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Business as Usual for Ringo
on January 31, 2012
Those who already know and love Ringo - and understand what his latter-day recordings are about (namely, cheerfully looking back on his fortunate life through lively, though only occasionally adventurous, melodies and percussion) - are aware of what to expect with the lean, non-stellar and yet comfortably familiar "Ringo 2012."
The album clocks in at less than 29 minutes. Some artists release EPs longer in length. In the vinyl era it would have been eyebrow-raising. Today it is jaw-dropping.
Furthermore, two songs are covers and two are re-recordings. That means there are only five new tunes.
Also, the valleys between variances in Ringo's sounds are noticeably narrowing. The melody, cadence and chord progression of (the thoughtful and highly listenable) "Anthem" sound a hell of a lot like those of "Fill in the Blanks," the (far stronger) opening track from 2010's "Y Not." That's not the end - "Slow Down" bears quite a resemblance to "Anthem" (and "Fill in the Blanks").
Ringo knows what he's doing, however. He's crafting records merely to please himself and is well aware that the small audience to shell out dollars on his new solo ventures are well-acquainted with his unique brand of joie de vivre and casual, laid back approach to peace sign pop/rock.
The best tunes are the re-recordings of old ones. "Wings" is sharp, brilliantly arranged and downright infectious. His vocals are fully passionate and his drumming (to be sure) is right in time. "Step Lightly" is also nuanced, meditative and colorful in its melody.
"Wonderful," a new composition, is wistful, romantic and lyrically above-average. He sings the best line - "the worst it ever was was wonderful" - with depth of feeling. His cover of Lonnie Donegan's old staple "Rock Island Line" is also spirited and fun.
"Ringo 2012" is only occasionally more than mere easy-listening, whereas 2003's "Ringo Rama" and 2010's "Y Not" had a fair deal of inspiration driving them. It is also far more likely to lose Ringo record buyers rather than win him new ones (due mostly to its piss-poor length). Still, it is also the most sincere and unpretentious new album from a major artist to hit stores in quite a while.