Hanging out at Ringo Starr’s house anytime soon? If so, chances are you’ll be on his next album. Ringo’s music-making philosophy, “If I am recording and you’re in town and drop by, you’re going to be on the record,” is in full force on Postcards From Paradise, Starr’s 18th studio album. (I guess you could say he gets by with a little help… actually, no, I won’t.) All 11 tracks are co-written by Starr and one of his cadre of collaborators — Joe Walsh, Richard Marx, and Todd Rundgren, among others — and he’s backed by music legends like Peter Frampton and members of his current All-Starr band. In fact, Postcards features a song written and performed entirely by the All-Starrs, a first for any of his solo albums.
Postcards starts off with a treat for Beatles fans: the earworm-inducing “Rory and the Hurricanes.” Ringo reaches back into his pre-Beatles past to reminisce about the band he was with for years before joining “you know who.” (This track premiered at the NY Metro Fest for Beatles Fans, and needless to say, was a huge hit.) “Rory”‘s late-‘50s vibe, complete with a female backup group and references to Tommy Steele and the 2i’s Cafe, sets the mood perfectly and is an excellent kickoff to this fun-filled album.
The title track,”Postcards from Paradise,” also harkens back to earlier days, but with a twist: the lyrics are made up almost entirely of Beatles song titles strung together. It’s a bit gimmicky, but it works. It has a meditative, Beatlesque feel — including a guitar solo that is so uncannily like George Harrison it’s freaky — and fans will get a kick out of picking out all the song titles and following the narrative they create.
Another standout, “Island in the Sun,” is the first song on any of Starr’s albums written and performed entirely by “Richard Starkey & The All-Starrs” (currently made up of Richard Page, Gregg Rolie, Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather, Warren Ham, Gregg Bissonette). “Island” lives up to it’s name with a Jamaican feel and tight, late-’70s-era harmonies. Other highlights include the laid back and trippy “You Bring the Party Down”; “Not Looking Back,” a tender love song to wife Barbara Bach; the danceable “Confirmation”; and the funky “Right Side of the Road.” The album is like Ringo himself: happy, relaxed, full of friends, and filled with messages of peace and love.
It’s a given that the album is filled with Starr’s excellent drumming, but I’ve got to call out his vocals, too. And I don’t mean in that condescending “he sounds good for Ringo” way. I mean he really sounds good! Ringo’s vocal ability was an easy target during the Beatles’ days; he wasn’t a practiced singer, and his songs were heard next to some of the best voices of all time. But heard on his own merits, Ringo has an expressive, quirky voice, and every song here is well-suited to his range and strengths. He’s also one of few classic rockers whose voice has actually improved since the ‘60s. I challenge listeners, especially those who don’t think highly of his vocal ability, to pick up this album, listen to him with an open mind, and see if he doesn’t win you over.
Is this a seminal album in rock history? Probably not. But fun melodies, classic drumming, a huge number of guest stars, and Ringo’s eternal message of peace and love makes this album well worth a buy. If nothing else, fans will want “Rory and the Hurricanes” in their playlists.
Postcards From Paradise is one of many exciting Ringo events in 2015, the year of his 75th birthday. He’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in April (to quote Stella McCartney’s famous t-shirt, “about fucking time!”) and after completing a string of concerts earlier this year, he’s just announced a new series of fall tour dates across the US. A photo collection from Ringo’s childhood, Beatles days, and beyond, aptly titled Photograph, will hit stores September 21.
Postcards From Paradise is out March 31. Pre-order it now on Amazon!