Ringo Starr is back with friends and his All Starrs on his latest effort Give More Love, released in September of this year. It is his 19th studio record since the Beatles broke up, something quite extraordinary since he was considered the least of the Fab Four to get anywhere after the split. Often derided as talentless and juvenile, he certainly has what it takes to make decent music and assemble a solid line-up of fellow players. On this record his guests are a familiar coterie of stars from his earlier LP, Postcards from Paradise (2015), people like Sir Paul McCartney, E.L.O.’s Jeff Lynne, Peter Frampton, Dave Stewart, Gary Nicholson, Joe Walsh, and Steve Lukather to name a few. Starr’s seeming ownership of ‘peace and love’ is ever present here as in most of his previous work, and the artwork on the album cover makes this abundantly clear. However, this record doesn’t reinvent the wheel, there’s nothing remotely creative here, just more of the same popcorn, and a few talented lads having a laugh.
Peace and love is not a bad sentiment really, considering the turbulent times in which we live, Give More Love, the title track starts off with, “Sometimes this world can be a hard place, we wonder where to go from here”, a peace anthem that plods on to what sounds like something the Traveling Wilburys wouldn’t have touched. It tries to inspire but Starr’s voice here sounds like he doesn't really give a shit one way or the other. But that’s just Ringo, and let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The opening track We’re on the Road Again is an ode to the working musician, a rock and roll number featuring McCartney on bass and ‘screams’. It’s a decent number which starts off with an ‘eastern’ guitar riff by Lukather on his Music Man Signature guitar that’s very cool, but the opening line “Woke up this morning…” is wince-worthy and it doesn’t get better. The one thing the record truly lacks are meaningful lyrics, (according to this reviewer), the simple rhymes schemes and generic message fail to engage any hard truths or break new ice. Standing Still, co-written with Gary Burr, is a lovely sounding country/blues piece that speaks of having the gumption to get up and do something in the face of hardship, “You don’t mean nothing if you don’t do nothing, you’re just waiting at the bottom of the hill..” Peter Frampton wrote, and also played (probably with his Les Paul), on Laughable, which was meant to be a critique of the present political situations, especially in Washington, “it would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad”, without taking names (well played Ringo). Another more syrupy country number is So Wrong for So Long, which like most of the album, is candy gum, both musically and verbally.
But being a 77-year-old Beatle with tons of fuck-off money, he understandably hasn’t the need or energy to create new sounds. The All Starrs know this and keep in their corners, leaving the material to the boss. Whatever this album lacks in creative crackle and fizz is certainly made up by Starr’s enthusiasm for the set, and albeit he sounds bored, he isn’t, that’s just uncle Ringo keeping busy, having a ball, (peace and love brother).
A new release by ex-Beatle Ringo Starr is always news; the man has the ‘street creds’ and bona fides to fill all the books ever written about it. On the CD version of the album he tosses in 4 bonus tracks, Back Off Boogaloo, based on a demo Starr wrote years ago, You Can’t Fight Lightning with Alberta Cross, a re-mix of Photograph which is always tasty to sing along to, and Don’t Pass Me By, with the band Vandaveer.
In the end Ringo says it best, “ I only ever wanted to play - that was my aim from 13. I worked in factories and on the railway, but I played at night and made decisions that got me where I was. I didn’t know I was going to get there (into the Beatles). But I knew I wanted to play. So I got into a Liverpool band, Then I got into Rory (Storm and the Hurricanes), then I got into the biggest band in the land.”
Give More Love is, if not stellar musically or otherwise, a testimony of a man who embodies the spirit of roll and roll, a trip started so long ago and still shines today.