Ringo Starr Releases His First Ever Solo Album in 1970: How Did That Go?

Ringo Starr at Apple Corps© in 1969. Photo by Chris Walter via Getty Images
As The Beatles were breaking up in 1970, Ringo Starr recorded Sentimental Journey, a solo album, which is an odd thing for a drummer to do. Even more strange is the fact that the album isn’t full of songs that Ringo was holding onto throughout his time in the most famous rock band in the world. Instead, Sentimental Journey is an album of standards that were arranged by different friends. At the time of its release it was a strange thing to hear Ringo singing Dixieland jazz and big band arrangements but time has been kind to the drummer’s debut album.
It’s safe to say that Ringo Starr is the member of The Beatles who gets the least recognition. He held things down behind the drums as one of the most influential rock drummers in history, but he was also in a band with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison.

Ringo decided to make an album because he didn’t know what else to do

source: beatles bible
By 1969 The Beatles were all but over. They were barely speaking to one another as they put the finishing touches on their final album, “Let It Be.” Ringo was unsure about how to spend his days now that he was no longer drumming with the lads from Liverpool. Rather than mope around he found inspiration in his mother - Elsie Starkey. Ringo decided to record an album of songs that his family like to sing with one another around the home. The songs would be the ones that made his mother happy and not the kind of thing that Beatles were expecting.

Artists from across the musical spectrum arranged songs for the album

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After putting together a set of songs to record Ringo reached out to his friends and musicians that he admired to create new arrangements for him. Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, and Maurice Gibb each have a hand on the album, and so do less contemporary musicians like Les Reed and Oliver Nelson. The collection of artists on the album give each song a distinct flare. Some songs find Ringo backed by an orchestra while tracks like “Bye Bye Blackbird” have only a few instruments, sounding sparse by comparison. The big orchestral numbers were recorded in various studios in America and the UK, with Ringo adding vocals nearly a year later.

George Martin produced the album

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Even though The Beatles were frayed to their seams by this point the team around them was still a working unit. While each song is arranged by a different musician Beatles producer George Martin oversees the album to give it a cohesive feel. This is more or less how the rest of The Beatles worked for their rest of their careers. They would go off and do their own thing, but more often than not they would bring in Martin as an extra hand with production, or one of their old bandmates to lend some of the old magic. As much as “Sentimental Journey” is an outlier in the work of The Beatles following the group’s demise it set a kind of blueprint for how they’d record for at least the next decade.

The pub on the corner is in Ringo’s old neighborhood

source: Apple Records
Before he was Ringo Starr, Richard Starkey and the rest of his family would go round to the local pub where they’d cuss, discuss, and sing songs. Their neighborhood pub was the Empress, in Wellington Terrace, off High Park Street in Liverpool. Ringo put the Empress on the cover of his first album as a way to tie everything back to his main source of inspiration - his family. It’s interesting that even though the songs on this album are so disparate that they all tie into a central theme, making “Sentimental Journey” more of a concept album than anything.

The album wasn’t well received

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When the album was released in March, 1970 it had a few things going against it. “Let It Be” was due to be released a couple of months later, and the record didn’t sound anything like The Beatles. Even though the album went to number 7 in the UK and number 22 in the U.S. it still received scathing reviews. Starr’s singing was mocked as was the maudlin tone of the album. John Lennon said that he was “embarrassed” by the album, which is just a terrible thing to say about your friend’s record. One good review came from George Harrison who told the BBC that he though the record was “really nice.” 

Sentimental Journey is worth your time

source: apple records
Even if you don’t like standards or big band jazz “Sentimental Journey” is worth a listen. It doesn’t have the same mind opening musicality as “All Things Must Pass” or the pop wizardry of McCartney, but it’s good. And don’t worry about those bad reviews, Ringo ended up scoring a number one hit with his song “Photograph” in 1973 on his third solo album the self titled "Ringo." “Sentimental Journey” isn’t want you expect and that’s what makes it so good. You can put it on, sing along and forget about the rest of the world for 34 minutes.

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