Ringo Starr – Goodnight Vienna (1974)

History: Ringo recorded this album in Los Angeles in 1974, not long after John had recorded Walls and Bridges, and also using a lot of the same musicians. John contributed a song (two if you include its reprise) as did Harry Nilsson and Elton John. Ringo also worked with Vini Poncia again on a couple songs.

My own personal history and initial prediction: Nothing looks familiar to me other than a cover song title I know. We once again have a lot of famous friends helping out so it’ll be interesting to hear their tracks.

What I worked on while listening:

Review: The album actually begins with John’s voice leading the band into the song he wrote, “Goodnight Vienna.” It definitely has his signature all over it, but also fits Ringo very well. The song has a nice groove to it and I can see why they chose it as the title, the start of the album, and to be a single. Fun and groovy really fits the majority of this record, with a few exceptions. The songs are mostly upbeat with lots of horns and piano filling the tracks. It certainly seems like this was just an extension of what these guys were already doing on John and Harry Nilsson’s albums, but with a little more Ringo style brought in.

The exceptions to that upbeat nature are a few sad songs, Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives” being the most striking. The biggest problem with it is that it seems to be just slightly out of Ringo’s range and he doesn’t handle it too well. There’s also “Only You (and You Alone)” a song most well known for the version by The Platters. Ringo’s version is just what I would call okay, once again not his strength vocally but he’s handling it all right. The most notable thing was the brief spoken word moment in the middle that made me look up from my painting wondering if this was going to be an old school moment where the vocalist does the whole refrain this way, but sadly it’s not. That would have been adorable to hear.

“Snookeroo” is written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, but I probably wouldn’t have to tell you that if you listened to it. It’s got their signature all over it. Ringo does well with it. I was not as impressed with the Harry Nilsson song, mostly because it starts off with the lyrics “Nobody loved her, it was easy to see, that made it easy for me” and it had me thinking this was going to be some kind of gross song where the guy takes advantage of a woman because he knows she’s desperate. And maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t? Honestly the songs other verses don’t really connect with each other so it’s hard to say what it’s really about. The whole thing just turned me off from the get go and never won me over.

For the songs Ringo is writing himself, unfortunately there isn’t much improvement yet in his ability. Still a lot of sing songy obvious rhymes flowing from one line to the next. He’s trying and they’re passable but not really strong. Melody and arrangement wise they are getting better though, and lead to that fun bouncy quality throughout the album. I was also excited to hear Dr. John appear on “Oo-wee” even if the lyrics of that one are pretty weak.

My favorite song on the album is “No No Song” a fun bouncy reggae inspired song about refusing drugs and alcohol. If you’re only going to listen to one song off this album, it’s the one worth checking out. But really, even when Ringo is bland here occasionally, he’s never really bad.

Next Time: George returns with Dark Horse.

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