There's a case to be made that there are six good Ringo Starr albums in the drummer's 14 solo works. Clearly more prolific early on — perhaps because he had more to say in the wake of the Beatles' demise — Ringo's recent albums have been as sporadic as their quality. As a drummer, Ringo provided deceptively simple beats for three acknowledged musical giants, and on film, his role was as comic foil and character actor. Ringo's success in both endeavors wasn't exactly an endorsement for him to step into the spotlight. So it comes as no small surprise that Ringo's 15th album, Y Not, is satisfying from start to finish.
Using the formula familiar from his recent albums and All-Starr tours, Ringo has assembled a cast of marquee friends, including Joe Walsh, Joss Stone, Ben Harper, Richard Marx, Van Dyke Parks and Paul McCartney. Y Not kicks off with the blazing fun "Fill in the Blanks," a return to the rock whimsy of 1974's Goodnight Vienna. It's followed by the shimmery "Peace Dream," where Ringo name checks John Lennon, while Sir Paul provides slinky bass to the lightly earnest anthem. The title track is funkpoparoll, heavy on fun; "Walk With You" is a gorgeous duet with McCartney who conceived harmony vocal after one listen to the track; and the beautifully muscular "Mystery of the Night" may be one of the best love songs that Ringo has ever had a hand in. Y Not is the first album that Ringo has produced himself, and maybe that's the difference here. Whatever it is, the venerable Mr. Starr should bottle it and serve this vintage every couple of years. — Brian Baker