Even when he sang "I Wanna Be Your Man" at age 23, Ringo Starr had the fogeyish, fish-and-chips voice of an old lorry driver. So it makes sense that now, at 67, the ex-Beatle sounds his age, gamely giving it a go and surrounded, as always, by talented mates and musicians. On his 14th solo effort - which is one more album than the Beatles released - the crew is led by Eurythmics pal Dave Stewart, who hatched the idea for the title track, a sentimental slice of autobiography in the vein of George Harrison's "When We Was Fab." Mightily as it tries, the valentine recounting Ringo's rise as one of "those four boys from Liverpool" who conquered America (cue canned Shea Stadium crowd noise here) conjures little of the excitement of those heady, halcyon days. Unfortunately, it's also one of the disc's best tracks alongside "Gone Are the Days," which lyrically borrows from Starr's signature hit, "It Don't Come Easy." The need for peace and love animates Ringo's worldly concerns - four of the disc's dozen tracks mention "love" in the title - but they come across as little more than catchphrases aimed at the flower-power generation. Apparently hanging out all those years with songwriters like Harry Nilsson (who's paid affectionate tribute on "Harry's Song"), not to mention those three other guys, didn't rub off on the world's luckiest drummer. [Jonathan Perry]
ESSENTIAL "Liverpool 8"