Sunday, April 05, 2015

Kat's Korner: Ringo's Postcards are not be missed

Kat: Lived experience?

"We used to say 'live and let live,' you know we did, you know we did," Paul McCartney sang in the theme to the James Bond film Live and Let Die.

And though it's a catchy track and one of the three best Bond themes (behind Jack White and Alicia Keys' "Another Way To Die" and Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better"), it's not really a great song for Paul McCartney.

It really helps him become the crass Beatle.

Recap for those new to music, the Beatles were the most successful band on the singles chart.  Ever.  Only Diana Ross & the Supremes came close to their record.  The Beatles had 21 number one hits in the US (that counts "Come Together" and "Something" as number ones -- a double-sided single -- as Billboard counts it -- a few 'critics' get this wrong regarding the US charts, if you doubt me, click here for Billboard's list and go to number six, it's  a double-sided hit per Billboard).  Diana's group managed 12 number one hits and managed to be one of the few US groups to thrive throughout the British Invasion of that time period.

The Beatles were British charmers, four lads in a boy band making crafty little singles, catchy and irresistible.  What set them apart from later boy bands -- Bay City Rollers, Wham, New Kids on the Block, 'N Sync and, thus far, One Direction -- was that they were more than pin ups, they showed wit and smarts repeatedly and quickly utilized those elements and a natural affinity for music to write some of the century's most important musical standards.

Writing about the group in rock's first bible, 1969's Rock Encyclopedia, Music critic Lillian Roxon noted:

The times continued to change. 1966 was the Beatles at their most Dylany with songs like the mocking Nowhere Man, a far cry from their early lyrics of teen love (Lennon directly, and frequently, credits Dylan for the change).  And if the Beatles had changed, it was nothing to what was happening to the Beach Boys --and there were others.  All of a sudden, in 1966: Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan, the Stones -- all coming out with something more than music had been till then. And to top it all, Dylan's BLONDE ON BLONDE.  (Dylan, as usual, always a jump ahead.)  By 1967 the Beatles were into the electronic intracies of SERGEANT PEPPER (anything to top the Beach Boys' PET SOUNDS, Good Vibrations and a work in progress, SMILE, reportedly the greatest thing that had happened in rock to date).  The Bee Gees and the Monkees dutifully stepped into the shoes the Beatles had now outworn.  Eventually SMILE didn't happen, Dylan was silenced by a motorcycle accident and the Beatles just about had the year to themselves, except for the emerging San Francisco scene.

It was a sea change and one that left the group with an incredibly diverse catalog of songs such as "Let It Be," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "A Day In The Life," "Revolution," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Act Naturally," "Michelle," "And I Love Her," "All You Need Is Love," "If I Fell," "Oh! Darling," "Hello, Goodbye," "Ticket To Ride,"  "We Can Work It Out," "Sexy Sadie,"  "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Baby You're A Rich Man," "Help," "Nowhere Man,"  "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "In My Life," "Here Comes The Sun," "She Loves You," "Don't Let Me Down," "A Hard Day's Night," "Taxman," "I Feel Fine,"  "Octopus's Garden," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Helter Skelter," "Across The Universe," "With A Little Help From My Friends," "The Fool on the Hill," "Glass Onion," "You're Going To Lose That Girl," "Eleanor Rigby," "Yellow Submarine," "Don't Pass Me By," "Love Me Do," "Rocky Raccoon,"  "Drive My Car," "I Am the Walrus,"  "Yesterday" and so many more are standout classics.

As the Beatles charted, the four's personalities began to emerge.  John Lennon was the intellectual Beatle, George Harrison was the philosophical Beatle, Paul McCartney was the happy Beatle and Ringo Starr was the fun Beatle.

Fun was often seen as lightweight.

But around the time Lennon did "Live and Let Die," happy was revealed to be crass.  Who was the peaceful (but not pro-peace) pothead Beatle to sing "Live and let die"?  Yes, it captures James Bond but is that really who the world thought Paul was?

What followed was a lot of self-justifying moves -- including "Silly Love Songs" which may rank as the closest thing to a closing argument for the defense that's ever hit number one on the Billboard charts.

Considering all of that -- and "Spies Like Us" -- who wouldn't rather be the fun Beatle?

It's a identification that's allowed him to rack up 11 solo top forty hits in the US including two number ones ("Photograph" and "You're Sixteen").

And March 31st, he released his 18th solo album.

Being the fun Beatle means people like Dave Stewart, Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, Benmont Tech and Peter Frampton show up to add assist to the eleven tracks on Postcards from Paradise.

No regrets, just respect for all that we've done right
From where I stand, the future's still looking bright
Where will we go from here
Still together after all these years
Summers have come and gone
But our love goes on and on
Who could ask for more than that
I'm looking forward 
Not looking back

Being the fun Beatle all these years later means Ringo can add weight to the above song ("Not Looking Back") just by singing it -- add dimensions that his co-writer on the song, Richard Marx, would be hard to summon had he recorded it.

It also means he can reference the best of a Beatles musical jam on "Touch and Go" (written with Gary Burr) and not just pull it off but having you dancing in the car seat as you blast the song on your car stereo.  It means one of rock's greatest drummers can basically build a song around a varying rhythm track and drummer showcase ("Bamboula" -- written with Van Dyke Parks) and pull it off.

Drum solos were a staple of late 70s rock.  For example, Steve Gadd's lengthy solo on Carly Simon's "Memorial Day" (from 1979's Spy) was fairly typical in terms of the genre (although the way he carried it off was far better than most efforts at that time).

With Dave Stewart, Ringo weaves various lyrical nods to the Beatles' songs -- as well as solo hits -- while teaming it with music that sounds like the group's "Tomorrow Never Knows" and Carole King's Beatles tribute song "Venusian Diamond" (written by Carole, Rick Evers, Mark Hallman, Robert McEntee, Robb Galloway, Miguel Rivera, Richard Hardy and Michael Wooten, appears on Carole's Welcome Home album).  It works surprisingly well.

In fact, the entire album's a joyful surprise, one that finds Ringo in good form.

"Right Side Of The Road" finds him pulling off maturity in a way males rarely do in popular music these days.  Possibly all that posing as James Dean so many continue to do well after fifty limits their ability to impart wisdom or solace?

Postcards from Paradise would be a strong album from any artist.  Coming from a former Beatle, it's a musical blessing -- and one not to be missed.  When you do check it out, you will immediately fall in love with "Not Looking Back."  Prepare to listen to that track several times over but then make room for the rest of the album which is just as delightful.