Last up is the inimitable Mr. Ringo Starr.
Whilst I believe Ringo was a crucial (and often overlooked) ingredient in what made the Beatles so unique and powerful (what other drummer would be unfazed at being handed ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ one day and ‘Penny Lane’ the next?), he was never notable as a songwriter or performer in his own right. So I have to admit I was less excited about approaching his epic 18 studio album solo career, in comparison to the other 3 ex-Beatles.
That said, I had heard some good things about some of his solo albums, and I’ve learned over years of getting to know the Beatles never to underestimate Mr. Starr.
I was anxious to finish my solo Beatles ‘challenge,’ So I spent just 1 week obsessively listening to all 18 albums at every spare moment I got; which probably made this less of an enjoyable experience than it could’ve been. I recommend you take your time if you decide to explore Ringo’s varied and occasionally brilliant back-catalogue!
Here is my attempt to rank all of Ringo’s albums from my least to most favourite. I hope this will encourage you to give his solo albums a listen if you haven’t already. If you have, and you have any favourite songs or albums yourself, please let me know in the comments below!
18. I Wanna Be Santa Claus (1999)
Ringo’s Christmas album. It’s as bad as that sounds.
Favourite Track: Come On Christmas
17. Bad Boy (1978)
A collection of ‘OK’ (but not great) songs. When you think about all the exciting music that was being made around the time of this album, it all seems a bit lacklustre.
I guess I should give him a break; there aren’t many drummers/turned solo performers who can boast so many albums to their name, and it’s not ‘bad’ as such. But I won’t be shouting it’s virtues from the rooftops, let’s put it that way.
Favourite Track: Who Needs a Heart?
16. Ringo’s Rotogravure (1976)
Inoffensive but instantly forgettable collection of underwhelming songs.
Favourite Track: Pure Gold
15. Old Wave (1983)
Some catchy tunes and I quite enjoyed this one, although I would be hard pressed to remember the songs in a couple of days.
Favourite Track: As Far As We Can Go
14. Postcards from Paradise (2015)
Another collection of likeable, if unremarkable tunes.
Favourite Track: Not Looking Back
13. Vertical Man (1998)
Ringo continues the successful ‘retro-meets-contemporary’ feel of ‘Time Takes Time’ and this is another entertaining, if less heavyweight addition to his catalogue. The cover of ‘Love Me Do’ is best forgotten about.
Favourite Track: I’m Your’s
12. Ringo the 4th (1977)
For possibly the first time in his career up to this point, Ringo’s voice doesn’t do the songs justice and he’s not playing to his strengths. You’ve got to admire him for trying to push himself and his music onward though. A bit of a ‘disco’ feel here, which is obviously contemporary for the time.
Not bad, and a couple of nice songs, but he didn’t seem at his best here and the album is inconsistent.
Favourite Track: Gypsies in Flight
(I could only find a cover of this one on YouTube)
11. Beaucoups of Blues (1970)
Ringo’s second album in a year shows him moving from the crooner standards of ‘Sentimental Journey’ onto a Country and Western album. You’ve got to admire Ringo for trying out different styles in his early solo years, and in some ways this is even more experimental than the other 3 Beatles in their solo infancy. This said, he (and his listeners) must’ve wondered at this point how long the ‘background Beatle’ could keep reinventing himself, and whether he would find a direction that would fit.
I wasn’t looking forward to this album, as I’m really not a fan of Country and Western as a genre (with the odd exception like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash). But, like ‘Sentimental Journey’ its once again a pleasant affair, and Ringo’s voice works well with the material (it reminded me of some of Jonathan Richman’s more AOR moments). The musicians on-board are all excellent, and it’s strangely faithful to the style of music for a young lad from Liverpool. Plus, I love that album cover for some reason! But, with all these things taken into account, this isn’t an album I would return to often.
Favourite Track: Without Her
10. Stop & Smell the Roses (1981)
A slight return to form for Ringo after a couple of lacklustre albums in the late 70’s. He has a renewed focus, but the songs still aren’t strong enough to make this a particularly memorable album and as a ‘comeback album’ it falls a little flat. Worth a listen though.
Favourite Track: Dead Giveaway
9. Ringorama (2003)
A daft name shadows what is quite an amusing album, as Ringo enlists some of his famous mates again to make a heavier sounding rock album. There are peaks and valleys, but it’s a compelling production and you can tell he’s put a lot of effort in here.
Favourite Track: Instant Amnesia
8. 2012 (2012)
Another short and sweet collection of new and reworked older Ringo songs and covers.
Less remarkable than ‘Y Not’ from 2 years previous, and it feels like he’s retreading old ground a bit, but you can tell that Ringo is enjoying himself again here.
Favourite Track: Wings
7. Liverpool 8 (2008)
Beginning with the stadium singalong title track, Ringo’s most chart-friendly single in 30 years, this is a more than serviceable rock album, incorporating many different styles and ideas.
Favourite Track: Liverpool 8
6. Sentimental Journey (1970)
Ringo takes a literal ‘sentimental journey’ through some of his childhood favourites from the old crooner standards, in possibly the most unexpected direction for a Beatles solo debut.
Not the most exciting way to start a solo career, but Ringo’s unassuming and untrained voice actually lends a certain charm to the songs and it’s a pleasant if not overly interesting listen.
Your Nan would love this.
Favourite Track: Whispering Grass
5. Y Not (2010)
I’m enjoying Ringo’s post-millennium output. He seems to have a good team behind him and he seems more relaxed and more confident at playing to his strengths. The songs aren’t half bad either, and all of his albums this side of 2000 are worth a listen as agreeable, if not life-changing collections of songs. Y Not continues this trend, with straightforward and easy-listening songs. It’s also nice to hear him duet with old friend Macca on ‘Walk With You.’
Favourite Track: Walk With You
4. Choose Love (2005)
No big surprises here for our ‘Rings,’ but the album moves on apace and I found it an engaging and firm set of songs. Ringo sounds relaxed and confident here and this is an album I would listen to again for sure.
Favourite Track: Some People
3. Time Takes Time (1992)
After an 11 year absence (mostly playing with his ‘All Starr Band), Ringo returns to the studio with a renewed vigour for ‘Time Takes Time.’
This was probably a wise move, as even the best musicians/songwriters made some shit albums in the ’80’s (even Bowie!).
It sounds like a new lease of life for him and you can tell he’s enjoying himself here. Combining a retro 60’s sound and the sound of the time, gives a Tom Petty feel to the album and also makes this a nice companion to George’s ‘Cloud Nine.’
It’s certainly one of the most intriguing collections of Ringo albums and definitely worth a spin!
Favourite Track: Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go
2. Goodnight Vienna (1974)
For personal reasons, I’ve been looking forward to this one the most; it was a favourite album of a dear friend of mine who sadly passed away last year. So I went into listening to this album wanting to love it.
Firstly, I loved the album cover. As a big sci-fi fan, it was great to see a funny take on the classic ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’
The songs contained on the album are pretty decent and this is a natural successor to its slightly better predecessor ‘Ringo.’ Lyrically it’s unlikely to win any awards, and I’m getting the sneaking sensation that although enlisting his best musical friends (John Lennon, Elton John, Dr. John) was a wise move, he’s being given a lot of their ‘cast offs,’ as even these stronger albums aren’t really a patch on the other Fab Four’s solo output.
It’s another fun, rocking album however, and I enjoyed it.
Favourite Track: Only You (And You Alone)
After forays in Jazz standards and Country and Western covers, Ringo’s solo career finally gets off the ground, after the success of two successful interim singles and ‘with a little help from his friends’ the Beatles (who all appear here in different capacities to help their old mate with writing and playing) plus a dizzying array of other talented and notable musicians (Steve Cropper, the Band, Marc Bolan, Billy Preston to name a few).
Only their mutual love for Ringo could get the warring ex-Beatles to join forces on writing and performing on an album together (albeit on different songs), and this is the album I’ve been wanting to hear from Ringo; great songs and great fun from beginning to end.
Favourite Track: Sunshine Life for Me
I’m not going to lie, listening to all 18 Ringo solo albums in one week was a slog. Not because they were terrible, they really weren’t. But they rarely rose above the average and it was difficult to distinguish or rank them. Out of all the solo Beatles albums, I think my mind will probably change the most on how I rank Ringo’s as I get to know them. To be fair, there are many great moments and songs, and at least 5 of his albums are definitely worth checking out, whilst the others are inoffensive; which in itself is an achievement for someone who is a fantastic musician, but not a natural songwriter.
I hope if nothing else, this list helps you to appreciate the ‘other’ Beatle, and to give his underrated solo work a chance.
Let me know your favourite Ringo tracks in the comments below, and thanks for reading!