[Review] Ringo Starr: Vertical Man (1998)

Ringo’s second golden age continues as a busload of guests hop on for the ride.

Kronomyth 16.0: Straight up the best thing he’s done since Goodnight Vienna.

As much of a fuss as people made of Paul McCartney’s Flaming Pie, Ringo Starr’s Vertical Man stands equally tall in my eyes. Fast as I can say “It’s a return to…” someone will answer: “I thought that’s what Time Takes Time was all about.” And they’d be right, sort of, only Time Takes Time felt unnatural. Vertical Man feels right. Ringo, Mark Hudson, Steve Dudas and Dean Grakal write most of the songs; not the Fab Four exactly, but far better than seeing Diane Warren’s name pop up for the umpteenth time. As for the production, it’s a mix of vintage Beatles and XTC, with mellotrons and tablas in moderation.

The guest list is long to the point of distraction (Paul McCartney, George Harrison, George Martin, Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler, Alanis Morissette, Joe Walsh, Scott Wieland, ad inifinitum), but the best Ringo Starr albums are never only about Ringo. He’s the host of the party and he’ll sing if you egg him on, but it’s always with a self-effacing shrug. If it’s a good song, he’ll pull it off. If it’s not a good song, you don’t hold it against him.

He gets a lot of good songs on Vertical Man; “One,” “Vertical Man” and “La De Da” are some of the best songs he’s sung since the golden age of Ringo. What golden age? It was kinda short (1973-1974), so maybe you were napping. As a very funny man once said (in a very unfunny movie), it’s good to be the king, and Vertical Man is Ringo’s command performance in the 90s. It has a little something from everyone, with a lot of somebodies from everywhere, which nobody does better than Ringo.

The Songs

1. One (3:02)
2. What In The World (3:29)
3. Mindfield (4:07)
4. King of Broken Hearts (4:44)
5. Love Me Do (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) (3:45)
6. Vertical Man (4:42)
7. Drift Away (Mentor Williams) (4:10)
8. I Was Walkin’ (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Dean Grakal) (3:21)
9. La De Da (5:41)
10. Without Understanding (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Steve Dudas) (4:22)
11. I’ll Be Fine Anywhere (3:41)
12. Puppet (3:21)
13. I’m Yours (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Mark Nevin) (3:23)

Songs written by Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Dean Grakal/Steve Dudas unless noted.

Japanese CD bonus tracks
14. Mr. Double-It-Up
15. Everyday

Best Buy bonus CD single
14. Mr. Double-It-Up
15. Sometimes
16. Good News

The Players

Ringo Starr (vocals, drums, percussion, bongos, mellotron, synthesizer strings, rhythmatic guitar, keyboard, plastic guitar solo), Jim Cox (B3 organ, cello synth, Wurlitzer, piano, sax synth), Steve Dudas (bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, guitar solo), Mark Hudson (electric guitar, keyboards, background vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, bass, synthesizer, mellotron, piano, synthesizer strings, string arrangement, banjo, celeste) with Keith Allison (background vocals on track 9), Lisa Banks (background vocals), Astrid Barber (vackground vocals on track 9), James Barber (background vocals on track 9), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (pedal steel guitar on track 1), John Bergamo (tabla), Blake V. Brown (background vocals on track 9), Scott Brown (background vocals on track 9), Vincent Brown (background vocals on track 9), Joie Calio (background vocals on track 9), Steve Cropper (electric guitar, electric guitar solo), Jim Cushinery (background vocals on track 9), Doug Fieger (background vocals on track 9), Eric Gardner (background vocals on track 9), Dave Gibbs (background vocals on track 12), John Goodwin (background vocals), Scott Gordon (percussion, harmonica, background vocals), Bruce Grakal (background vocals on track 9), Christopher Grakal (background vocals), Dean Grakal (handclaps, background vocals), Ronni Grakal (background vocals on track 9), Little David Greedy (tambourine on track 7), Eric Greedy (tambourine, background vocals), Steve Greenberg (background vocals on track 9), Michael Gurley (background vocals on track 9), George Harrison (slide guitar solo, electric guitar solo), Kay Harrison (background vocals on track 9), Tommy Harrison (background vocals on track 9), Dawn Hoenie (background vocals on track 9), Sarah Hudson (background vocals), Daniel Lanois (background vocals on track 9), Phil Leavitt (background vocals on track 9), Stuart Lerner, M.D. (background vocals on track 9), Nils Lofgren (background vocals on track 9), George Martin (string arrangement on track 13), Paul McCartney (bass, background vocals), Howard McCrary (background vocals), James McCrary (background vocals on track 10), Leon McCrary (background vocals on track 10), Alanis Morissette (background vocals), Mark Nevin (acoustic guitar on track 13), Ozzy Osbourne (background vocals on track 6), Gabriella Paglia (background vocals on track 9), Van Dyke & Sally & Elizabeth Parks (background vocals on track 9), Carolyn Perry (background vocals on track 10), Darlene Perry (background vocals on track 10), Sharon Perry (background vocals on track 10), Joel Peskin (sax on 12), Tom Petty (vocals on track 7), Nina Piaseckyi (cell on track 6), Graham Preskett (string arrangements on track 4), Christian Philippe-Quilici (opera vocal on track 10), Christina Rasch (background vocals), Lady Marjorie Rufus-Isaacs (background vocals on track 9), Jean Schmit (background vocals on track 9), Timothy B. Schmit (background vocals), Alfie Silas-Durio (background vocals on track 10), Barbara Bach Starkey (background vocals), Lee Starkey (background vocals on track 9), Tina Stem (background vocals on track 9), Rose Stone (background vocals), Jennifer Sylvor (background vocals on track 9), Steven Tyler (background vocals, harmonica, drums), Barbara Vander Linde (background vocals), Tatiana Von Furstenberg (background vocals on track 9), Joe Walsh (electric guitar, electric guitar solo, slide guitar solo, background vocals), Scott Wieland (background vocals), Brian Wilson (background vocals on track 10), Ollie Woodson (background vocals). Produced by Mark Hudson and Ringo Starr; associate producer: Susanne Marie Edgren; engineered by Scott Gordon, additional engineering by Mark Hudson, Eric Greedy, George Harrison, Geoff Emerick, Andrew Sheps, Paul Wright, Rupert Coulson; mixing by Geoff Emerick.

Did You Know?

  • The Artist, in his own words: “I think it’s the best since the Ringo/Goodnight Vienna period, really. You look at my musical career and from Goodnight Vienna it started going downhill. And now we’re on the way back. I had the Time Takes Time album which I thought was brilliant. But people didn’t seem to want to go for it.” (read the full interview at http://www.pauldunoyer.com/pages/journalism/journalism_item.asp?journalismID=180)

The Plastic

Artwork by Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach Starkey. Poster photography by Adam Weiner. Vertical man photo of Ringo by Henry Diltz. Art direction by Margery Greenspan. Design and layout by Sandra Monteparo.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc and cassette in June 16, 1998 in the US and worldwide (Mercury, 558 598) and as an expanded compact disc (with two bonus tracks: “Mr. Double-It-Up,” “Everyday”) in July 1998 in Japan (Mercury, 59483). Reached #61 on the US charts. Also released as a limited edition compact disc in 1998 in the US (Mercury, 558 400). Also released in Best Buy stores in the US with a bonus 3-track CD single.

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