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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ringo Starr: Sentimental Journey

RINGO STARR: SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (1970)

1) Sentimental Journey; 2) Night And Day; 3) Whispering Grass (Don't Tell The Trees); 4) Bye Bye Blackbird; 5) I'm A Fool To Care; 6) Stardust; 7) Blue Turning Grey Over You; 8) Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing; 9) Dream; 10) You Always Hurt The One You Love; 11) Have I Told You Lately That I Love You; 12) Let The Rest Of The World Go By.

General verdict: So, not a fan of the avantgarde liaison between John and Yoko? Go back to Ringo singing Hoagy Carmichael, you pop slut!

In the place of the age-old and fairly boring «Paul is dead» conspiracy theory, I offer you a new one: The Beatles were broken up not by the egotism of John Lennon, not by the stubbornness of Paul McCartney, not by the resent­ment of George Harrison, not by the ruthless business deals of Allen Klein, not even by the witchcraft of Yoko Ono. Instead, The Beatles were broken up by Elsie Starkey, who had been patiently waiting for ten years only to plant a carefully planned and perfectly targeted strike at a time when it hit the deadliest — so that her allegedly misled and mis­guided offspring could finally come to his senses and start recording decent music for a change. What else could explain the irrefutable fact that Sentimental Journey, Ringo's grand entry into the world of bearded pop oldies, became the first «properly musical» album by any solo Beatle, even beating McCartney's self-titled debut by about three weeks?.. Nothing, and in a world of simplified logic, this proves the theory beyond the slightest shred of reasonable doubt.

Now, in general, Ringo's solo career should not be slighted too much. Ringo's always had charisma, solid drumming potential, and decent taste in pop music. As a songwriter, he came to the table fairly late and never engaged in the deed too often, but when he did write, he was a bit above average (I mean, you'd have to be mentally challenged to work with John and Paul for so long and not having at least a tiny bit of all that talent rub off on you). And even the very idea of Ringo doing some Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael on the side is not abominable per se: his limited singing skills could be effectively attuned for comic effect, which could have been a re­freshing change from hearing so many crooners overkilling the material.

The problem with Sentimental Journey is that no effort was undertaken to try and make it «special» in any way. The one and only gimmick of the album was the idea to give each of the twelve songs to a different arranger — ranging from close allies (Paul himself on one track, and George Martin on another) to more distant friends such as Maurice Gibb to classical-pop digni­taries such as Elmer Bernstein to truly unpredictable choices like Quincy Jones (who, apparently, remembers this incident largely in the context of Ringo not being able to properly hold a simple percus­sion groove — grumpy old man). Unfortunately, it is as if the invisible and terrifying presence of loving Mum haunted the studio day and night, night and day, because in the end, despite heavier orchestration on some tracks and lighter on others, you'd have to be a wizard of perception to tell which track was arranged by Maurice Gibb and which one by Quincy Jones. (Cue: ʽBye Bye Blackbirdʼ begins with a strummed banjo and ʽLove Is A Many Splendoured Thingʼ opens with a bass flourish — your associations?).

Furthermore, Ringo's biggest strength — his friendly goofiness — is totally wasted here, since it is painfully clear that, while he most certainly loves his Mum and probably respects this material, he has very little by way of «true intimate connection» with it. (I mean, if he had, what would be the chances of his joining a skiffle band back in 1957?). He is neither able to sing these songs professionally (which is predictable), nor to put a properly goofy spin on them — the best he can do is try to stay in tune (most of the time) and maintain a moderately cheerful attitude. I'm sure Mum and Stepdad must have been delighted, but the rest of the world could only take this as one further sign of Ringo's general incompetence and lack of direction as an artist.

"The great thing was that it got my solo career moving", Ringo later said of the album himself, which, I guess, is as close to an implicit agreement that the album was shit as possible. Techni­cally, he might be right, because Sentimental Journey sold well — after all, it was a Beatle album, and a Beatle album with no genitalia on the front cover and with an actual, obvious song list on the back cover, which was enough to propel it to #7 on the UK charts, a higher position than any subsequent Ringo solo album with the exception of the self-titled Ringo from 1973. Of course, this does not explain why it could not have been possible to get his solo career moving with something just a tiny bit more exciting than a bunch of boring covers of standards. Neither is it a matter of time healing all wounds: the arrangements and vocal performances remain just as corny in retrospect as they were in innovation-heavy 1970. You'd really have to be in (peace and) love with Ringo to be able to get your kicks here.

1 comment:

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