Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Guess what month it is? It’s October, so obviously enough, this will be the first theme month (or at least season) of the Album in Depth series, this is the Ex-Beatle Debut Month!
So, I’ll take the four solo albums that were released by each of the Beatles right after the break up and review them one by one. The four albums are as follow:
#1 – Sentimental Journey by Ringo Starr
#2 – McCartney by Paul McCartney
#3 – All Things Must Pass by George Harrison
#4 – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon
Let’s get this show running: who is Ringo Starr, you may ask? Really? A little background is required? You can’t be serious… well… if you really wanna know…
Ringo Starr was the oldest of the Beatles and the last one to be part of the group. Born Richard Starkey in 7th July 1940, the drummer was in another band when the Beatles were formed, and only got inside when Pete Best, the drummer before him, was dismissed for what could be acknowledged as a sort of bad decision, but really, although I can’t see what would have aspired if he stayed, I can’t imagine the Beatles without Ringo Starr. Although a little shy towards music creation (only writing two song: Don’t Pass Me By and Octopus’s Garden, both that cannot be called their greatest hits in any stretch of the imagination), in the drums he was creative and wasn’t a bit timid, being cited as one of the greatest drummers ever. Also, he voices my favorite Beatles song (With a Little Help From My Friends) and well, to be honest… I think he is the best singer of the group. I really enjoy his baritone voice more than any of the other singers (they are not bad by any stretch, personal preference). On the movies, you can really see that he was the star with the charisma and the funny “way to be” that should make most sessions a blast to do.
After the Beatles disunion, he released 15 studio albums (including this one), a bunch of live albums, participated in the Concert For Bangladesh, narrated Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends from ’84 to ’86 and currently does a living by traveling along with his All-Starr band.
The album is a cover album done only with tracks that his parents enjoyed, even going to ask themselves for suggestions and other family members, which I have to admit, is not a bit Rock and Roll but it’s quite a sweet move. I mean, he could do whatever the hell he wanted, he decided to give a little homage to his parents: he probably is the coolest guy ever. Besides that, the cover is great showing a little bit of England with a photo that although not perfect, describes exactly what he wanted: as the pub in question is near the house he was raised, it really transmits that feeling of remembrance and nostalgia. The album runs at 34:03… fuck it, I hope this album sucks. Really: it’s lousy short and if it’s good, I know he didn’t release anything like this, so I’m screwed. Getting sidetracked, the longest song is the title track, Doris Day’s “Sentimental Journey” with only 3:29, and the shortest track is Gene Austin’s popular “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” with 2:12, good spectrum.
As this is a cover album after all, it will be treated with the special JotaKa treatment, where each song will have short information concerning the original artist and comparing it to the original: kind of a dispute between old and… hm… older. So, this album, although without single, achieved #7 in the UK only because of Beatle power I guess, let’s get this on with: Sentimental Journey by Ringo Starr.
1st track: “Sentimental Journey” originally recorded by Doris Day:
Original Song and Info: Doris Day is a singer that made her fame singing Sentimental Journey in 1945. She appeared in a lot of movies, even going far as winning two academy awards for Best Original Song (one of them being “Que Sera, Sera”, being one of the few renditions of this song that isn’t completely depressing) and her last album dates 1967 (to locate it in time, it was when the Beatles released Sgt. Peps). The song itself is a typical pre-50 song, with a real low-key female singing and the only shine being the brass section, typical of the popular songs of the time (the song belongs to a Tom and Jerry short). I like that type of song, but I know it isn’t for anyone.
Ringo’s Cover: With a longer duration and a shorter intro, the song replaces the brass with a harmonica and the overall fifties feeling with a guitar and his drums. His singing is really strange and… bad, but during the chorus, it sounds like it’s another guy singing (maybe it is) with back vocals that really fit the whole country of this new version, going to the extent of having a guitar solo (although overdubbed over a string section, I would have preferred having my guitar solo on the first layer). I guess he tried to improve on the fact that he could jam a lot of cool instruments, completely changing the song, even including some great female back vocals (the damn personnel of the album cites only Ringo and George Martin Orchestra, so we will never know) near the end.
Original x Cover: The original has it’s fifties feel as well as the cover have the seventies feel, but I have to say that Doris Day song was consistently average, while Starr was at times great and at times boring, so… I’m going with Starr, at least he tried something new. Original 0 x 1 Starr
2nd track: “Night and Day” originally recorded by Fred Astaire:
Original Song and Info: Man, Starr’s parents must have hated the Beatles. Well, Fred Astaire was a Broadway dancer that is a cornerstone in charisma, dancing and probably all Broadway musical must draw inspiration from him. However, he was a great dancer: not a great singer. The instrumentals are the usual fanfare for a thirties musical and the singing is, well, subpar. The song is fun in its own merit, but I think that everyone that covered this song did better than him, by no moment forgetting Sinatra’s version that I even considered putting against the cover on this one.
Ringo’s Cover: The cover remembers me more of Sinatra’s version than the original one, with the famous brass instruments and the lounge ambient. There has been some time since I heard the Sinatra’s one but I think even the Sax solo is present in the Sinatra’s version, and well, on top of it all, Starr sang it superbly. I mean, he fits the song like a glove: maybe these songs of yore are all about “looking like we are having fun, although most time we weren’t”, so whenever a fun guy gets to do a version, it sounds great. It’s Sinatra’s Version + Beatles, so there is nowhere to go wrong.
Original x Cover: The original song, although a staple of its time is nothing compared to Ringo’s version. Although being just Sinatra’s version with the Starr’s voice to back it up, it wins by miles. Original 0 x 2 Starr
3rd track: “Whispering Grass” originally recorded by The Ink Spots:
Original Song and Info: If you think that, because of the name, this is a black group of the thirties and forties, you would be right, but also a tad bit racist. I thought it too, but… I mean, it’s the sort of thing that didn’t bother anyone then but would bother people now. I don’t know, because I didn’t gather that much information about ’em, but I think they created doo-wop. The song in question is a quite clever doo-wop on the brink of its creation, having a short guitar riff as an intro, the tenor singing over a guitar and a cello bass and then a bass vocal singing again the first part. It reminds me of a simpler time for music.
Ringo’s Cover: I don’t know how to say this, but Ringo sucked out the rock out of the original, if that could be done. Exchanging the guitar for more orchestral strings and avoiding “singing like a doo-wop”, the song becomes unrecognizable and seems like a bland Nat King Cole song. He could’ve done so much with the original, but instead, he deliver this, that although not great, isn’t as good as it could be.
Original x Cover: The first original to win the dispute, the original have the doo-wop feeling that I really enjoyed, while the Starr’s versions sounded a little bit unimaginative for my particular tastes. Original 1 x 2 Starr
4th track: “Bye Bye Blackbird” originally recorded by Gene Austin:
Original Song and Info: Gene Austin was a crooner, famous for “When My Sugar Walks Down the Road”, “The Lonesome Roads” and the song in question, all released in the 1920’s. The song sounds like Tom & Jerry again but with violins and a more tenor singing voice, making you magically being transported to 1920 when the crooners were king. The song apparently is about a prostitute going away from the whore house and, consequently, away from the singer, and when I say apparently it’s because I saw that in a website, and… I didn’t catch any of that reading the lyrics. I guess knowing the contest really gives you an edge.
Ringo’s Cover: I think Ringo’s intention was to do this cover as most people in the seventies thought how music in the twenties were: the idea of placing a banjo at the rhythm was a great idea, as his own voice combines really well as a baritone, instead of Gene’s tenor voice. Although not credited for reasons I’ll give in the future blog posts of the Ex-Beatle Debut Albums, there is a doubt if Lennon or McCartney weren’t the ones behind the banjo, because both could play the banjo well. The playful piano, drums and fun brass also gives the song a more fun motif. This is possibly the best song in this album
Original x Cover: The song goes to the point where you forget this is a cover album and you get to really relax to the voice of the Starr himself. This song is perfect in this album, and the original doesn’t stand a chance. Original 1 x 3 Starr
5th track: “I’m a Fool to Care” originally recorded by Les Paul and Mary Ford:
Original Song and Info: Les Paul is, in fact, the guitar guy. After some moderate success playing the guitar, he decided to make guitar and revolutionize electric guitar for everyone since. He and his wife, Mary Ford, were a vocal-guitar group of the fifties that had some great successes of the time, but after a bitter divorce, faded in the sixties. This song is a pretty played by the book jazz ballad from the fifties, which is great by its own merit, just for the addition of Les Paul’s slick cool guitar in between her singing that is great. This song just shouldn’t be in jazz compilations because it has been done better (from the top of my head, “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You”).
Ringo’s Cover: It starts with that Louis Armstrong bad song feeling to it, but soon it becomes what it’s worth: a piano sax jazz with Starr unmistakable voice in it, going to the extent of having a sax solo mixed in between. The song got some speed, but not so much as to make the song unrecognizable. It really is a pretty fun song to hear, albeit sad and all.
Original x Cover: These songs, although being based out of the same stuff, are two completely different songs. While one would consider the original to have some blues elements and, of course, a guitar, which strangely lacks on Starr’s version, the cover is faster and replaced it with a piano making the song have more of a fifties feeling to it than the fifties version. To be fair, it’s a hard one, but I’m going to give this one to Starr. Original 1 x 4 Starr
6th track: “Stardust” originally recorded by Emile Seidel:
Original Song and Info: I couldn’t find any recordings of Emile Seidel version, however, the composer himself Hoagie Carmichael released a version not long after, and that one I found, with lyrics by Mitchell Parish (but not sure who was singing). The version is purely a simple twenties song with piano and vocals that by all means should be listened by everyone, since it’s probably where all music nowadays have evolved from. It should be listened by simple intellectual curiosity. It doesn’t try to take any chances by today’s standard, but probably back then, releasing a record could be seen as taking a chance.
Ringo’s Cover: Starr and orchestra playing the oldies as if it was an olde jazz… the song is awesome. The song starting with cymbals was really strange (I thought it would be him and cymbals) but the song evolved into its complete glory. Apparently, this song was arranged by McCartney, and you can hear that (you can hear the formula for The Long and Winding Road) and although being my least favorite Beatle, it works.
Original x Cover: If some day, Ringo goes back to the twenties and start playing, the pre-50 are over. This guy transform every single song into puro brilliance, retaining what made it special at it time and improving it beyond any standard. This guy was a visionary and this song shows it all. Original 1 x 5 Starr
7th track: “Blue, Turning Grey Over You” originally recorded by Louis Armstrong:
Original Song and Info: If you meet someone that can make impressions and he can’t do a good Louis Armstrong, he ain’t good at impressions. Louis Armstrong was, is and will be the bomb, as he transfigured jazz and, quite possible, changed music as we know it. With the cool trumpet and cornet, this guy was unstoppable, and to my firm belief, he is the only one that no one can sing the same: you can sing his song with his voice, but you can’t make a Louis Armstrong song. This song could be fitted in Jungle Book as it has that grainy feel to it and a great orchestra behind Armstrong to back it up. A slow happy jazz as it is (although the lyrics may prove otherwise), the song (that I wasn’t aware of before listening to it now) should be considered one of his greatest (maybe the best not single song).
Ringo’s Cover: The song has a Sinatra feel to it, with some creative drums, a cool piano and his singing voice makes a… not so good song. I think what wrecked this one was the backvocals that for the first time started to wear thin. I don’t know why, but all the different awesome factor didn’t work well one with another. This song is the first bad song in the album so far.
Original x Cover: Louis Armstrong rules this song completely, Ringo doesn’t stand an effing chance. Original 2 x 5 Starr
8th track: “Love is a Many Splendorous Thing” originally recorded by The Four Aces:
Original Song and Info: Although the only group on the album that is still active (although none of the original members are active), Four Ace is a pop quartet of the fifties that released Stanger in Paradise beside the song on this album. The song is cute, but I don’t like it at all: the fifties orchestra this time around sound really timed and overall, the only thing that had working for them was the back vocals.
Ringo’s Cover: With a more contemporary adult to it and a vocal reuniting probably everyone present makes this track work really better than the original, although it still ain’t a great song. Instrumentally, the song is richer than the original and it has a bit of swing to it, making the song at least interesting to be heard.
Original x Cover: Bad song against average song. Original 2 x 6 Starr
9th track: “Dream” originally recorded by The Pied Pipers:
Original Song and Info: The Pied Pipers was an instrumental quartet, but usually they had voice accompany by guest, in the case of this recording, I only found with Ernie Felice quartet. The song is a slow jazz, that although instrumentally great, the vocal of this version just doesn’t suit my style. It reminds me a heck lot like most Somewhere Over the Rainbow recordings of that time were and it doesn’t please me.
Ringo’s Cover: Ringo had space to evolve, but I guess this time he remained relatively low, trying to make as few changes as possible, only adding a little more speed to the tempo, and of course, reducing the vocals to only two, which in my opinion, was for the best. The song is a little bit boring since it doesn’t fit Starr’s voice, so it sound a little rough on the edges. This wasn’t thought through, but maybe it was the favorite song of his mother, so he had to do it.
Original x Cover: Bad song against average song, again. Original 2 x 7 Starr
10th track: “You Always Hurt The One You Love” originally recorded by the Mills Brothers:
Original Song and Info: Mills Brother was a quintet of the early century that had the strange issue of having a father and a son with the same name on it. It’s another group that I only heard the song in question, so I can’t tell much of the studied group. The song is outdated as has been the last two songs, but it is better than both studied before. It reminds me a lot of Lady and the Trump’s “Bella Notte” played worse, so I guess… yeah, this song has some strong points, but not that many to account for.
Ringo’s Cover: The song gets a little swing to it, but the whole sound sounds outdated. I think that he just putter the great ones on the start and then got the ones he didn’t like all that much, as it is a good song only because of the orchestra, mostly the brass (trumpet sections) that are quite honestly the best ones on this album, including a solo that should be noted for what it’s worth.
Original x Cover: Easy choice, but that doesn’t mean the album is getting great towards the end of it. Original 2 x 8 Starr
11th track: “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” originally recorded by Lulu Bell & Scotty:
Original Song and Info: Argh, its square dance for the retired! The singers are Lulu Bell & Scotty that helped evolve country music, and how I hate country music. It’s mostly because country music in Brazil is… horrid, but even the country of the US is also completely against my own musical taste. The song is bad: on top of being a country song, it is a boring country song.
Ringo’s Cover: He transformed the song into a happy speedy jazz lounge song, with touches of instrumental humor, if that’s even possible, and making a complete revolution to the song. The song is great as standalone song, but it also works as comparison. For some time, the drums sound like they were used creatively, and to be honest, I was expecting a bit more of the drums on this album. The ending of the song almost makes the whole song worth it.
Original x Cover: Do you even need to ask? Starr owned this music. Original 2 x 9 Starr
12th track: “Let The Rest of the World Go By” originally recorded by Dick Haymes:
Original Song and Info: I could only find a version from the 1944 film “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, which is a piano and vocal version. Dick Haymes was a well-known vocalist of the fourties fifties and had some other tracks as well, as the track in question is good, but not great. I thank everyone that was in the process of evolving the music in question, but to be honest, it doesn’t fit my style that much. The song is good nonetheless.
Ringo’s Cover: As a cover song, the song got a little whimsical with the addition of the orchestra, going to the length of becoming maybe a Disney tune of the league of When You Wish Upon a Star… only boring and lacking enthusiasm. He already showed his talents as a story teller and this song could’ve gone the distance with some good vocals, but with only a generic pretty instrumentation, the track lacks any kind of direction and fails. As a closing track, it really lacks a goodbye feel that he proved he could do (With White Album’s Good Night, just for comparison) or a “Pick this album once again”.
Original x Cover: This is a hard one, because although I didn’t like the cover not that much, it still would be my pick, if only for the orchestra behind it. I really enjoy Ringo Starr, but I guess he lacked enthusiasm to make this an easy vote. Original 2 x 10 Starr
So, how does it all hold up? For the look on the numbers, this album could be considered one of the greats of all time, but it isn’t. At some tracks, it’s downright boring. As a “please parents” sort of deal, it works: with some great renditions of Bye Bye Blackbird and Night and Day, the album picked up a spirit that lacked on the original. However, there were really some songs that… well… didn’t work. Mostly Dream and Love is a Many Splendorous Thing. The album goes a long way only with Starr’s power as a Beatle, but I really think it stops there. Maybe listen to this album one or two times and then hide it in your shelf permanently.
This is JotaKa, signing of.