RATING: 3.5 / 5 stars
By Chris Moore:
When I read that Ringo and his longtime musical partner Mark Hudson had severed their working relationship, I was concerned for what Liverpool 8 might end up sounding like. Would it follow in the solid, enjoyable footsteps of 2003’s Ringo Rama and 2005’s Choose Love, or would it embrace a new sound altogether? How would Dave Stewart’s influence as producer manifest itself in the music? As much as I’d like to believe I’m open-minded about artistic development, I have also grown fond of Ringo’s recent sound.
A couple nights after the album’s release, I sat in my car outside the CD store, hurriedly tearing the shrink wrap off of Liverpool 8. As the title track began, I was simultaneously hesitant and intrigued – it was a new sound, but certainly not a negative one – hearing Ringo tumble words-first into the autobiographical, “I was a sailor first…” Some may say (and, in fact, some reviewers have already said) that this song is a campy rehashing of his past exploits as a Beatle. I, however, have to scoff at those sentiments.
It strikes me as far too easy to write off or make fun of an “I remember when” song by an ex-Beatle. Have we forgotten the great ex-Beatle autobiographical songs? (George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago” and “When We Was Fab,” just to name a couple.) Listen to the track for yourself; I hope you’ll find it as interesting, informative, and fun as I did. My favorite line has to be (referring to the leader of the band he was in when Lennon and McCartney saw him play and asked him to join the Beatles), “Played Butlin’s camp/with my friend Rory/It was good for him/it was great for me.” In a recent live version, I’m certain I saw him grinning on that last part, as if to say, “Of course it was ‘great’ for me!”
Initially, I did find the album to be somewhat darker than his recent work, but that is by no means to suggest that his basic advocacy of the “Peace and Love” lifestyle has lessened; if anything, it is just as strong as it has ever been. Songs like “For Love” and (my personal favorite) the solid rocker “If It’s Love That You Want” may not have the most original lyrics, but they have all the heart that we have grown to expect out of Ringo. Even the more serious songs, such as “Now That She’s Gone Away” and “Gone Are the Days,” shine through with lively guitar solos and, of course, reminders that “it don’t come easy” (Any fan of Ringo’s recent, excellent albums who has checked their Billboard ratings would agree!).
At the end of the day, I cannot say that I like this album more than Choose Love or especially Ringo Rama, but I can say that it is a solid, enjoyable album that proves Ringo cannot be written off as the least talented ex-Beatle. He has been smart enough to surround himself with talented young musician/songwriters who compliment his excellent drumming. He has created and maintained an exciting new sound in his recent work. He possesses a larger-than-life personality that drives even his lesser songs forward. And, if nothing else, he still knows how to rock n’roll!