Sunday, October 10, 2021

Ringo Reveals Another Life-affirming Extended Play Collaburama

Ringo Starr’s 2nd Covid EP is called ‘Change The World’ because, frankly, have you seen the world lately? Irresistibly, irreverently on-brand, these four tracks will make you smile and raise a fist in solidarity with your switched-on brothers and sisters.

Recorded at Ringo’s home studio, this record is another collaboration with fellow gods of the rock pantheon. This is Ringo’s third ever EP, coming now two years after his 20th studio album, and steeped in the infectious messianic positivity to which he has devoted the latter decades of his career.

There’s a hint of the bassline from MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This’ in the first track,‘Let’s Change The World’, which is playfully sketched in the timbres of the early ‘90s – that is, until Ringo’s unmistakable voice cuts in with a relaxed, unifying message sent down from rock god-dom. This is a solid ex-Beatle number, fluent in the vernacular of universal spiritual rock. Ringo’s delivery is so easy-going, and so woven into the tapestry of the song that the detail of the lyric might pass the casual listener by on the first listen.

But a quick google reveals a strikingly earnest poetry, with a loose rock rhyme scheme and a romantic, inclusive, anthemic message: “Every night I dream of words in a half unfinished song”. Multiple repeat listens can’t dim the surprise of the heartful shift to the minor third chord leading into the pre-chorus, first appearing just 37 seconds in, which takes us, albeit briefly, to a wistful spirit plane: “When I’m feeling lonely I just start singing a tune”. Later verses modulate this sentiment slightly: “When trouble comes I remember, it’s time for singing a tune”.


Lyrically straight, musically slant – Ringo’s M.O. on ‘Let’s Change The World’ is something McCartney fans will also find familiar.


The second track, ‘Just That Way’, takes this don’t-worry-be-happy sentiment into a light reggae stroll towards acceptance. With a melody reminiscent of The Seekers‘I Am Australian’, this song transmutes a potentially sad message into a breezy afternoon on the seaside of existence: “Welcome to the future, forget the past / We had it all, we thought it would last … Sometimes life is just that way.” The outro takes a surprising minor turn, introducing a dark cloud of question marks far away on the horizon.


The next song, ‘Coming Undone’, continues in the same vein of cheerful fatalism, but this time with a splash of 1940s stoicism (maybe deriving from the first two chords which match the wartime standard ‘We’ll Meet Again’), and bobbing along to a Beatles backbeat bearing the still-warm bottom-shaped imprint of the last person to sit on it: Oasis on ‘Songbird’. Alan White’s restrained tambourine and Liam’s handclaps seem to be in the air here, but Ringo unerringly stamps his bass drum and snare to remind everyone who flippin’ invented it. As you were.


Last on this moreish EP is a cover version snatched from the dawn of rock and roll: the 159th Rolling Stone Greatest Song of All Time, ‘Rock Around The Clock’. This song was a global hit in the mid 1950s, and would have been among a teenage Ringo’s formative thunderbolts, shortly before he got put down his thimble and washboard and sat down to clatter his first makeshift drum kit: over the Atlantic, where skiffle fought the blues, rumblings from the elemental melting pot of nascent global pop culture.


This EP packs a time telescope into a rainbow. Starting from the urgency of a call for world peace, echoing with joy and sadness at its own existential predicament, we are projected across continents and back into the formative years of the inchoate Beatles. Quite a ride in four tracks. Will there be a third installment in Ringo’s lockdown EP phase?


John Weston


Image: ‘Change The World’ Official EP Artwork


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