Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ringo Starr- Postcards from Paradise album review

 Ringo Starr - Postcards From Paradise
Ring Starr
Postcards from Paradise
Rating: *** 1/2

Believe it or not, Ringo Starr will be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame this year for his solo career. Since the announcement, people have been asking one question: why? In Ringo’s defense, he is not being inducted as a performer but rather for “musical excellence.” While he didn’t have the strongest solo career, Ringo has never stopped working since the break-up of the Beatles. Whether he’s with his All Starr Band, on his solo albums or someone else’s album, Ringo is indeed a trailblazer. Ringo’s latest album, Postcards from Paradise, proves this point: it’s Starr’s 18th studio album, his first since 2012’s Ringo 2012. Compared to Ringo 2012, Postcards from Paradise is an improvement as the album is longer and doesn’t feel rushed (Ringo 2012 was less than half an hour). Still, the album is certainly not an instant classic. If anything, Ringo makes his albums for fun. With that being said, Postcards from Paradise is a fun album to listen to.

            When looking at the tracking list for the album, I was impressed to see that there wasn’t a song with “Liverpool” in the title. The opening track, “Rory and the Hurricanes,” might’ve mostly taken place in Liverpool. The song is a sweet autobiographical 50s rock n roll number about Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the band Ringo was in prior to joining the Beatles. While it might be seen as corny, I personally enjoy the song and love how Ringo is paying tribute to the band that gave him his start. The psychedelic reggae “You Bring the Party Down” is an interesting track: while this is Ringo’s song, it reminds me of a John Lennon solo track. During the chorus, I can easily imagine Lennon giving a hearty vocal performance (“I Found Out” comes to mind). If Lennon was an influence on the track, I would not be surprised.

            The next few tracks are, in my opinion, fall on the weak side. “Bridges” has a strong vocal performance from Ringo but nothing more while “Right Side of the Road” just doesn’t go anywhere. The title track, which is the album’s lead single, might be cringe-worthy for some listeners. The song is written in the form of a letter, with Ringo referencing Beatles songs Gene Shalit style. It’s not a bad song, mind you. In fact, it’s kind of cute in a way. The second half of the album is stronger. “Not Looking Back” is a beautiful slow ballad with solid lyrics while the guitar and keyboard led “Touch and Go” is simply catchy. The festive “Bamboula” features some impressive drumming, celebrating all things New Orleans. The reggae influence is strong on this album and can be heard throughout most of the album. This is certainly the case for “Island in the Sun,” as it features island steel drums and rousing saxophone playing.

            Overall, Postcards from Paradise is a fun album from Ringo Starr. When it comes to Ringo’s solo career, his work has always paled in contrast to the albums John, Paul and George have released. In terms of consistency, I’d say this is probably Ringo’s most solid album since 2008’s Liverpool 8. Whether you’re a Beatles and/or Ringo fan, you’ll enjoy this album.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cynthia Lennon dead at 75

Cynthia Powell Lennon
September 10, 1939-April 1, 2015

Cynthia Lennon, first wife of John Lennon, died on Wednesday April 1 after a battle with cancer. Lennon was 75. According to sources, Ms. Lennon died in her house in Spain with her son, Julian, by her side. 

Born Cynthia Powell, Ms. Lennon was the youngest of three children. At a young age, Cynthia was a promising young artist. When she was 17, her father passed away from lung cancer. A year later, Cynthia enrolled at the Liverpool College for Art in 1957. It was there where she met John Lennon. The two were friends at first, given Cynthia was engaged. When her engagement didn't work out, she and John started to date on and off in the next few year. John would later go on to be one of the founding members of the Beatles. Already, John had dropped out of college and set out to become a musician. While the band toured in Hamburg, John would stay in contact with Cynthia. By 1962, the Beatles had a record deal and were managed by Brian Epstein. However in August 1962, Cytnhia discovered she was pregnant with John's child. As the story goes, John immediately insisted they had to get married- which they did on August 23 of that year. Their child, John Charles Julian Lennon, was born on April 8, 1963.

At the time of Julian's birth, Beatlemania was just beginning to take over the world. As a result, John was not at home with his family as much. Sometimes, Cynthia would join her husband on tour but Epstein tried to keep the marriage on the down low. Cynthia would stay married to John until 1968 when the couple divorced, after John admitted to having an affair with Japanesse artist Yoko Ono as well as Cynthia admitting to having an affair with their friend, Magic Alex. John and Cynthia's divorce would go on to inspire Paul McCartney to pen the Beatles hit "Hey Jude," a song written as a message to Julian as a way to cope with the divorce of his parents. After her divorce from John, 
Cynthia would wed another three times: Roberto Bassanini (1970-1973), John Twist (1976-1983) and Noel Charles (2002-2013, when Charles passed). 

Even though she divorced from Lennon, she would briefly reconnected with him sometime during 1973-74 during Lennon's "Lost Weekend," when he was separated from Ono for 18 months. Lennon's partner, May Pang, encouraged Lennon to spend more time with Julian. As a result, Cynthia was sometimes present.  Cynthia would go on to write two books about Lennon: A Twist in Lennon in 1978 (a book that Lennon himself tried to stop from being published) and John in 2005. She also continued to raise Julian, as she attained full custody of him (Like his father, Julian went on to become a musician himself, releasing his debut Valotte in 1984).

Aside from writing two books on her life with Lennon, Cynthia would continue to be an active person in the world of the Beatles- making appearances in documentaries and turning up every now and then. In 1995, she released a single- covering Mary Hopkin's 1968 hit "Those Were The Days." (which Paul McCartney had written and produced). On October 9, 2010, she and Julian unveiled the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool in honor of what would've been Lennon's 70th birthday. The night before, Cynthia attended Julian's photo exhibition. Also in attendance was Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, John and Yoko's son. For one night, the Lennon clan were together in peace.

It is sad to hear of Cynthia's passing. From what I've read and heard over the years, she seemed like a well-spoken and intelligent woman. As Paul and Yoko have said, she raised Julian wonderfully, who is now a talented musician and photographer. With Cynthia's passing, she is the third Beatle wife to have passed away- the first two being Maureen Starkey in 1994 to leukemia and Linda McCartney in 1998 to breast cancer.

Rest in peace, Cynthia.