Between a world of cancelled and postponed gigs and time spent in lockdown, 2020 has been a troubled year, but nevertheless, time marches on.  Unbelievably, we’ve reached December and our traditional countdown to Christmas has begun.

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The Beatles: Super deluxe box set of Abbey Road incoming?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been spoilt for Beatles products.  Although the 50th anniversary of their peerless ‘Revolver’ came and went in 2016 without a reissue to mark the momentous occasion, the world was treated to lavish box sets of both ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in 2017 and ‘The Beatles’ (aka ‘The White Album’ in 2018.

With a pattern established, fans quickly speculated whether a 50th anniversary box set of ‘Abbey Road’ would emerge.

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It Was Fifty Years Ago Today… The Continuing Saga of Sgt. Pepper

It was fifty years ago today…that the world was first introduced to Sgt. Pepper. It’s hard to imagine, at this point, that there was even a time when the album didn’t exist. Whether you consider yourself a fan or not, for the past two generations the album has become omnipresent. Two generations of people have loved it and hated it, while those who have yet to hear the record itself will still be aware of it’s presence. Visiting a record shop, there’s a good chance that its technicolor collage artwork will be seen. It’s always there; for most of us, it’s always been there.

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ELO zoomFifteen years after their last major hit (‘Calling America’) and subsequent break-up, Jeff Lynne revived Electric Light Orchestra. The move seemed to come from necessity, since his own recording in the interim (‘Armchair Theatre’) was not as successful as many predicted it would be. It was by no means a flop – and Lynne, too, achieved critical and commercial success as a member of Traveling Wilburys in the wake of his former band – but it seemed that any recordings made with the bespectacled and bearded Brummie at the helm (supergroups notwithstanding) stood a far better chance of acceptance if the ELO moniker came attached.

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Ringo Starr needs no introduction. He’s one of the most famous rock drummers on the planet, if not the most famous. Many of his post-Beatles solo records have been criminally overlooked. This offering from 2010 is surprisingly good – almost as good as 2008’s ‘Liverpool 8’ – and it’s another disc featuring a roll-call of famous chums.

The album begins with a bluesy rocker, ‘Fill In The Blanks’, driven by guitar work courtesy of the Eagles’ Joe Walsh. Nostalgia is often a strong feature of Starr’s solo work and it’s a recurring theme throughout this album. ‘Peace Dream’ is a gentle tale of hippie ideals. It also recalls Ringo’s association with Lennon and John and Yoko’s Bed For Peace stunt.So much time can pass, but it seems that once you’ve been a Beatle, you’ll always be a Beatle. ‘The Other Side of Liverpool’ (co-written by Dave Stewart) concerns Ringo’s childhood, his father leaving and his formative years in the north of England.Like the title track of ‘Liverpool 8’ before it, this gives another simply written insight into Ringo’s life and has plenty of charm.

The bluesy ‘Can’t Do It Wrong’ (co-written with long-time collaborator Gary Burr) suits Ringo’s style perfectly and features some decent slide guitar and an appearance from Edgar Winter on saxophone.‘Everybody Wins’ is a definite stand out.A re-recording of an old b-side, this new arrangement makes good use of organ played by Benmont Tench.‘Time’ features some smart bass playing and fiddle – these flourishes make a striking change from the simplicity of Starr’s usual approach.

The title cut is quirky and initial listens may make the listener wonder what Ringo was thinking. The drum sounds and female backing vocals on this make it sound like a cast off from 1992. Repeated listens allow its better qualities to shine through: it features tabla and Asian vocals (an Asian slant is always fine on a Beatle-related release – I’m sure George would’ve approved) and another welcome upping in tempo. The soulful ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ features all of Ringo’s All-Starr Band in top form.Guesting on lead vocals, Joss Stone does a top job…so much so, in fact that when Ringo’s vocal’s creep in (limited mostly to asking ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’) they sound funny – both in the peculiar and the ha-ha sense. It’s probable  that Mr Starkey is expecting us to treat this as good-natured fun.

‘Walk With You’, the album’s lead single is, rather surprisingly, the album’s dullest track. It reaches little more than a plod and lyrically it’s a little trite (not an especially good effort from the oft-praised Van Dyke Parks, who gets a co-write here). You’d hope that Paul McCartney’s presence on bass and vocals would lift it little, but even Macca sounds slightly uncomfortable, his vocal in a key which is slightly too high. Other reviews of this album have suggested this track is the best thing on ‘Y Not’; it isn’t.  Perhaps since this represents the first time Paul and Ringo have harmonized in such a way, those who think it’s the best track only think so because, in their hearts, they desperately wanted it to be so.

Granted, Ringo is not the greatest vocalist or songwriter and a couple of the songs here can feel a little one-paced, but he has enough optimism to make this a wholly charming and truly worthwhile experience.  Overall, ‘Y Not’ is a worthy follow-up to the really solid ‘Liverpool 8’.

February 2010