Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970) Part One

Album 3 - Ringo Starr - Beaucoups Of Blues (1970) - Part One

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US Amazon - MP3 / CD

1. Beaucoups Of Blues
2. Love Don't Last Long
3. Fastest Growing Heartache In The West
4. Without Her
5. Woman Of The Night
6. I'd Be Taking All The Time
7. $15 Draw
8. Wine, Women And Loud Happy Songs
9. I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way
10. Loser's Lounge
11. Waiting
12. Silent Homecoming

For his second solo album, Ringo set about issuing an album of country songs.

While Ringo was performing drum duties for George's album All Things Must Pass, he met pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake, with whom he developed a good friendship through discussions about country and western music, of which Starr was a big fan.  Along with Peter Drake came his friend Chuck Howard, with whom  Ringo discussed the possibility of working together in the future, to which Howard said he and his friends could write and record material for Starr to choose from.

I find it strange that it came out two months before All Things Must Pass, but it obviously did.  Perhaps the fact that All Things was a triple album meant that more time was required to get that album prepared.  In this way, Ringo released two solo albums in 1970 before John or George had released even one.

What Ringo got was a great set of tunes written by some fantastic country music writers, and with performances from some of the best Country backing musicians of the time.  DJ Fontana, The Jordanaires, Charlie McCoy, Jerry Reed, and Pete Drake himself, to name just a few.  Unlike the sessions for Sentimental Journey however, here Ringo could join in on the proceedings more by actually playing on the songs.  He plays drums and guitar on the album as well.
Group shot

Now I wasn't initially going to discuss the songwriting of anyone outside of the ex-Beatles foursome, but after looking online at other blogs, I thought that this album had been given short shrift, and well it does seem that no one has looked into it in that much detail.  The fact of the matter is that it is very difficult to find anything about the songs themselves other than scant details, which is a shame because it is actually a really good country album.   In essence I sort of see Sentimental Journey as an early form of karaoke where the music was recorded already, with Starr just having to show up to sing.  Here however he got to join in as a fellow musician sometimes (where and when we can't be sure of).  So I have decided for that purpose that I would break that rule and look into the songs, but I am not giving them as much as I would normally to songs because in truth they aren't written by the ex-members.
The Jordanaires (with Elvis Presley)

The opening song of the album is the Buzz Rabin composed title song, which Buzz himself had previously issued as a single (I can't find any more information than that out, so if anyone knows more then that would be most helpful).  Chord wise this is a very simple three chord trick (E, A & B), but a very well crafted one.  In song writing terms it doesn't really matter how simple or difficult a piece is.  After all, Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles (written by John) only has two chords (rather than just the one C chord as McCartney said in the Anthology).

This song is a beautifully melancholic tune that has an arrangement perfectly suited to Starr's delivery.  The playing, as with virtually the whole album, is absolutely first rate, which would be expected from seasoned session musicians in the world of Country music.  These guys proved that they had the chops.  I think it is great that the song actually finishes on the A major chord, rather than the root of the song - E major.

The second song on the set is Love Don't Last Long written by Chuck Howard.  As with quite a bit of country music, it is an incredibly sad song, this time talking about the tragic side to love.  For the most part the song is essentially four chords (C, F, Dm, and G), but then after the second verse it moves up a tone (D, G, Em and A).

Guitarist/Actor/Singer Jerry Reed
There is a very clever use of the drop from F major to the D minor (and the G major to E minor when it shifts up an octave) where the melody drops.  This just adds to the great vocal of Ringo, aided by the fantastic instrumentation and lush backing vocals by The Jordanaires.

Fastest Growing Heartache In The West, the third song, is written by Larry Kingston and Fred Dycus, both of whom had already written for artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, and Crystal Gayle.  Most of these mentioned are for Larry Kingston, whereas Dycus was an occasional collaborator.  All the same, here is one of a three songs that Kingston had a hand in writing for this album.

Again the song is a very downbeat look at the tragic side to love.  The song is in Bb, made up of the chords Bb, Eb minor, F, and C minor.

The fourth song on the set is the first of four songs written by Sorrells Pickard, entitled Without Her.  Another song that is basically in the scale of C major, and a song about a lost love.  It is actually a verse/chorus pattern, with the verse working on a C | F | C | C | G | F | C | C.  The chorus is G | F | C, then the simple but great run of G | F | Em | C | G, followed then by a line of C, a line of F, and another line of C to get back into the verse.

Pedal steel player Pete Drake
The fifth song on the album is Woman Of The Night, again written by Sorrells Pickard.  Unlike the last song's lyrics, this song is about a, ahem, woman of the night.  The lyric is written as if from the perspective of an onlooker, someone who is observing (in the third person).  This person probably likes the lady in question, but it isn't that sort of song.  It's about a person who sells themselves, but here the narrative speaks of how they are still a woman and not an object, and of the respect that they should still receive (can't you just tell that this bloke wrote for Tammy Wynette).

The song uses the same pattern throughout, and is again in the key of C major.  Here there are two runs of C to F as an intro, followed by the pattern C | F | G | F twice, then Dm | G | F | F | Dm | C | G | G.  That is the same all the way through, albeit with a fantastic push in the chord when playing the C | F | G | F, where the second F chord is played slightly later in the syncopated G to F change.  A really well observed lyric, with a very strong subject matter for the time considering that a lot of music at the time, including country & western and rock 'n' roll, was very sexist to a point.  The woman in question also seems to be happy that she is getting by in the world, even though it ins't the greatest job in the world.  She has pride in the fact that she is earning money and living - "She wakes to find no sign of appreciation, still she isn't wearing any shame."  It's a dark world she lives in, and it doesn't hide that fact.

The next part of this blog will look at songs six to ten, which includes another of Sorrells Pickard's four songs on the album , the two others that Larry Kingston has been involved in the writing of, another two of the four that Chuck Howard has been involved in the writing of (one of which is a a co-writing with Larry Kingston), and a cracking song written by Bobby Pierce.

Links -
1. A great little blog post by Donald Sauter about Sorrells Pickard's involvement  on Beaucoups of Blues.
2. A webpage biography about Ringo Starr.