sings. And later in the song, he suggests listeners hang in there. “Don't be afraid, don't lose your faith. We need to come together,” also taking the time to insert his trademark phrase “peace and love.” According to an interview, Peter Frampton, who plays guitar on the song, wanted a more direct comment on Trump but Ringo kept it subtle. A good move.
“Show Me the Way” is one of two songs on the album dedicated to his wife of many years Barbara Bach and also the second song on the album to feature Paul McCartney, but only on bass this time. Ringo is very much the romantic on this sweet song. “After all this time we've had to share, the better life.” Next is “Speed of Sound,” another great rocker with Peter Frampton on the talk box. The next song, “Standing Still,” is one of two tracks that have a Nashville feel to them. Nice dobro solo on it by Greg Leiz.
“King of the Kingdom” is the second love song on “Give More Love” for Ringo's wife, Barbara. A song with a soft reggae beat, the lyrics are a bit silly. “Let's sing praises for Haile Selassie.” Up next is “Electricity,” a cool tribute to Johnny Byrne, aka Johnny Guitar of Ringo's old band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. “Back in the day no one will forget how he played. Electricity,” Ringo sings.
“So Wrong for So Long” was, according to an interview we did with recording engineer Bruce Sugar, a track that could have made “Give More Love” a country album, Ringo's original intention. Two things this track show, though. One is “Beaucoups of Blues,” Ringo's 1970 country album, wasn't as wacky as it seemed back then. And second, Ringo's voice has definitely improved with age. Sugar hopes this gets country radio airplay. That would be well-deserved.
The next track, another rocker, “Shake It Up,” will probably get overlooked after “We're On the Road Again” and “Speed of Sound,” but this is one we can imagine Ringo and the band doing live. It's a great song in the old rock 'n' roll tradition. The last new song, the title song “Give More Love,” is actually one of the weakest songs on the album. It's a typical Ringo song while the rest of the album is so atypical.
The last four tracks, all bonus tracks, are remakes of previous Ringo songs. “Back Off Boogaloo” has both feet in the present and past using Ringo's original tape version, updated with some great new slide guitar by Joe Walsh, his brother-in-law. “Don't Pass Me By” is a different version of this Beatles song that's not that far off from the original. It sounds, though, like the guys had a lot of fun in the studio with this. Wait for the little surprise at the end. “Can't Fight Lightning” is a forgettable track and not an attention grabber. The last song, a new version of “Photograph,” doesn't beat out the original, but this one is a pleasure to hear with a nice harmony vocal by Rose Guerin.
Overall, one of the best things about the album is Ringo's singing, which is superb. The players and the playing, which has become a trademark on his last few albums, is great, and the production is crisp and clear. It's an album with few weaknesses. We hope it gets a lot of serious attention. It deserves it. We'll give it an A- overall.