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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ringo Starr: Beaucoups Of Blues


1) Beaucoups Of Blues; 2) Love Don't Last Long; 3) Fastest Growing Heartache In The West; 4) Without Her; 5) Woman Of The Night; 6) I'd Be Talking All The Time; 7) $15 Draw; 8) Wine, Women And Loud Happy Songs; 9) I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way; 10) Loser's Lounge; 11) Waiting; 12) Silent Homecoming; 13*) Coochy Coochy; 14*) Nashville Jam.

General verdict: If you know nothing about country music, being a Ringo fan is probably not going to improve your relations with the genre.

As The Beatles broke up, the entire attention of a world thrown into darkness and despair was thrown at the one man who could still give a little light to the suffering Beatlemaniacs. John Lennon? Bewitched and corrupted by Yoko Ono. Paul McCartney? Officially broke up The Beatles, not to mention being dead. George Harrison? Sold out to the Indian market. Clearly, it was up to the steady, unnerving, hard-as-a-rock drummer — the one who put the beat in The Beatles and without whose subtle, but firm guidance The Beatles would be nothing more than a slightly less intelligent-looking version of Herman's Hermits.

At least, such is my version of why Ringo had to put out not one, but two mildly embarrassing solo albums in 1970, while John and George were still getting their bearings and Paul couldn't even put a proper new band together. Essentially, it looks like a two-step algorithm of bringing down public expectations — «I'm Ringo Starr, and I have fewer ambitions in this life than Paul McCartney's left toe, so don't go around demanding anything from me!» If Ringo's Sentimental Journey into the world of tuxedos and bonnets did not quite get the job done, then Beaucoups Of Blues, his trip down to Nashville, completed it with distinction: the resulting album did not chart at all in the UK, and performed far more poorly in the US than Sentimental Journey (perhaps some of the American fans regarded this as a direct insult to their native country).

To be fair, it didn't have to be a failure. In Beatles' days, as we all remember well, Ringo always had a knack for country-western material — from ʽAct Naturallyʼ to ʽWhat Goes Onʼ to ʽDon't Pass Me Byʼ, John and Paul always gave him the green light on that: country-western was a goofy genre anyway, so why not deliver it in the hands of the band's lovable goof? Eventually, Ringo even learned to be creative within that paradigm, coming up with ʽDon't Pass Me Byʼ on his own and making it work in a catchy-silly-funny-ironic manner. An entire album of ʽDon't Pass Me Byʼs would hardly have been epochal or anything, but it could have been good enough for a well-placed chuckle or two.

Unfortunately, it did not work. Having come up with the idea to release a country album after working with Nashville pro Pete Drake on George's All Things Must Pass, Ringo originally planned to make one in England — but Drake convinced him to go to Nashville, where, predic­tably, a whole gang of country veterans was readily available not only to play for him, but even to write a bunch of new songs for him (primarily guitar players Chuck Howard and Sorrells Pickard). Ringo must have been seriously flattered by this decision — so flattered that he completely failed to notice how bland and boring all that material turned out to be.

There is not a single one out of the twelve tunes on this album that would be even remotely inte­resting — well, apart from a few cases of Pete Drake's pretty pedal steel playing, for which you really need not bother procuring a Ringo Starr album. It is mostly slow, melodically generic, and almost completely humorless country fare — I mean, the entire album was recorded in one week, and, most likely, the musicians were just composing on the spot, because what Nashville cat would want to spend more time on an odd little drummer from Liverpool? However lively and goofy Ringo used to make his country stuff in the old days, there isn't a shred of that here: instead, he goes for a sentimental, pseudo-sincere approach where the only redeeming quality could be a great and unique singing voice... and, well, while Ringo's singing voice is definitely unique, he has a long way to go to be compared to Hank Williams. Or, heck, even to Jeannie Kendall, with whom he duets on ʽI Wouldn't Have You Any Other Wayʼ and gets sung under the table even if he has the front mike and she is standing outside the studio.

Only one good thing came out of the sessions. The title track, a generic waltz with Ringo strug­gling all the way to land the "beaucoups of blues" chorus, is garbage; however, its B-side was the only number contributed by Ringo himself — a simple, lively, nonsensical jam, appropriately titled ʽCoochy Coochyʼ and perfectly capturing the good old Carl Perkins vibe, ten times more suitable for Ringo than all the slow sentimental waltzing on the LP itself. The Nashvillers get behind him, contributing fun little parts on harmonica, fiddle, and pedal steel, and five minutes are spent with people smiling at each other, playing off each other, getting it on and giving you a good time without any inhibitions whatsoever.

Apparently, a lot of directionless jamming was going on at the studio — the CD reissue of the album, in addition to ʽCoochy Coochyʼ, throws on almost seven minutes of a ʽNashville Jamʼ, slower and more relaxed than the Perkins homage, but still far more exciting than all the proper «songs» on the album — even throwing on a bit of funkiness to wipe out some of that strong cowboy flavor. In all honesty, my opinion is that Beaucoups Of Blues, as a collection of country ballads, should be deleted from the catalog, and replaced by a bunch of jams from those sessions. Because the only purpose of having a Ringo album is if it's fun. If it ain't fun... well, hell, I am no country fan, but at least Patsy Cline has a stellar singing voice.


  1. Solid review as always, George. I think the album is significant as a historical curio and succeeds if you have really, really low expectations. The songs are mediocre, but they have identifiable hooks; the production is refreshingly subtle for late-sixties country music; and Ringo's voice is clear and sincere. It's harmless background music. Yes, I know we should expect more from music, but there's room for the occasional Beaucoup.

  2. It's almost ironic to see that an album's best material is contained in the bonus tracks. Safe to assume that Ringo had little sense of direction in 1970, but I also wonder about the role of record producer and industry executives here.

    What I definitely love about George's reviews is that he doesn't spare some rather low-points in pop history, and finds worthwile material even there. I don't need any more reviews where people seem to praise nothing but their own "favourite" music.