Sunday, January 27, 2008

Review #27: Liverpool 8

Just two weeks ago, Ringo Starr released his first album on a major label in eleven years, Liverpool 8. The new album also marks a departure for Ringo. For the first time since that album eleven years ago (Vertical Man), he had decided to work with another producer, namely former Eurhythmic, David A. Stewart. Although 90% of the album was produced with Mark Hudson, the title track was not and the entire album was “re-produced” by Stewart. So, how is this new album? Read on!

The album opens innocently enough with the autobiographical Liverpool 8. It’s a great lead-off track that features some great instrumentation, but I find the lyrics a little corny. The idea that Ringo feels the need to retell us his whole life story is a bit annoying and the chorus is rather mundane. “Liverpool I left you/But I never let you down…” The lyrics are probably the only thing that weighs it down and it is a good choice for a single.
With Think About You, the album completely changes focus. The track is a rough blues number, not unlike many of the tracks found on all of Ringo’s albums from Vertical Man through Choose Love. In fact, you’ll find that to be true with most of the rest of the album. “Think About You” features a nice guitar break, which might be the only highlight of the track.
For Love is another blues thing with rather downward lyrics with the singer wondering why he does all this stuff for love. The bridges make the song interesting and probably the only standout part is Ringo’s drumming.
Next is Now That She’s Gone. It’s got this great groove, but the lyrics leave much to be desired. It feels kind of empty, with Ringo constantly asking himself “What am I gonna do, now that she’s gone away?” and the obligatory bridges where the singer wonders what he did wrong and telling himself to move on. This is one song that you wish there were no backing vocals, which become really annoying here. “Now That She’s Gone Away” had a shot, but the lyrics are the letdown here. I mean, the melody is awesome! Ringo even has a mini-solo!
Gone Are The Days is Ringo’s standard attempt at a song that sounds like another fellow Beatle’s song. On Choose Love, we got the cute-but-way-too-long “Oh My Lord”, so here, we get Ringo’s shot at “Tomorrow Never Knows” in the opening. The lyrics are filled with Ringo’s usual egotistical nods to “It Don’t Come Easy”. His insertion of the lyric from his best song was cute ten years ago, but after hearing it over and over again, it gets old.
Give It A Try is an upbeat Latin-flavored track with hopeful lyrics ushering the listener to “give it a try” to “love every day”, etc. There’s not much to talk about concerning the track as it doesn’t stand out, but it is kind of enjoyable.
Tuff Love, which right away suffers from improper spelling in the title, is another rolling, standard Ringo track. It features nothing spectacular and fails to differentiate itself from the various other “try for peace” songs Ringo has recorded as of late.
Following this is a unique tribute to Ringo’s friend, Harry Nilsson, titled Harry’s Song. Easily the best song on the album, it is formatted like those old swing-type songs Nilsson fancied and even helped Ringo sing back in the seventies. (“Only You” and “Easy For Me” on Goodnight Vienna.) I think it is a worthy tribute to a friend, albeit a bit late, considering it has been awhile since Nilsson passed.
Pasadobles is a novelty Spanish-flavored track about a dance some lover did with Ringo. It’s easily a forgettable track with nothing really fantastic about it.
If It’s Love That You Want is a fun track, with a good thumping lead guitar part, backed by some nice drumming. Again, it’s not really lyrically interesting, but it’s a good listen.
Love Is, well, the bland soft slow song of the album. Ringo’s done at least one of these on all of his past few albums. Sometimes he hits the home run, but here, it’s more like a double. I wouldn’t say it’s awful, but it definitely isn’t the best. It feels more like a list than anything else!
To conclude the album, R U Ready is used. It’s another novelty number, with this old 1940’s sound. My major issue with it is that if you want to add some effects to the vocals, shouldn’t you do it to the instruments? Ringo’s vocal has the wear and tear effect, but the instruments sound perfect. It doesn’t really match. The lyrics are built around the subject of asking the listener if he or she is ready to “cross over” and “let go.” The odd thing about this, of course, is that the album kicks off with a song about reminiscing and the theme continues throughout the album.
As for how the album is packaged, the cover is rather interesting, but not really eye-catching. It emphasizes the “8” in “Liverpool 8” with a giant red 8 over a blank black background. Inside you’ll find full personnel details, a picture of the Liverpool of old and only one picture of Ringo on the back cover.
For those lucky enough to find the USB Wristband version of the album, all you get is a rubber band and a small card that holds no more details than a track list and a bunch of lies about what’s on it. There is no “personal message” and “track-by-track” commentary. You don’t even get the full album artwork. The wristband really just has on it MP3s of the twelve tracks, an Adobe Acrobat file that just houses the front and back covers, a 7 minute-45 second video of Ringo blabbing about how awesome it is to work with David Stewart and two “Ringtunes” or simply 30 second edits of “Liverpool 8” and “For Love” that can be used as ringtones.
In conclusion, Liverpool 8 is exactly what you expect in a Ringo record: simple lyrics, references to “It Don’t Come Easy” and some good drumming. My real major complaint is that I honestly thought “Liverpool 8” was going to sound different than every single Ringo album since 1997, but it doesn’t. If the book didn’t say who produced the album, I would automatically say Mark Hudson. David Stewart did not make any real contribution to this record, except the title track. When I first heard the song, I was admittedly blown away. Here was a song that was completely different from anything in Ringo’s past! Then, I get the album only to be disappointed. None of the other songs on this album are anywhere near as interesting as “Liverpool 8” (save for “Harry’s Song”, which I find endearing). It doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t think that the album isn’t enjoyable; it just means that I wanted something different to come out of this new partnership, but nothing did.
The verdict: Buy it if you like upbeat music that generally doesn’t mean anything. Don’t buy it if you haven’t got a Ringo album post-1974.

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