Album review: RINGO – Give More Love

RINGO – Give More Love

UMC [Release date 15.09.17]

Ringo’s ‘Give More Love’ -  he’s dropped his Starr moniker on the album credit – is better than you might imagine, for an artist who has been known to ration his appearances on his own all star solos shows to just 12 minutes.

‘Give More Love’ is a polished and rigorously self produced MOR album. It features a similar all star cast to the one on his previous ‘Postcards From Paradise’ CD.

The guests add tasteful and dutiful parts rather than anything inspired, on a series of co-writes that at least brings diversity to the playlist.

In fact, just when you think you’ve got the measure of a laid back affair, there’s an unexpected twist in the last few tracks, which sound much more organic, rootsy and certainly less LA bound, and offers us a fleeting glimpse of a potential new musical direction.

‘Give More Love’ is built round a handful of solid grooves and well crafted hooks, but too often the album sounds as if it’s gripped by stasis and cut in an unchanging 80′s musical zone, right down to Edgar Winter’s stylised sax break on ‘King Of The Kingdom.’

It’s a viewpoint that Ringo inadvertently confirms on the Peter Frampton co-write ‘Laughable’, when he sings: “Woke up this morning I was feeling good, Turned on the radio I understood, Things are changing like never before, Should I go back to bed and close the door. It would be laughable if it wasn’t sad.”

If he sounds culturally lost on that track, he counterweights the lyrics with a mighty percussive groove, suggesting that at 77 he’s still got his drumming chops, while Frampton’s guitar squalls add a perfect finishing touch to what turns out to be a great track.

The mid-paced title track is much closer to the overall feel of an album on which the guests bliss away contentedly. The gently nuanced hook is couched by gentle call and response bv’s, while the lovely descending guitar line sounds like Jeff Lynn, but isn’t. He actually appears on acoustic guitar on Ringo’s third career remake of the 70′ hit ‘Back Off Boogaloo’

Recorded at his home studio in LA, Ringo teams up with old chum Paul McCartney on one track and draws on the collective talents of Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Benmont Tench and the younger Steve Lukather.

He’s clearly taking no changes as he also reigns in veteran Nashville songwriter Gary Nicholson, producer/songwriters Don Was and Dave Stewart,  AOR hit maker Richard Marx and even the former Poco and Eagles songsmith Timothy B. Schmit.

The end result treads a thin line between the inspired and LA schlock. Had this been anyone other than Ringo Starr, you might not extend your patience to the end of the album. And that would be shame as in between the LA cool, there’s a handful of good songs trying to get out.

Ringo’s unabashed phrasing does occasionally give the album some of that early Fab 4 warmth and naivety, right down to the slight wobble on the rather insipid ‘Show Me The Way’, complete with Macca on bass. But too often the layered sound gives the all star affair the feeling of hopping into a Rolls Royce to go shopping at your local.

‘Give More Love’ just about overcomes the weight of expectation that a stellar line-up inevitably brings. Ringo manages to make the project his own with his inimitable jaunty approach that lends itself well to the celebratory opening rocker ‘We’re On The Road Again’ and works best on the rhythmic ‘Speed Of Sound’, which triumphs with a mellifluous hook

Greg Leisz adds an lovely opening bluesy dobro on the catchy ‘Standing Still’, while the Van Dyke Parks co-write ‘King Of the Kingdom’ is an example of the mid-80′s white boy reggae feel. The latter would probably feel great as you cruise along the Pacific Coast Highway with the hood down, but denuded of its geographic origins it sounds no more than pleasant.

‘So Wrong For So Long’  is a complete departure, and mirrors Ringo on going fascination with country, as Greg Leisz’s pedal steel underpins a dashed love story, while the Gary Nicholson rocker ‘Shake It Up’ is a glance over the shoulder at Ringo’s early stuff with the Beatles.

And Beatles fans will surely warm to the rootsy remake of ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, with Kentucky indie rocker Mark Charles Heidinger, on a track framed by resonator guitar and harp.

Things belatedly get bluesy on the lap steel led, Swedish recording of ‘You Can’t Fight Lighting’ featuring Petter Ericson Stakee, the founder member of Alberta Cross. The lovely after hours jam feel allows the musicians to stretch out in sharp contrast to the rest of the album.

It appears to provide the perfect album bookend, except of course it isn’t, as there’s a further bonus in the form of a new version of ‘Photograph’, which again adheres to the kind of rootsy feel that colours the end of the album.

‘Give More Love’ is a solid album that smoulders, flickers but doesn’t quite spark. Its way too cool for that.  ***

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

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