Ringo Starr

Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr

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Hard as it is to believe but there has not been a proper Ringo Starr hits collection since the first, 1975's Blast from Your Past -- that's not counting 1989's Starr Struck: Best of Ringo Starr, Vol. 2, which was designed as a companion to that earlier set -- until 2007's Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr. Blast from Your Past was released just five years after his debut, Sentimental Journey, but it ignored that collection of pop standards, along with much of its country cousin Beaucoups of Blues, winding up as a collection of highlights of 1973's Ringo and 1974's Goodnight Vienna, with a few non-LP hit singles rounded up within the LP's tight ten-track, 30-minute span. Ringo kept recording after Blast, working his way through several labels and ill-advised phases before settling into a nice, easy groove with 1993's Time Takes Time, but he stopped having hits not long after 1975, after the Elton John/Bernie Taupin "Snookeroo" climbed all the way to number three, capping off a remarkable streak of seven Top Ten singles. After that, the crash was fast: "Oo-Wee" was pulled off of Vienna and stalled at 31, then there was just one more hit -- "A Dose of Rock Roll," peaking at 26 in 1976 -- before a five-year wait until the George Harrison-written "Wrack My Brain" limped to 38 in 1981 before Ringo disappeared from the charts. His '90s comeback may have never dented ~Billboard, but it is represented on the 20-track Photograph, which also contains all the aforementioned singles (apart from "Oo-Wee," no great loss) and the entirety of Blast from Your Past, albeit presented in a different running order. This doesn't just make for a compilation that's longer than the 1975 set, it makes for one that's better, since it adds the terrific "(It's All Down to) Good Night Vienna" to the mix, along with the amiable 1976 cover of Bruce Channel's "Hey Baby," a duet with Buck Owens on "Act Naturally" from 1989, and a well-chosen selection from each of Time Takes Time, 1998's Vertical Man, 2003's Ringorama, and 2005's Choose Love. This may not hit all the great stuff from the early '70s -- after all, the whole of Ringo is exceptionally strong -- but it does cut out all the real embarrassing stuff from the late '70s and just concentrates on the good latter-day material that holds its own with the best of his '70s hits. Far from merely being songs that are good when graded on a curve, these hits have aged really well, especially his originals: "It Don't Come Easy," the thundering glam rocker "Back Off Boogaloo," the cheerfully post-Beatles autobiography of "Early 1970" and "Photograph," his gorgeous collaboration with George, which lends this comp its title and ranks as among the very best post-Beatles songs by any of the Fab Four. That tune proves Ringo could deliver music every bit as memorable as his colleagues and much of this excellent, long overdue compilation is at a similar high standard. [Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr also includes entertaining track-by-track commentary from Ringo and was also released in a deluxe edition that contains a wonderful DVD with the videos for "Sentimental Journey," "It Don't Come Easy," "Back Off Boogaloo," "You're Sixteen," "Only You (And You Alone)" (which also features Harry Nilsson), and "Act Naturally," along with an ad for Goodnight Vienna.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi