Thursday, February 02, 2012


Well, not exactly. But I've bought two new albums by ex-Beatles in the last two days. And due to my connections, I got one of them Before It Will Be Officially Released. Sometimes life is indeed good.

In my previous post (Yesterday! I'm flooding the market with my posts) (Well, not exactly), I generalized about Ringo Starr's new album, "2012". Not exactly the most imaginative title, but then again, this isn't exactly the most imaginative album ever released. As I stated Yesterday, Ringo's music isn't and has never been Atrocious. On "2012", some tracks rock fairly well, and he appears to be in good voice. The disc contains the old Buddy Holly tune, "Think It Over", Lonnie Donegan's old tune, "Rock Island Line", plus two songs he wrote and recorded previously, namely, "Wings" and "Step Lightly". So I knew four of these songs going in. Actually, I never paid much attention to "Wings" to begin with, and evidently not too many others did either. Here, it's fairly pleasant, but I'm going to have to go back to the original version on his 1976 album, "Ringo's Rotogravure" and compare the two, and I'll do just that when I have absolutely nothing else to do. It's safe to say it's a pleasant song that fits right in with the rest of the pleasant songs here. The entire CD is pleasant."Step Lightly" is also pleasant, although on his new version  the time signature has been modified to a plodding 4/4. The original version was in a soft-shoe 2/4, and Ringo doesn't do any tap-dancing here, like on the originaversion. It was 1973; Ringo recorded an album called "Ringo".  The "Ringo" album was fun; it had great songs, even a hard rock tune, plus contributions from John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, among others. But that was then. This is now. Moving on...

I've listened to Ringo's "2012" exactly once, and it coasted right on by. It is a pleasant album with pleasant songs. Some rock fairly hard; others don't, but they are pleasant nonetheless. And I imagine the next time I play "2012", it will again be a pleasant listening. This album is so pleasant, that it'll be over long before you thought it would end, so you can play it again for another Pleasant listening experience. What's the point, you ask? Ringo's "2012" album doesn't provoke, it doesn't feed the imagination, doesn't give the listener much of anything to react to. It shows no artistic growth, and because there's nothing to really react to, either way, all I can say is, it's Pleasant. Ringo's supposed stock in trade is his semi-official campaign for "Peace and Love". Both pleasant things. And so an album about Pleasant Things will be Pleasant. Nothing less, nothing more. The disc comes with a little booklet in which he twice flashes the Peace Sign. Another photo shows him with his hands on his belt, highlighting the "Peace Sign" belt-buckle he's wearing. If "Peace" is so important to him, perhaps he should collaborate with Yoko Ono, since she's allegedly into that. Only, Yoko's music is more provoking than Ringo's will ever be. And I don't like her music. But it is provoking.

I don't trust Ringo's blissed-out "Peace and Love" image. It just hits me wrong and I'm not sure why. To someone with Millions of Dollars at his disposal, maybe it's a popular thing to flash the Peace Sign all around everywhere, because he thinks everyone can be just happy, happy, happy. Yeah, rrrright. I think my difficulty with Ringo began a couple of years back when he warned people in no uncertain terms to "quit sending me stuff to sign; I'm a busy star, I'm leading a Star's (Starr's?) life, SO DON'T SEND ME ANYTHING TO SIGN, YOU BLEEDIN' SOFT-HEADED FANS! Oh, and PEACE AND LOVE, Dammit!" Okay, he didn't say "Dammit" but you get the idea. He looks like an IDIOT waving the peace sign everywhere. Sometimes it's tragic to see your Stars (Starr's?) grow up and get old. Lastly, if you've heard One Ringo Album, you've heard 'em all. Why do I keep buyin' em? I don't know. I must be an idiot. I was once a fan. I'm not so sure now.

But 'all of the above' doesn't begin to address my biggest problem with Ringo's "2012" album. The Damn Thing has only 9 songs on it, and its Running Time  ISN'T EVEN A HALF-HOUR LONG!!! As a music buyer, I feel Cheated because of this. Not that Ringo's previous albums have been  overabundant in the Time department, but all of his earlier albums have contained at least 10 songs. In fact, his "Vertical Man" album (1998) had 13 songs clocking in at over 50 minutes! Out of the ten Short Songs on "2012", two are remakes of old songs, and the other two are remakes of songs he's already recorded. So out of the 9 songs here, only 5 of them are totally new material! I must ask, if you're not going to write a few more new numbers why not do a few more remakes of old songs to make the CD Longer? Y'know, to make the CD a Better Musical Value? "Y-NOT?" This is the equivalent of jumping into bed and finding your covers were short-sheeted. Not Even Thirty Minutes of music TOTAL. Heck, I've got LP's that contain 30 minutes on ONE SIDE! I paid 14 Bucks for Ringo's album. And I got short-sheeted.
Paul McCartney's new CD will be released next week. I've already got a copy. The record guy I deal with has to be away for a few days next week, so he sold it to me today. Isn't life grand? I've been listening to big band swing, crooners and songbirds off and on for the last few years, and I've really developed an appreciation for a lot of that material. Otherwise, I'd tee-off on Paul the way I did on poor ol' Ringo. Paul's new album is titled "Kisses On The Bottom". When I first learned that a few weeks ago, all sorts of ugly pictures began invading my brain. But it's also a lyric line in the old standard, "I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter", so that placated me, at least for a while. Paul really did "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive" on this album, and he doesn't play one single solitary note on it. It was recorded in the Capitol Records studio where Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole did their thing.

You may have heard Paul's Beatles softie-songs such as "Honey Pie", "When I'm 64", "Martha My Dear" and "Your Mother Should Know". John Lennon hated those tunes, labeling them as "Paul's Granny Music". Paul's always had this granny-music element within him. In the mid-70's, on the Wings album "Venus and Mars" is another soft-shooer called "You Gave Me The Answer"; "Baby's Request" is another Wings smoothie, from the "Back To The Egg" album. Paul said that he grew up listening to his Dad playing Piano, and got exposed to all of the old songs. But Paul said recently that his Dad inspired Beatles Music. Paul, that's kinda hard to swallow. I mean, didn't your Dad want you to sing, "She Loves You, Yes, Yes, Yes" and you told him that "Yeah Yeah Yeah" worked a lot better? (That actually did happen.)

I've also listened to this album exactly once. And my impression is, he sings these old songs fairly well. He certainly doesn't embarrass himself, and he's treated every song with the respect they deserve. And he does a great "It's Only A Paper Moon". Paul wrote two songs for this album, and I must say his vocals on those are more direct than on the old chestnuts he sings here; it sounds as if he is being Very Careful on some of the old standards, and that's a good thing, I suppose, although I wish he'd dug a little bit deeper into his own personal style, because unless that happens, then the songs are just re-makes by an anonymous somebody, and some of Paul's vocals on these old standards almost come off as "anonymous treatments". But Paul isn't waving Peace Signs in everyone's faces, so that's something positive. But more than anything, Paul takes real chances here, recording in an environment he's not used to, with all those great old musicians in back of him. Maybe he only wrote two songs on this LP, but he's stepping into Mighty Big Shoes here. I'll take an album of old standards any day over too-short albums filled with Generic Paint-by-the-numbers semi-rock-pop-whatever-it-is music. Oh, one more thing: Paul's new album clocks in at almost 50 minutes...over 20 minutes longer than Ringo's new disc.

Finally, Paul wasn't the first ex-Beatle to soft-shoe-shuffle in a recording studio; that honor goes to, you guessed it, Ringo! His first solo album from 1970 was titled, "Sentimental Journey" on which he warbles nothing but Old Standards. And that LP contains more music than his new CD! Finally, while writing this diatribe, I was listening to an Amy Winehouse CD. It's full of provoking music sung in a provoking way, totally unlike Ringo's new CD.


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