Ringo Starr POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE
“We were sleeping on the floor, eating bread and jam,” Ringo Starr sings, retelling the story of the early days of his band.
Right. The band. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Then comes the chorus: “We were Rory and the Hurricanes.”
Wait. You were who now?
The mystery is solved toward the end of “Rory and the Hurricanes” when he sings that by the next tour, “I was with you-know-who — I play the drums like I always do.” Indeed, the Fab order of the universe is restored. As if to add a percussive punctuation mark, a basic yet swinging drum solo follows in that inimitable Ringo style.
Forty-five years after the Beatles officially called it quits (and about decade more since he left Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to make history), Starr’s “Postcards from Paradise” comes with plenty of lyrical and musical blasts from the past to remind listeners of his role in music history. Fitting timing, as the world’s most famous musical time-keeper becomes the last of the solo Beatles to be inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in two weeks.
Some nods are obvious, like the Beatlesque mid-tempo shuffle of the title track, in which dozens of Beatles (and solo) tunes get name-checked. To wit: “I ain’t goin’ nowhere man, because I want to hold your hand.” Others are subtle, like the guitar-drum interplay on “Bridges” that calls to mind the bond between Starr and his fallen mate, George Harrison.
Overall, “Postcards” entertains as it reminisces but doesn’t break musical ground. Still, it’s a mostly fun ride that’s musically strengthened by the All-Starr Band, a top-notch group of rock journeymen. The collection is tailor-made for touring, tucked among the classics he played with, um, “you-know-who.”
Darius Rucker SOUTHERN STYLE
Darius Rucker’s second career as a country singer shows no signs of slowing down on his new album, “Southern Style.”
The lead singer of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker has scored three chart-topping solo country albums, spawning six No.1 hits, including the Grammy-winning “Wagon Wheel,” one of the most popular country hits of recent years.
“Southern Style” continues to emphasize upbeat, pop-influenced country heavy on catchy choruses. Interestingly, the former rocker comes off as more country than some of his male country peers. The mandolin-driven “High On Life” and the slide guitar-fueled “Low Country” are more relaxed than anything by Jason Aldean or Eric Church.
But the breezy feel fits Rucker’s comfortable baritone. Alan Jackson’s producer, Keith Stegall, collaborates on five songs, bringing out Rucker’s personable Southern drawl on “Baby I’m Right,” a striking duet with the under-appreciated Mallary Hope.
Meanwhile, Rucker’s longtime producer, Frank Rogers, adds new sonic treatments to “Homegrown Honey” and the title song, both of which celebrate Southern women. “Lighter Up” nicely captures contemporary country’s trends, mixing a banjo with an insistent rock beat.
At age 48, Rucker’s “Southern Style” provides plenty of reasons why this unlikely Grand Ole Opry star’s career is still on the rise.
Eliane Elias MADE IN BRAZIL
Eliane Elias displays her full range of talents as a pianist, singer, composer, arranger and producer on her first recording in her native Brazil since moving to the U.S. to play jazz in 1981. She celebrates several generations of Brazilian composers, respecting the tradition while remaining thoroughly modern.
The album opens and closes with songs by Ary Barroso, the first samba composer to gain international acclaim. “Brasil (Aquarela do Brasil),” with its infectious samba beat, combines Elias’ sensual vocals and electric piano with Marcus Teixeira’s delicate guitar and a silky string orchestral arrangement. The upbeat “No Tabuleiro da Baiana” blends percussive jazz piano with the hot rhythms of Brazil’s Bahia state.
Bossa nova pioneer Roberto Menescal joins her to perform his compositions “Rio” and “Voce.” The latter features a charmingly romantic vocal duet, with Elias stretching out on an improvised piano solo.
Bossa master Antonio Carlos Jobim is represented on two tracks, including “Aguas de Marco (Waters of March),” which Elias makes over by infusing some funky elements and singing with the gospel-jazz vocal group Take 6.
Half of the 12 tracks showcase Elias’ considerable skills as a songwriter. These include smoothly blended vocal duets with daughter Amanda Brecker on “Some Enchanted Place,” Mark Kibble of Take 6 on “Incendiando” and Brazilian R&B singer Ed Motta on “Vida (If Not You).”
Seamlessly switching from Portuguese to English, and blending American jazz with her Brazilian musical roots, Elias proves she’s right at home in both her native and adopted countries.
Charles J. Gans