When Ringo Star sings "my occupation is syncopations" on his first release in eight years, he sells himself drastically short. In his post-Fab Four years, the erstwhile drummer-cum-singer has evolved into a prolific songwriter and composer, while becoming comfortable as a front man and entertainer. Throughout the 13 sons found on Vertical Man, Starr proves that he can wear each hat with equal poise and success.
Over the past decade Ringo has spun around the globe with his band of All-Starrs (which currently includes Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton, Gary Brooker, Simon Kirke and Mark Rivera) playing some of the greatest hits of rock and roll. While friends and colleagues suggest he get back into the studio, he put it off until the time felt right. After another successful tour, that time came. Ringo began to write songs with LA-based musician Mark Hudson, songwriter Dean Grakal, and guitarist Steve Dudas. During the sessions at Hudson's studio, they tailored a number of songs to Ringo's strengths, and over the course of a year Vertical Man became a full-fledged reality. "If you listen to the album you can hear it evolve. It started very, very simple and it gets, complicated is the wrong word, but more interesting as it goes on," he says with a laugh. "That's how it happened and I've never had so much fun."
The sessions were relaxed because Starr and Hudson recorded the bulk of the album at Hudson's studio and surrounded themselves with friends. "We were not in a 'real studio,' but it is a real studio. The drums were in the cupboard, and in that cupboard one day we had Steven Tyler, Steve Cropper, Mark Hudson, Steve Dudas on guitar, and myself in an eight foot room and it was fun. The whole atmosphere was like that all the way through. There were no red lights and there was no big glass surrounding me," he says. In addition to the aforementioned names, musicians like Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Wilson, Steven Tyler, Scott Weiland, Alanis Morrisett, Timothy Schmitt, Joe Walsh, Dave Gibbs and his former band mates Paul McCartney and George Harrison appear throughout the album.
The cavalcade of stars did not happen by design, though. "The thing is, we had this open door policy. If you walked in the door you were asked to play," he says laughing. "We didn't organize anything. Alanis Morissette came to say hello. It was like there was no struggle, there was an absolute pause waiting for her. We just happened to be doing that track ["Drift Away"], so I just said to her 'Would you like to do this?' and she said 'yes,' which was great. Steven (Tyler) was phoning from all over Europe, he wanted to come and have fun with us. Of course, we went to England to put Paul on. I just felt his bass playing, and his singing and harmonizing on the track would work. And I always feel, if ever I do a record, I like to have him on it, and I like George on it. George, yet again,plays one of the most moving guitar solos on 'King of Broken Hearts.'"
The theme behind the album's title, Vertical Man, is very close to Ringo's heart. "There's one line I think which encapsulates this album: 'Let's all get well together.' That's sort of what [the album is] about. It's called the Vertical Man because I was reading this huge book of quotes that my stepdaughter, Francesca, won at school. I was flipping through it and I saw this quote 'Let's hear it for the vertical man, there's always so much praise for the horizontal one.' And I thought 'That's a really cool thing, let's hear it for now, not for later.' A lot of the players I'm with, thank God, we're all still vertical. For a few of us it was touch and go there for a while. We've lost so many great players through the years, and we're still standing, as Elton John says."
So his work as an entertainer is an expression of gratitude. "I'm a grateful human being and the album talks somewhat about that. I do feel that we should all get well together. I think we should have understanding and love and peace. I'm trying to promote that now. If there is a message -- I don't particularly like messages, because everybody takes whatever they take from whatever -- that's what this album's about. It's called Vertical Man. Enough said, really."
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