Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Albums of 1973: Ringo

Release Date: November 2, 1973

Produced by Richard Perry

The 1991 Reissue Track Listing: I'm the Greatest; Have You Seen My Baby; Photograph; Down and Out; Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond); You're Sixteen; Oh My My; Step Lightly; Six O'clock; Devil Woman; You and Me (Babe); It Don't Come Easy; Early 1970

Perhaps the closest instance of the Beatles ever reuniting was for Ringo's eponymous 1973 album. All three of Ringo's bandmates contributed songs and took part in the recording process, albeit, all four were never in the studio together. Yet a d├ętente was in the air during 1973 among the Beatles despite ongoing litigation over the breakup which had alienated McCartney from the others.

Ringo's former bandmates had all established successful solo careers. In 1970 Ringo released two solo records: a collection of pre-rock standards Sentimental Journey and country-western covers on Beaucoups of Blues. Starr took a few years off from music to focus on acting, he notably played a fictional version of himself in That'll Be the Day, a film inspired by the early life of John Lennon.

For the recording of Ringo, an all-star group of musicians were assembled including members of The Band, Marc Bolan, Harry Nilsson, Billy Preston and many others.

The album begins with the tongue in cheek "I'm the Greatest" Lennon gave to Ringo. Using Muhammad Ali's iconic line, the narrator recounts a life of being beloved by everyone who comes into his presence in a satire of rock star egotism. Like "Glass Onion," there are many references to Beatle lore like Ringo's alter ego "Billy Shears," even mimicking John's vocal from "Revolution." As John himself stated, coming from him the song would've had a sardonic quality, but Ringo singing it took the edge off. 

Ringo turned in a laconic performance for Randy Newman's bluesy ballad "Have You Seen My Baby." "Photograph" became a smash hit, hitting No.1 in several countries. The simple eloquence of the lyrics and the immaculate production by Richard Perry are matched by Ringo's impassioned vocal that provides a timeless quality. Included on the reissue, "Down and Out" was the B-side to "Photograph," another bluesy rocker.

"Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away) was written by Harrison, a Celtic inspired folk rock song in the style of The Band who also played on the track. A cover of Johnny Burnette's 1950s jukebox hit "You're Sixteen" also became a hit, reintroduced to audiences that same year in the George Lucas film American Graffiti. "Oh My My" and "Step Lightly" were both quirky additions written by Ringo

"Six O'clock" was recorded in London with Paul and Linda McCartney. And the song is undoubtedly McCartney, a stately ballad reminiscent of "The Long and Winding Road" from Let it Be and "Man We Was Lonely" from McCartney. An underrated gem.

"Devil Woman" is more of a '70s style rock song done with glam theatricality. "You and Me (Babe)" was the closing track on the original release with Ringo offering a proper farewell, thanking all who contributed in spoken word on the fadeout.

"It Don't Come Easy" was a hit single in 1971, a creative breakthrough for Starr who was concerned if a solo career was in the offing. A pop song written with Harrison (who also produced), it remains a staple of the post-Beatles era. Another B-side, "Early 1970" expresses Starr's state of mind at the time of the breakup taking some good-natured jabs at the others (including himself), but also a bit of longing for the old days.

Ringo brought nostalgia and some good vibes to the heady atmosphere of 1973, providing both a sense of continuity and fun.

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