Thursday, September 1, 2016

If You're Only Going to Buy One Greatest Hits Set From... Ringo Starr

Let’s do Ringo first, then George.  Ringo’s always the last of the four Beatles to be introduced; he deserves to be moved up a notch.

Ringo’s drumming has undergone a critical reevaluation in the last 20 years or so.  For a long time during the Beatles heyday and after, he was considered the guy just lucky to be there.  But, if you read enough about the band, he was really the last piece of the puzzle – it’s been pretty well established that Pete Best was nowhere near the talent the other three were, and it took Ringo’s presence, ability, and difference from the others to make it work. 

Also, Ringo brought something else to the band – a sense of humility.  The Beatles have always been my favorite band, but John, Paul, and George weren’t really known for their modesty.  Ringo, deservedly, is.  And he’s a hell of a drummer.  My son’s a drummer, and his teacher has told him repeatedly that there are two drummers he should emulate with the sticks – John Bonham and Ringo Starr.  I have no reason to argue.

As for his solo career, Ringo had a few great years, a bunch of years lost in an alcoholic haze, and about two decades doing pretty much what he wants to do – he tours with his friends (he seems to get along with just about everybody), and he releases the occasional album under his own name.  He also is now the owner of the longest Beatle marriage (he’s been married to Barbara Bach for over 35 years).

In any case, there aren’t a ton of best-ofs from Ringo, and a few are out of print.  There’s really only one obvious choice:

This has every song from his first hits set, 1975’s Blast From Your Past (these include “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Photograph,” “You’re Sixteen,” and “Oh My My”), and includes his next two (and final two) top 40 hits, “A Dose of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Wrack My Brain.”  It also has a few more recent songs (although, unfortunately, nothing from the All-Starr Band groupings).  Not overpriced ($7.39 for the disc and $7.99 for the download at Amazon), but do note a variation – the disc has “Hey! Baby!” “A Dose of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “King of Broken Hearts,” while the download contains “Oo-Wee,” “Have You Seen My Baby,” and an extended version of “Six O’Clock” instead.  I’d buy the disc, download the other three separately, and burn a new disc with all 23 songs; it’ll still come in just under 80 minutes.

Here are the other options:

Blast From Your Past (1975) – as noted above, every song here is included in the Photograph compilation, and this is out of print, so there’s no real reason to search this out.  (I have it, but I bought it years before Photograph, thinking it was going to be the only option.)  I mean, if you see it used for a buck or two, sure, but that’s really the only reason to get it.  This appears to be out of print, which is fine; it’s superfluous at this point.

Starr Struck: Best of Ringo Starr, Vol. 2 (1989) – this is a weird one, and it’s got a long story.  After 1975, Ringo bolted from Capitol/Apple and was with a ton of labels (Atlantic, Portrait, Boardwalk, RCA in Canada), with sales dropping consistently.  Partially this was because he wasn’t getting the material (John, Paul, and George had all contributed to Ringo’s solo albums before, along with other friends), and partially because – well, Ringo had become an alcoholic.  (In fairness, it appears all of the Fab Four except Paul dealt with addiction issues at one time or another.)  I have a vinyl copy of 1976’s Ringo’s Rotogravure, and the inside sleeve has Polaroids of Ringo and all the players on the album – every picture Ringo’s in has him holding a drink.  And that was the best seller of the bunch – by the time 1983’s Old Wave was ready, no UK or US label would release it.  Anyway, by 1989 Ringo had sobered up, and Rhino Records (which was and is a terrific label for reissues and compilations) rounded up what was worth hearing off those albums and put them on a CD.  Again, it had the two top 40 hits from that era, as listed above (George wrote and played on “Wrack My Brain,” recorded for Boardwalk Records in 1981), but there’s a lot of other stuff you probably won’t miss.  It’s out of print, but it’s probably worth picking up if you find it in the used record bins as a curio.  (It’s not particularly cheap through Amazon because it’s scarce, however.)

The Anthology... So Far (2001) – this draws entirely from the All-Starr Band discs.  It’s all live, it’s three discs long, and there are only one or two “Ringo” songs on each disc – the rest of it is songs by other artists.  It’s a heck of a compilation – Dr. John, Levon Helm, Clarence Clemons, Billy Preston, Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren, and John Entwistle, and that’s just on the first disc – but it’s not a true best-of.  $19.99 on Amazon as an import; not available for download.

Icon: Ringo Starr (2014) – once UMG got ahold of the Capitol backlist, you knew this was going to happen:  a slipshod “budget” release.  11 songs, eight of which are on either Ringo or Goodnight Vienna (Ringo’s two big albums from the 1970s, both of which are still in print).  And the “budget” compilation is $6.87 (not available for download), which makes it 52 cents cheaper than Photograph, which contains nine more songs.  I mean, if you’re desperate for something to listen to on a car trip and find it at a truck stop, I guess that’s okay – but there’s no other reason to order this over other options.

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