It was a saddening task to get through Ringo Starr’s “Ringo 2012.” I wish there was a way I could say that more eloquently, perhaps in a way that would make Starr seem on par with many of the musicians he has teamed up with over the years (namely, of course, The Beatles.) However, Starr’s homage to his best-selling 1970s record, “Ringo,” is far less than stellar — a definite reason why Ringo has generally taken the backseat in songwriting.
“Ringo 2012’s” overarching issue is that Starr’s characteristically old songwriting is not revamped or built upon. “Octopus’s Garden,” one of Starr’s most defining tracks of his career (with The Beatles), is most reflective of Starr’s style: painfully easy-going and lyrically simple — the antithesis of complex or innovative. The aforementioned Beatles tune is a great one, don’t get me wrong, but imagine listening to that song for just less than 30 minutes with little structural difference.
The old sound was appealing for The Beatles and for records in decades past. On “Ringo 2012,” that sound is more than touched with magic of modern production — the album is drenched with it. What is so interesting about this aspect is that it actually makes the music boring. It is in that dull quality that each track seems capable of soundtracking the background of a car commercial.
Keeping up with his standard outdated style, Starr really didn’t produce that much new material for the record; only five songs are new, original tunes, while two of the other four songs on the album are covers and the other half re-recordings of older songs.
Without knowing these details however, it would be rather easy to listen to the whole album believing that Starr wrote every song, as the covers are done in such a distinctive (or non-distinctive) Starr style. “Think It Over,” a cover of Buddy Holly, is as flat as Starr’s original tunes. “Rock Island Line,” popularized by Lead Belly, has a classic, blues-rock sound to it, however Starr’s approach to the tune makes it perfect for a children’s album or the state fair.
The turnout of “Starr 2012” wasn’t completely unexpected. Starr’s songwriting was always a bit more sing-songy, but nonetheless charming in its simplicity. However, these traits are clearly not doing Starr a service on this record.