I don’t think I’m alone in the assessment that Ringo Starr’s best solo work (1973’s Ringo, 1974’s Goodnight Vienna) are fine works that, while not entirely essential, are worthy documents when considering the Fab Four’s post-Beatle output. With that being said, much of Starr’s solo output, essentially everything since Goodnight Vienna is fairly worthless, and some of that is even downright embarrassing (Ringo The 4th, anyone?).
And I’m sorry, but I’ve always viewed those All Starr Band tours with the same reverence as a county-fair tour, shamefully led by a guy who just happened to be the drummer for the greatest band of all time.
Therefore, to call Liverpool 8 the best Ringo Starr album since Goodnight Vienna isn’t really saying much. But being overly critical of Ringo is a kind of like sucker punching your grandfather: it doesn’t take much to lay him out, so you’re not really proving much.
Besides, at the end of the day, he’s a likeable guy regardless of his prior indiscretions and he’s a fucking Beatle, so back off, boogaloo, and leave the heavy criticism to Paul.
Who’s come off a good album himself, come to think of it, so it’s downright admirable that the drummer of the greatest rock and roll band ever has also managed to mount a comeback of sorts with Liverpool 8.
Yes, it’s a happy day for Beatle fans and Baby Boomers, the two market segments that will find immense joy in this effort while the rest of us may find Ringo’s nostalgia as sweet as a bottle of Karo syrup with plenty of eye-rolling lyrics.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the album-opening title track where Starr provides us with a five-minute rundown of a six-decade life. By the time he gets to the money shot, a recollection of the Fab Four, all Ringo can manage is the obvious (“In the U.S.A. / When we played Shea / We were number one / Man it was fun”) before ending it with a repetitive “Liverpool!” over Sgt. Pepper arrangements. While Starr’s songwriting leaves something to be desired, you have to hand it to him for understanding who he needs to be pandering to at this point.
As weak as some of the lyrics can be, the story arc concerning the development of Liverpool 8 is also a little embarrassing. Originally, Starr started working with Mark Hudson (yes, one of the Hudson Brothers if you’re old enough to remember them) for the last few years and the two had a falling out shortly after Liverpool 8 was in the final stages of completion. Because he is Ringo, he has a Rolodex filled with names of people with former glories who would be tickled at the prospect of working with him. The name Dave Stewart came up and the ex-Eurythmics member finished the work that Hudson had started.
The collaboration must have worked: Either the final mix was good enough to land the record on Capitol Records, or the label was pissed that they lost the cute Beatle to a fucking coffee shop label. Whatever the case, Liverpool 8 is the kind of record that a major could easily market, if Ringo doesn’t single-handedly sabotage the campaign.
Which would be a shame as we’re now down to a pair of Beatles that are both deserving of their proper media attention that should be afforded to every rock and roll elder statesman. And regardless of how low our expectations may be of Ringo at this point, he’s delivered a charming and effectual album that’s perfectly suited for Beatle completists and A.A.R.P. members.
YouTube: Ringo Starr – “Liverpool 8” (Official Music Video, Embedding disabled by request)