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Music Review: Ringo Starr – Photograph: The Very Best Of Ringo

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When the Beatles broke up in 1970, it was assumed that John, Paul, and George would have successful solo careers. John's first solo album of popular music was released in 1969. McCartney's album was released the month that the Beatles broke up in April 1970. Harrison's album, Wonderwall Music, was released in 1968. It was uncertain if Ringo Starr would be successful as a solo artist.

No one would question his drumming capabilities, or his acting abilities, but as a songwriter and vocalist, he was different than the other Beatles. First, his voice was much more of a baritone and didn't fit the pop mold. Second, he didn't write many songs as a Beatle. Sure he penned lines here and there. It has been said that he wrote the line "writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear" as well as "darning his socks" from the song Eleanor Rigby, but this does not constitute a classic like "Here Comes the Sun." Most of the songs that Starr did while in the Beatles were Lennon/McCartney songs that were written especially for his vocal range.

Flash-forward over 35 years and not only did Ringo Starr have a solo career, but also one that has a best-of album with 20 songs. Even a couple of number one hits. In fact, with the release of his 1973 album Ringo, Starr was the most successful ex-Beatle at the time. Photograph: The Very Best Of Ringo is that best of album. While I won't go into every song — there are none that are bad on the album — these are a few of my favorites.

"Photograph" is one of the classic signature Ringo songs. Written by Ringo and George Harrison, it hit number one on the U.S. charts in October 1973. At the concert for George, after his death, Starr commented to the crowd that the lines "All I got is a photograph…" now have a different meaning.

"It Don't Come Easy" reached number four on the U.S. charts in 1971. One of the things that made Ringo so successful was that he surrounded him self with talent. This song was no exception. Playing on the track was George Harrison, Stephen Stills, Gary Wright (Spooky Tooth and Solo career), and Pete Ham (Badfinger).

"You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful And You're Mine)" was his second number one hit from the Ringo album and what made him more successful than the other three Beatles at the time. This tune included Paul McCartney, Nicky Hopkins (one of the most important session musician in the 60's and 70's), and Harry Nilsson (Grammy winning singer/songwriter).

"Back Off Boogaloo" was a song inspired by friend Marc Bolan (T-Rex) who always used the term. This song contains some very demanding musicianship that according to the liner notes, only two of the eight "All-Star" bands have been able to play that song live, "and those were great bands."

"I'm The Greatest" was written by none other than John Lennon, and was included on the Ringo album. This is about the closest we can get to a Beatles reunion song. It include John, George, Ringo, and the person most often referred to as the fifth Beatle, Billy Preston.

"Oh, My, My" reached number five on the U.S. charts in March of 1974. This was another song that was written by Ringo and Vini Poncia, and again, was based on a common phrase that Ringo turned into a song.

"No-No Song" was a song done in jest. Written by Hoyt Axton and David Jackson, Ringo admits that he was more anti-anti-drug at this time. This one hit number three on the U. S. pop charts.

"Weight of the World" was a song that, as Ringo said, came about when he was being lifted out of the fog of drugs. It was the first record he had made in years and hit #43 on the U.S. charts in 1993.

"Never Without You" is a tribute to George Harrison after his death. It came out on his 2003 Ringo Rama album and includes Eric Clapton on guitar.

On the DVD are a series of film clips mostly from the seventies and really show the performer in Starr. My biggest surprise is that he has not spent more time on the silver screen. While not all are of the greatest quality, it is incredibly nice to have them in single location. One thing to remember, many of these were filmed before the advent of MTV and so don't have the commercial polish, but that is what I think makes them so genuine.

It is truly fitting that Ringo Starr finally gets a best of album. It is really easy to overlook the music that he created, especially in the seventies. The respect that this musician gets by his fellow musicians is just phenomenal. I can whole heartedly recommend this CD/DVD combination.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.