Ringo Starr – Ringo the 4th (1977)

History: With Ringo’s Rotogravure not performing well, a shift was made for Ringo’s follow up to that album, with his friends no longer writing songs for him this time. The album contains a few covers as well as songs written by Ringo with Vini Poncia. The majority of them are done in a dance/disco style.

My own personal history and initial prediction: I am not familiar with any of the songs on this album. That cover weirds me out a bit, it’s just all so random. As I had said in my last Ringo review, I’m really hoping for weirdness, just to help keep these interesting beyond “it’s okay but not great.”

What I worked on while I was listening:

Review: I feel like saying the words Ringo and disco together would immediately set anyone cringing. I know it did for me initially. The critics apparently really hate this album, and the general public of the late 70s was either not interested or possibly also hated it too, as the album and its singles did not do well. But I’m here to tell you that you need to at least give this album a chance, because I didn’t hate it at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a masterpiece to be held up next to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and All Things Must Pass as one of the great post Beatles albums of all time. I’m just saying that it’s actually a lot more fun than you might be expecting it to be. The disco beats are all well constructed and the songs would get you dancing quite easily. Lyrically they are not the strongest, but Ringo sounds like he’s having a great time singing them and I think that counts for a lot. Maybe he sounds like he’s having so much fun because he was drinking heavily in this period of his life, but it doesn’t hurt his vocal performance at least.

The main time when the album starts to slip is when it moves away from the disco. “Gave It All Up” is a slow depressing number that definitely doesn’t belong here at all. “Gypsies in Flight” is a country song, not badly executed but definitely leaves me scratching my head on what exactly he is supposed to be referring to. If he’s referring to Romani people being wanderers (and therefore “flying” away), then that’s an unfortunate choice for a metaphor. “Simple Love Song” also lives up a little too well to its name, feeling very much like a generic song used to fill up the LP.

But all the dance songs are a lot of fun, from his cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley” to his own “Out on the Streets.” I will admit that “Can She Do It Like She Dances” did have me cringing, this sort of accusatory song that suggests that if a woman likes to dance in public, she better also have some moves in the bedroom. But I’m putting that blame on writers Steve Duboff and Gerry Robinson for that bit of creepiness. Of course Ringo also chose to sing it, so I guess he’s not totally blameless here.

It does all make me wonder, was I just in a forgiving mood when I sat down to listen to this one? Do I automatically lower my standards for Ringo and give him gold stars for effort whereas I tend to expect the best from Paul and shame him when he falters? Is it natural to do that for someone based on their skill level or should we put all musicians to the same standards? Am I totally crazy or does anyone else also enjoy this record? Please give it at least one listen so you can tell me what you think.

Next Time: This album did so poorly that Polydor in the UK decided to fulfill their contract with Ringo by having him play the lead on Scouse the Mouse, a children’s album.

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