Sound: Ringo Starr, still quite active in the music business at 69 years of age, could have taken it easy in his golden years. The iconic drummer for The Beatles has certainly made his mark on the music world although not necessarily the brainchild behind most of The Beatles' catalog and his latest album makes it apparent that he still has a passion to create. Y Not is Starr's first attempt at producing his own full-length since embarking on his solo career back in 1970, a fairly impressive feat for someone who's been a musical staple for such a lengthy period of time. Starr has enlisted the help of a good number of well-respected musicians (including the likes of Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, and Ben Harper), and although those individuals don't ensure that Y Not is a full-fledged legendary album, the results tend to be intriguing at the very least.
Y Not has been described in recent press releases as his most personal album yet, and there certainly is an aspect where Starr is relaying his own personal views on love and life. While his previous album Liverpool 8 did relay more of a storyteller's approach, Y Not leans more to the emotional state of the drummer/singer. Musically, Starr includes quite a few styles/genres throughout the course of the album, but most of the time his somewhat monotone and/or consistent vocal delivery does make it all oddly cohesive.
The opener Fill In The Blanks starts out with somewhat of an ELO vibe (the more rock-oriented side of the band) and quickly morphs into blues mode thanks to the addition of Joe Walsh's slide. The few times that Paul McCartney pops up on the album isn't even necessarily the most memorable. His bass skills are utilized on Peace Dream, but it's actually the little guitar flourishes underneath the verses and choruses that are the standout. Starr and McCartney are also featured in the duet Walk With You, and while the song itself is slightly uninspired, the still smooth-as-silk delivery of McCartney makes it a worthwhile listen.
Perhaps the most unexpected and refreshing musical arrangements come in the title track, which merges a Prince-like synth line and an Eastern Indian influence. It was surprising enough to hear funk in a Ringo Starr song, but it was doubly shocking to hear the introduction of Tina Sugandh, who delivers traditional Indian chants and tabla work. Y Not is strengthened by audio engineer and keyboardist Bruce Sugar's impeccable work, and even when Ringo's songwriting isn't the strongest or most engaging, there is usually enough happening within the instrumentation to liven the duller moments. // 8
Lyrics: Ringo Starr conveys a generally positive message on Y Not, with the vast majority of the songs revolving around peace and love. At times it feels slightly trite, not necessarily because of the message, but because of the lyrical phrasing. In Peace Dream (a track that seems to pay homage to John Lennon's Imagine) Starr sings, Last night I had a peace dream; You know how real dreams can be; The world was a better place for you and me. This fairly predictable rhyme scheme does leave a bit to be desired, but at the same time it seems to fit with Ringo's personality as a frontman. // 7
Overall Impression: Ringo Starr's style regardless of what musical genre his dabbles in is an acquired taste. While there are some Beatles-esque elements, they are still few and far between. The imprint of Starr's supporting musicians is usually the driving force of Y Not, and that's actually a huge plus. Each of the 10 tracks on Y Not has a distinct sound, whether it be bluegrass (Walk With You), soul (the duet with Joss Stone, Who's Your Daddy), or blues (Can't Do It Wrong). It's not usually Ringo himself that is the selling point, but the former Beatle still gets points for putting together an impressive list of musicians that take run-of-the-mill songs to the next level. // 7