John Metzger's #22 album for 2008
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Thu January 10, 2008, 06:40 AM CST
January typically has been the dumping ground for albums that likely were slated to be critical and commercial disappointments. More recently, however, a different story simultaneously has unfolded as the early part of the year also has been used to highlight quality endeavors that would have gotten lost in the shuffle of the competitive holiday shopping season. Most notably, Rosanne Cashís autobiographical Black Cadillac was ushered to market in 2006, where it carefully was fed and nurtured until it rightfully became her most highly revered effort. Twelve months later, Peter Rowan and Tony Rice issued Quartet, and Gill Landry unveiled The Ballad of Lawless Soirez. While neither of these outings received as much attention as Cashís foray, thereís no doubt that the timing of their release helped the artists to garner a bigger audience for their works than they otherwise would have found. With Liverpool 8, Ringo Starr improbably joins this growing yet select cast of characters who have leveraged the quiet of winter to make a bigger impact.
Of the former members of The Beatles, Starr has struggled most to gain respect for his pursuits. On the one hand, he is so affable and easy-going that, when combined with his legendary status, his work has been hard to dismiss completely. At the same time, he also has leaned so heavily on his pals for support that he hasnít truly made the case that he is capable of standing on his own. Nevertheless, as his recently updated retrospective Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr made clear, he at least has assembled a rather sturdy catalogue of hits. Still, the problem remains: Starr has been viewed entirely as a pop singer who makes singles, not as an artist who necessarily writes songs and makes albums. Liverpool 8 has been designed specifically to realign expectations.
On his previous endeavor Choose Love, Starr provided hints that he was working toward a bigger goal, but although he had constructed a framework for the effort that was more focused, he also continued to be so mired in his past that he musically seemed to be going through the motions. While Choose Love was far from the worst of his outings, it also wasnít realized fully. Fortunately, by heading back to the drawing board, Starr corrected the deficiencies in his blueprint and found a fresh perspective. The result is that Liverpool 8 stands as the most cohesive outing in his solo canon.
To put it simply, Starr is as charming as heís ever been, though it helps considerably that throughout Liverpool 8, he, along with co-producer Dave Stewart, never strays from the notion of playing to his strengths. As he has done almost without fail since the demise of The Beatles, Starr alludes to his life and his previous songs. The title tune, for example is a reflection on leaving his hometown behind in order to follow his dream, while Gone Are the Days playfully drops the titles of two of his singles ó It Donít Come Easy and Choose Love ó into his lyrics. Where his self-referencing statements previously had a tendency to seem a little egotistical, however, they now fit quite comfortably within the scope of the project. Although he doesnít fight his amiable personality, Starr also doesnít make it the primary focus of the endeavor. Instead, he sounds like a plainspoken guru who wants nothing more than to share his enlightened outlook with the masses.
In a similar fashion, the music conjured by Starr and his backing band on Liverpool 8 is decidedly Beatle-esque in tone. The sharply written melodies, the psychedelic shadings, and the looseness of his approach all unite in a way that pays the utmost tribute to the Fab Four without sounding trite. While itís true that an idealistic, heart-on-his-sleeve streak of sentimentality lies at the core of Liverpool 8, Starr delivers each lyric with such a convincing smile that itís impossible to resist his moves. Just as John Lennon turned All You Need Is Love into an anthem for a generation, Starr sings about peace, love, and a higher power without flinching. His ideas may be simplistic, but as he, Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney knew so well, they also may be just what the world needs to hear. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Liverpool 8 is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box