I love The Beatles, and by inclusion that love extends to Ringo Starr, but a recent news item indicating that he is a probable inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 as a solo artist is an honor he is not worthy of on his own. Starr wasn't trying to be modest when he said that he is the luckiest man alive to have been in a band with the other three Beatles. He has always been realistic about his place in their history. While he isn't without talent, I believe there are better singers, composers, and drummers. However the other Beatles always defended him and who am I too argue with those three! John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison all continued to use him at times on their solo albums. He played on McCartney's Flaming Pie CD as late as 1997.
I don't believe it is a coincidence that news about Starr's induction into the Hall Of Fame was released at the same time as Photograph: The Very Best Of Ringo, a very nice retrospective of his solo career. Starr made a few good albums early in his post-Beatles life (Beaucoup Of Blues, Ringo, and Goodnight Vienna) and while he continues to make records into the new century most of what he has recorded after the mid-seventies has gone totally unnoticed. Therefore this compilation is all most people will ever want or need.
All of his big hits are present, most notably, "Photograph," "It Don't Come Easy," "Back Off Boogaloo," "You're Sixteen," "Oh, My My," "No-No Song," and "Snookeroo." The fact this is a "best of" CD rather than a greatest hits album allows the twenty song disc to encompass his entire career.
There is a lot of other music on this compilation worth mentioning. Starr's country record was made not long after The Beatles broke up in 1970. It's title track, "Beaucoups of Blues," features excellent background vocals by The Jordanaires. Lennon gave him two tracks, "I'm The Greatest" and "Goodnight Vienna" and Harrison one, "Wrack My Brain." "Act Naturally was originally on the flip side of "Yesterday" in 1965. It was also a country hit for Buck Owens before The Beatles recorded it. Here Starr performs it with Owens in 1989 at Abbey Road studios. There is a fine cover version of the Bruce Channel hit, "Hey Baby," and a 2003 tribute he wrote about his Beatle buddy George, "Never Without You." It's a sentimental but truly satisfying piece of work. Lyrically the most interesting track is "Early 1970" which originally appeared only as the "B" side of "It Don't Come Easy." It's about his former band mates and what he believes his relationship was with each one at the time. The song is definitely dated now but for those of us who remember that era well it's an interesting look back by someone who doesn't usually talk about the demise of the world's most famous rock band. There are annotated and detailed liner notes for each song.
This CD proves that when Starr is working with the right material and collaborators he can make high quality and fun pop music interspersed with a surprising amount of introspection. Starr is not a pretentious man and neither are his songs.