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Ringo Starr, Liverpool 8 (Capitol) [1 STAR]

Capitol Records may have lost Sir Paul McCartney to Starbucks, but hey, its signed his former drummer and mate for his first major-label release in almost a decade! Never mind that Ringo Starr has put out a lot of god-awful indie music since; did anyone, including the people who played on it, ever listen to Choose Love (2005)? Capitols got a bona fide Beatle again, and dang it, theyre gonna milk that for all its worth!

The saddest thing about Liverpool 8, a title that references the neighborhood where the former Richard Starkey grew up, is that its nominal creator isnt above exploiting that same sad Fab Four nostalgia with near-pathetic artlessness. In U.S.A. when we played Shea/We were number one/Man it was fun/When I look back, it sure was cool/For those boys from Liverpool, he croaks in the autobiographical title track, which opens the disc. And things only get worse from there.

As producer Dave Stewart hoses down the buoyant but unoriginal pop ditties with soulless studio gloss, smarmy strings and liberal use of pitch correction on the vocals, dear ol Ringo rasps and drones about the things hes done For Love; what Love Is; the value of Tuff Love and what hell deliver If Its Love That You Want, proving once again that with a universe of topics to sing about, the love song is the last refuge of the artistically bankrupt, the unimaginative or the just plain lazy.

Listen, Ill defend Mr. Starr to my dying breath as one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock — a minimalist, to be sure, but a supremely tasteful musician with an unfailing ear for providing the absolutely perfect percussive contribution to any recording. As a solo artist, however, we have to be honest: He always got by with more than a little help from his friends, and they have certainly failed him here.