Ringo Starr's "I Wanna Be Santa Claus"

Editor's Note: It is with great pleasure that we announce the release of Ringo's latest album, Ringo Starr ... I Wanna Be Santa Claus, on Oct. 19, 1999. Our review and fans reviews follow. Send your comments to gshultz@airmail.net , and be sure to include your name. Also, please rank the album from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
Click here to read reviews of other Ringo albums.


Our Review

The word that comes to mind in describing Ringo's Christmas CD, I Wanna Be Santa Claus, is charming. Ringo and co-producer Mark Hudson have captured the wonder, anticipation, and joy of the season in a set of twelve holiday songs that combine six brand new offerings with an equal number of Christmas classics -- all of which are guaranteed to please. Ringo and Mark have managed to make the old songs sound fresh and comfortably Ringoesque. The new songs are a treat to the ear as well as the spirit. The styles are varied and the tunes are upbeat. As in Vertical Man Ringo is in fine voice, and the musicianship and backing vocals complement to perfection. This Christmas CD is so much fun that it makes you wonder why Ringo waited so long to make one.
I Wanna Be Santa Claus opens with a rocking new tune called "Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On." This sing-along packs all the energy of a Friday night high school football game. The pounding drum beat sets the tone for this spirited anthem. You've never heard a Christmas song like this before, but you'll probably like it. With lines like, "If I get nothin' it'll be o.k. 'cause Santa promised you wont' go away," how can it lose?
"Winter Wonderland" begins with a boogie-woogie piano intro which continues merrily throughout the song. It's a fun treatment that even includes a nod to "I Was Walking " from Vertical Man.
The title song, "I Wanna Be Santa Claus" is another original. In the song Ringo wishes he were the jolly old elf himself. Ringo points out that, contrary to Santa's yearly visit, he could bring Christmas cheer every day. With such whimsical lines as "I wanna ride in the sleigh. I'd fly though the air and catch you a star tonight for Christmas day," the song is a delight.
Ringo's version of " The Little Drummer Boy" sheds the dirge- like dreariness that characterizes so many versions of this song. From the opening "Back off Boogaloo" drumbeats, we are treated to a tasty smorgasbord of drumming as Ringo peppers the song with his unique fills. However, despite the drum flash and flair Ringo's delivery maintains the humble appeal of the song. "Little Drummer Boy"' and Ringo Starr are a perfect match.
"Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" follows true to form except when Ringo becomes cheerily confused as to whether it's Santa or Rudolf speaking. Ringo personalizes the song a bit by adding spoken lines in the middle and singing "Ringo the red-nosed reindeer" during the fade out. It makes one wonder if Ringo has a certain affinity for the other famous nose.
The lines "I saw your footprints in the show. I never thought you'd really go, on Christmas Eve," summarizes the theme of "Christmas Eve," the third new song on the album. It is a haunting, lushly orchestrated ballad about a man whose girlfriend has left him all alone on the night before Christmas.
The upbeat mood of the album is quickly restored on the next song, which is also the fourth new song. " The Christmas Dance" joyfully celebrates that "Magic time of year when dreams come true." It's a song that quickly grows on you and you will no doubt find yourself humming along to the story of the shy guy who finally gets enough courage to ask a girl to dance. At the end, Ringo demonstrates the benefits of giving up smoking by holding the last note of the song through several measures.
"Christmas Time Is Here Again" follows. Ringo and Mark have successfully managed to take the monotony out of this song by varying the rhythm and adding interesting instrumentation which includes bagpipes. At one point, Ringo calls for listener participation by encouraging his audience to sing along for him, Mark, and Jesus. The number of "OUT spells out's" has been limited to two, but Ringo continues the phonics lesson by spelling Christmas at the end.
The Nashville tinged "Blue Christmas" suits Ringo well as does the fifth new song, "Dear Santa" which is reminiscent of a high-school-gym-type couples' dance. In the song, Ringo, noting that his toys still work, entreats Santa to bring the gift of peace and love this year. It's a gentle song that fits Ringo's plea for peace.
The Caribbean flavor of "White Christmas" provides a fresh presentation for well-loved classic. In a brief spoken interlude, Ringo muses about a blue, pink, and even cerise Christmas.
The final cut and sixth new song begins with the sounds of an orchestra warming up. This gradually fades into a heavily sitar laden, "Pax Um Biscum." The message of "Peace be with you," is chanted in several languages throughout the song. The inclusion of the different languages together with the use of Eastern music to celebrate a Western holiday tends to emphasize the universality of the message. Throughout the song, Ringo chants merry Christmas. He even manages to include the dog, Annabelle, in his greetings.
Christmas and Ringo fit well together. I Wanna Be Santa Claus is an enchanting gift from Ringo to us. It's sure to be a hit with fans of Ringo, of Santa, and of Christmas.

Fans Reviews

Reviewed by: Steven Bailey

Of all the ex-Fabs, Ringo's solo work has always been the most Beatles-tinged. His smash 1973 album Ringo was as close as The Beatles got to a reunion until 1995's multi-media Beatles Anthology. Despite no other Beatles appearing on the CD, Santa Claus continues the tradition.
Among its songs are "Christmas Time Is Here Again," which the Fab Four ad-libbed for one of their annual Beatles Fan Club recordings. And the CD has enough sitars and backwards-tape-playings to sound like outtakes from a Sgt. Pepper session.
But the CD is also quite enjoyable in its own right, something most of Ringo's recent output hasn't been. In spite of its Beatly references, the album is closer in spirit to Jimmy Buffett's holiday opus "Christmas Island." Ringo's just out to party, and he and his co-producer, Mark Hudson, deck the halls with bagpipes, Buffett-like steel drums, and the beefiest horn section since mid-'70s John Lennon.
Ringo also knocks the wind out of stuffy Christmas classics such as "The Little Drummer Boy" (an obvious choice for rock's most famous skinbeater) and "Winter Wonderland," with which he embellishes an intro lifted bodily from Johnny Rivers's "Rockin' Pneumonia." If you close your eyes, you'll swear it's 1973 again.
Except for a couple of numbers that go on a little too long, I Wanna Be Santa Claus is a perfect stocking stuffer, even for the less Beatle-inclined listeners.
My rank for I WANNA BE SANTA CLAUS would be 8 out of 10.

It is nearly a year later and I still listen to I Wanna Be Santa Claus once or twice a week. I never grow tired of it. Maybe because it was for years my number one on my Ringo wish list. And Ringo must have read my mind as he did it exactly like I pictured it. He did half of it old standards and half new original songs. And though it may have been an obvious choice, I am glad it was obvious to him to do a perfect Ringo version of “Little Drummer Boy.”
I agree with other reviews that “Rudolph” and “Winter Wonderland” should have been hits and “Come on Christmas” and “Drummer Boy” should have been in regular rotation on hard rock stations. “Dear Santa” and “Christmas Dance” also should have been hits. Really, each song on the record is a classic. I now am completely baffled at current taste and am especially bewildered at Beatle fans who seem starved for new stuff yet did not buy this classic, which is as good as any other solo record they put out. I know it was very hard too find though.
I would love to talk for pages about each song but will stop for now.
I do wish Ringo would do like Andy Williams and Bing Crosby and do 3 or 4 Christmas albums. I also would love to see him do a Christmas variety special. This record and Ringo’s personality and charm seem perfect for it, and Ringo seems to be a perfect match with Christmas time.
I can only hope on the next one he will do “Good King Wencala,” which he did a bit of on the Beatles Christmas record, and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” which he did a perfect but too short version of on the “Thomas the Tank Engine” episode shown in the Shining Time Station “Tis a Gift” special.
Thanks Ringo,
Robert 'Ratman' Tucker of Panama City, Florida

I've met Ringo & Barb a few times, as I am in radio, but used to do freelance photography for a few music publications. I still believe "Vertical Man" is his best effort yet! Highly under rated!
Hopefully soon I will be co-hosting on a regular basis, a local Chicago radio show called; "BREAKFAST WITH THE BEATLES" 105.9FM WCKG Hosted by Red Muldoon!
I brought in the current Xmas disc, before it was released to the public for preview! It's an extension of "Vertical Man". A fun disc, that will undoubtedly, and unfortunately, go un-noticed by the critcs! What to they know, huh?
Here's cheers to the Vertical man....the famous Riiiiingo gear FAB!
~ Steve Jones(aka Rammy! OjO)

I bought Ringo's "I Wanna Be Santa Claus" as a gift for my mom for Christmas, and she began to cry when she opened it up.  The album was a complete surprise, (and she loves Ringo) and proclaimed it was the best gift I gave her before even listening to it. Needless to say the album is a perfect 10, Ringo really knows how to make a Christmas album.  "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Rudolph" are so well done as only Ringo could play them, they bring big smiles to our faces.  "I Wanna Be Santa Claus" is a beautiful Christmas song too,  I wish I could tell him myself how much we all enjoy his whole album, and how happy we are that he decided to make one.   I hope these comments are shared with Ringo, he should know how much his work is appreciated.
~ Christina Herbert -Allentown, N.J.

From the thumping beat of the hard rocking opening track "Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On," to the Eastern sounds of the George Harrison-inspired closing track "Pax Um Biscum," Ringo Starr's I Wanna Be Santa Claus embraces a variety of musical styles with the great spirit, playing, singing, and production of many of the Beatles' finest albums.  There is no better way for me to describe this than by saying quite simply that it is a very happy record.  Ringo's drumming on "The Little Drummer Boy" is outstanding, making it possibly the most stand-out song.  "Winter Wonderland" also sounds especially great.  All of Ringo's new songs are enjoyable, too.  "I Wanna Be Santa Claus" and "Dear Santa" are probably my favorites, but that's a tough choice because of the quality of all of the new songs.  Mark Hudson is a great partner for Ringo.  They've truly captured the excitement, warmth, and happiness of Christmas.  This is an album that I will cherish for years to come.  It infuriates me that Ringo's new material is so overlooked.  It may be up to his fans to spread the word about how great his recent releases are.  I would rate I Wanna Be Santa Claus a definite 10, and I hope as Christmas approaches, the masses will also discover the joys of THE Rock Drummer's Christmas masterpiece.
~ Travis Truitt

It looks like Ringo Starr IS Santa Claus.
 Nearly everyone speaks about Ringo as the 4th Beatle, just a simple guy who happens to drum reasonable.
 I always admired him and if you listen very well to the Beatles songs you'll notice that he has been very important for the Fab Four.
 His X-mas CD is GREAT and every time I play it, it is with much joy and happiness. The CD didn't sell at all in Holland, only the real fans bought it and that is a pity. There were no commercials on the radio and television or in the papers. Ringo deserves better.
 So EMI try to launch this marvellous CD again this year.
 Dennis Rolff gives this CD a weel-deserved 10 !!!!!! 
~Dennis Rolff

I really got in the mood for Christmas when I heard this CD.  The songs are very good and Ringo's singing is exceptionally well done.  The musicians here, as in Vertical Man, are top notch and blend in very well with Ringo.  He has finally found a good band in which he can showcase
his musical talents.  He is a great drummer, of course, but on this CD he goes beyond that.  He lets his singing carry the album. This CD actually put me in the mood for Christmas.  Even listening to Elvis and Nat King Cole didn't do it for me.
I hope Ringo continues to record music like this.  Good music!
Long live Ringo!
~ Rick Spencer

Buyed  the CD I wanna be Santa Claus on order and it saved our whole Christmas. My wife is totally excited and I shall gladly recommend this Cd to everyone I know and I have already did to some of them. Ringo is the lively guy compared to the other Beatles and the one who makes us most happy while listening to them. Ringo is the best. Thanks!
~ Ove from Sweden

If you like to purchase one new xmas album to your collection each year or if you just want to start an xmas cd collection then "I wanna be Santa Claus" from Ringo Starr is the album for you! Ringo and co-producer Mark Hudson have created a fun, energetic, rock 'n' roll collection that embraces the variety of musical styles combined with the spontaneity that hallmarked the best
Beatles albums. Songs I never cared for before due to their overwrought seriousness like "Little Drummer Boy" and "White Christmas" sparkle with their uptempo arrangements. "White Christmas"is performed reggae style-that alone is worth the price! Ringo has never, repeat never been in finer vocal form and the new songs like "Come on Christmas Come on" are already favorites at my house.Thank you Ringo for making this cd! SCORE: 10 out of 10! 
~ Mark Hughes

I like the chrstmas cd. It's great fun to listen to the songs, especially CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE AGAIN.
I give 8 point to the album.

It's a great CD!  I usually dread new spins on classics, but Ringo's done a great job!  However, my favorite on the CD is the title song- I have this vision of Ringo singing it in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade dressed as Santa. There's not a bad cut on the CD- I love them all! Rare is it for me to get a cd that I don't have to skip through when I listen.
--Liz Snyder

I think it's a gear album! I've listened to it who knows how many times. I give it a 10! It's got some really nice songs on it, especially "Drummer Boy" (That's just one of my personaly favorites!).
~ Jamie Rileys

When I went to the record store yesterday to buy his album, I couldn't find the cd because they wouldn't display the album until closer to Christmas. The album is very much like Vertical Man (also very good). "Come on Christmas" starts off almost exactly like "Back Off Boogaloo." The songs are very uplifting and the classics almost sound original. "White Christmas" sounds like Santa has gone on vacation to Jamaica.

Had a similar experience: Was in Manhattan last night. Virgin Megastore didn't have it (Broadway & 14th), Tower did (B'way & 4th). Is the CD released or not? I had less trouble at Blockbuster in '97!  Great album, though!
~ Mike

What has happened to Ringo? He has really done some fine work lately. He's put out some fabulous music. I Wanna Be Santa Claus is another super job. Good for Ringo! Because of him, Christmas came early this year. For a Christmas album, this is a ten. For a regular album, a nine.
~ Jeff of Tucson

I finally found a copy of Ringo's Christmas album. The little drummer boy has pulled off another wonderful CD. The new songs are great especially Come on Christmas. The Christmas Dance is very good too. Of the covers, I especially like Winter Wonderland and the steel drums on White Christmas. I recommend this album to everyone.
~ Tina of Shreveport

I like I Wanna Be Santa Claus. I learned about it on your website. How come there is not more publicity for this CD? It really good. I agree that Christmas and Ringo go together.
~ Donna

I ordered the CD before release date from CDNOW, and it arrived a couple of days ago....RINGO DID IT AGAIN!.....a fantastic 10+......never a dull moment with Ringo doing new twist to old classics plus new songs the he does terrific, and some of which will be new classics. A great gift to his fans for the holidays.
~ AL in CT.

Just got my "I wanna be Santa Claus" CD and I have to say that this is a Christmas CD that I will be listening to all year round!  As usual for Ringo's CDs, it's full of upbeat lively feel good music, and the kind of whimsy that only Ringo can pull off.  I give it a 10!  Ringo-you were my first love 35 years ago and you'll be my last!! 
Thanks for all of the gifts you've given us over the years!
~ Kathy Maynard in Fort Lauderdale, FL

The highlight of the album for me is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I like the odd drum beat Ringo does.  I made my mother a copy of the cd on cassette and she loved it!  Her favorite track was the title track.  Christmas Time is Here Again was ok, but I expected a little more.  I still prefer the Beatles version. 
~Dave of Winter Park, FL

I really like this cd...it reminds me when i was a kid..thanks Ringo...you're still the best...i hope to
see you playing here in New York...i give a 7 to " Santa Claus, ringo..."...
~ Raul

I'll give Ringo's new album a rating of 10.  Good songs & great drumming!
" A splendid time is guaranteed for all"!!
~ Paul Kriedeman

It´s been only one year since "Vertical Man" so I must say that  it´s impossible to see where are Ringo´s artistic boundaries. He suprised us again with this brand new piece of work. "Iwanna be Santa Claus" parades through different rhythms and styles between accurate musical arrangements and a nice production. The old songs are refreshened and the new ones tell us about a perfect match with Roundheads´ Mark Hudson. This is not only a great album, it´s a classic as well.  Let´s celebrate. Happy Xmas to everyone!
~ Willy Bléfari of Quilmes, Argentina.

Ringo obviously had a lot of fun making this album. HIs enthusiasm shines through. A great Christmas Album with a mixture of thumping rock and quiet, relaxed tunes. -  9/10 Haven't seen it in the shops in Australia. I got it through CDNOW.COM. It is as good as Paul's Working Classical and much better than Paul's Run Devil Run..
~ Peter Warwick of Victoria , Australia

I just received a copy of Ringo's "I Want to be Santa Claus" as an early Christmas present.  I loved it.  We put up our Christmas tree tonight and played the cd while we were doing it.  This cd will become a part of our holidays for years to come. My 10 year old son likes "Come on Chirstmas, Christmas Come On" and my four year likes anything by Ringo.  Happy Holidays
~ Doug Smelser from Pevely, Missouri

I love Ringo Starr and my motto is “Ringo for daddy”. However I think that “I wanna be Santa Claus” is a terrible album. New songs are poor, the cover versions are out of tune , Ringo’s voice doesn’t sound good as it sound on “Time takes time” or in “Storytellers”.  I was so happy to have a new Ringo’s album on my hand, but after the first play of “I wanna be Santa Claus” my excitement fade away. My vote is 4/10. I hope to forget this album as soon as possible. Anyway Ringo is one of my favourite rock star and I was so happy to see him in concert last year
in Switzerland.
~ Riccardo, Milano (Italy)

I delayed reviewing this for two reasons...It was easier to find "Old Wave" on vinyl than finding "I Wanna Be Santa Claus" (finally found it buried in Camelot under "Christmas - Rock"...for all those who didn't stock it, they should look under "Christmas - Charcoal") and I wondered if my initial impression would change.  No, it hasn't.  Dare I say it?  Judging by my personal smile-o-meter, this is the best Ringo album ever.  Beyond the smiles, he just keeps getting better, the songs, the vocals, the drumming, the production.  For anyone who wrote off Ringo in the '70s, where are you now?  "Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On" sounds like a combination of Gary Glitter and Cheap Trick.  And it's a Christmas story most of us can relate to...even back in childhood, there's that time when you tell Santa that the only present you want is a certain person.  Well, Santa's coming through on this one...you just gotta wait for Christmas.  (Christmas, come on!)  Anywhere can be a "Winter Wonderland" including New Orleans.  (I think I've walked through there one winter, myself.)  I keep checking the liner notes.  That's not Dr. John on keyboards?  (This cd will constantly have you doing that.  That's not Paul on bass?  That's not George and Paul on vocals?) "I Wanna Be Santa Claus".  He's already gotten his wish.  Well, close enough.  They're both jolly elves who are known primarily for all the joy they've given the world.  Only for Ringo, it's a full time job.  "The Little Drummer Boy"...an obvious choice, maybe.  But Ringo seems to be the first to figure out this should be a joyous song.  After all, it's a birth he's attending, not a funeral.  Mary has good reason to nod to this one, and not nod off to sleep!  My only complaint is with "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer".  How could a Gene Autrey fan forget the intro?  (Plenty of cool codas on this album, though!)  Although I've always found it sad that Rudolph didn't get join in any reindeer games, there were eight other reindeer pulling that sleigh!  Not everyone gets their wish granted like in the first song.  Live long enough and you'll have a Christmas without someone special.  And let's not forget how we all went through Christmas 1980 without someone very special.  So "Christmas Eve" isn't just lip service, it's a little bit deeper than that.  "The Christmas Dance"  ("Act Christmassy"?) is sweet and not as silly as you might think.  But "Christmas  Time Is Here Again" is and even more so.  Try not to smile yourself silly.  (Do it for Jesus!  Jesus loves ya!)  Never was too fond of Elvis's version of "Blue Christmas" because I thought the Jordanaires sounded like they'd dipped into the eggnog a few too many times.  ("Blue Christmas", "Blue Hawaii", what's the difference?) 
So Ringo's is AOK by me.  It's OK to be sad on Christmas, and maybe it's a comfort to know the person you're sad about is "doing all right".  (Maybe not.)  "Dear Santa" may sound like a slow dance at the sock hop, but it's a bit more serious than that.  While thanking Santa for all his years of service, it's a reminder that what we really need are the things he can't bring.  (Maybe Santa's actually having a bed-in the rest of the year?)  While most call "White Christmas" the reggae number, it sounds to me more like Nilsson's "Duit On Mon Dei" album.  (And shame on you for not noticing.)  Ringo lets you know you can have any colour Christmas you like.  And "Pax Um Biscum" (not "Pass Some Biscuits" at least not without cranberry sauce) is a trip - around the world and inside your head.  This isn't really an old fashioned Christmas album since it's musically perhaps Ringo's most stylistically varied album and it avoids most of the aural cliches.  And it's inclusive, but not in that sappy "seasonal" album variety.  (Like someone's
going to play Kenny Loggins at a Kwanzaa celebration.)  It's Ringo.  It's Christmas.  It works.  (The only thing more I could ask Santa/Ringo for is that box set...and an All Starr Christmas show!)  Buy it!  Love it!  Play it loudly from open windows!  Do it for yourself!  Do it for mankind!  Do it Ringo!  Do it for Jesus!  Jesus loves ya!
~ Steven B. Topping  

Everything RINGO puts out is a gift to us fans.We are the same fans that have
been with him since the beginning of BEATLETIME.Here I am in early November
listening to Christmas music.Why?because its RINGO.My personal favorite is
"come on Christmas,Christmas come on"by the way anyone know what RINGO is
saying at the beginning?51 something?let me know.....Ringo is drumming at his
best on this album.Another fav is the closer "Pax Um Biscum(Peace Be with
You" I hear GEORGE on this track.Mark Hudson doing a nice job working with
RINGO.We the fans have to thank RINGO because he is doing all this for us.All
the great solo tours and solo records and now this incredible Christmas
album....This century is ending and we just had the re-release of YELLOW
SUBMARINE.The hard rocking excellent new album from PAUL,RUN DEVIL RUN.New
classical record WORKING CLASSICAL from PAUL.And a new RINGO record.The only
thing that would make it all complete is a new GEORGE record...I give I WANNA


The day this CD came out I tried to purchase it in several stores, some of which are part of big chains...however some were not even aware of the album, others claimed they only got new releases, and yet others said they were in no hurry to unbox their shipments....this is a pity, since this album is a great Christmas CD, which hopefully will become more available to the general public as Christmas looms closer...it definitely deserves more promotion....anyway, the album has an exquisite production, with varying styles from the beatlesque to reggae....the opening track just pounds along...it's a track that grabs your attention and holds you there...if you have a sub-woofer, play it loud!....Another standout track is the title track, which would be my best bet for the album's single, if it were to have one....it's a great lighthearted track that would fitm nicely alongside McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time"......Ringo's rendition of "Little Drummer Boy" rocks and boogaloo's along...it is another album highlight for sure....Ringo pumps up a nice rendition of the Beatles "Christmas Time Is Here Again"....which was more of a novelty track for the Beatles I think...the backing instruments make it more interesting and listenable...too bad Ringo could not fly in a few of his former bandmates voices unto the track...would have been nice to have Paul and George guest with spoken comments on this one....."White Christmas" is the next standout.....the Reggae tropical feel to a wintry christmas ballad was a stroke of genius....the last track with it's Harrisonesque sitar backdrop gives Christmas a psychedelic feel (as does the album cover)....wish Ringo would have covered John's Christmas song as well...there are so many versions of it, and I'm sure Ringo has right to do one....but I can't
complain...this album is much more fun than the Beatles fan club Christmas album, which reads more like a radio show...beatlfan or not, Ringo is sure to get us into the Christmas mood....I rate the album a strong 7, almost going on 8....the weakest moment on the album for me is "Christmas
Eve"........but the line-up I would say overall is quite strong like Vertical Man,,,,,
~ Michael P. McGrath

Ringo Starr's newest CD, "I Wanna Be Santa Claus," produced by Mark Hudson and Ringo Starr, is a delicious blend of six original songs written by Ringo, (with help from friends, Hudson, Dudas ...), five Christmas classics done with a bold, rollicking rock beat, plus Ringo's version of a Beatles' Christmas classic that one-ups the original. After one listen it is clear that Ringo and everyone connected with this album had a blast making it. The CD features Ringo's strong vocals, masterful drumming -- (he even seems to delight in "showing off" for his fans a bit!), rich backing vocals, imaginative instrumentation, heartfelt lyrics and a delightful potpourri of musical styles that gives each song an energized freshness.

The heart-thumping opener, "Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On," (Starkey/Hudson/Grakal), grabs you the second it starts, with a heavy driving drumbeat -- (Beatlefan's excellent review calls the drums "tribal)." The song is a wild, exuberant rock free-for-all, lavishly laced with gritty sax and guitar rifts that heap coals on the fire of Ringo's sizzling drums and strong vocals.

What follows is a delightfully fresh version of a holiday classic, "Winter Wonderland," done in a funky, fun, honky-tonk piano style. Rich backing vocals enhance the arrangement, which ends with a clever nod to a song from Ringo's "Vertical Man" album, "I Was Walkin'."

The third song up is an original and the CD's title track, "I Wanna Be Santa Claus,"
(Starkey/Hudson/Monda). This memorable, easy-going sing-along has a delightfully sweet melody line enhanced by heartfelt lyrics such as, "If I could be Santa Claus, I'd catch you a star for Christmas Day," and, "If I could be Santa Claus, I'd make every dream come true." Beautifully sung by Ringo, he ends the song with a sincere Merry Christmas greeting and then whimsically plays Santa for the imaginary little girl on his knee.

Next up is "The Little Drummer Boy," an absolutely must-do inclusion for our favorite drummer boy, Ringo Starr! The lively joyful exuberance of the song makes it clear that Ringo eagerly embraced recording this Christmas classic. Free of the somber and often plodding nature of other versions, Ringo's is up-tempo, complex and compelling. The song is lavishly sprinkled with his uniquely gorgeous, powerful drum fills, superbly fitted to the musical line and done with extravagant energy. The thrum of Scottish bagpipes and organ add unusual spice and a haunting touch to the mix.

A rocking version of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" is done with Ringo's special flair for fun that will leave you smiling. The song is memorably strewn with little surprises, which include some cool dry spoken asides by Ringo, a priceless accidental Santa-Rudolph word switch, delightfully left in place, and at the end of the song, a deliberate word switch, with our famous drummer singing, "Ringo, the Red Nosed Reindeer!" Enthusiastic backing vocals and lively guitars and horns round out the song.

An album original, called "Christmas Eve," (Starkey/Hudson), is up next. Ringo is in rich voice for this tender ballad about a man who discovers he will spend Christmas Eve alone, because his love has walked out on him. Bittersweet lyrics such as, "You were my Christmas song, but now you're gone," and, "I saw your footprints in the snow, I never thought you'd really go," are powerfully echoed by lushly orchestrated strings, acoustic guitar and piano, plus subtle effective backing vocals.

"The Christmas Dance" is an original song by (Starkey/Hudson/Cox/Dudas). One of the best original songs on the CD and one of my personal favorites, this song features a joyful, foot-stomping country-rock beat and an instantly memorable melody. The song is about a guy who is determined to ask the girl he loves to dance. He then proposes and gets the girl! The happy lyrics coupled with Ringo's sunny drumbeat and the down-home strings, sax and horns make this song a lively bit of fun.

"Christmas Time Is Here Again," (John, Paul, George, Ringo), from a Beatles' Fan Club Christmas bonus, is a lovingly rejuvenated version that stays true to the original, yet enhances it with a spicy loose feel. The memorable repetitions in the original that as Ringo would put it, "we all know and love" have been mercifully shortened, allowing Ringo time to have some fun with one of his own memorable lines, his classic "Peace and Love," and an exuberantly shouted, "Do it for Jesus, Jesus loves ya!" Continuing the fun, Ringo pointedly changes one line to, "Been 'round since you know when," and includes a spelling lesson at the end of the song. Ringo's drums, and percussion, Hudson's bass, Perry's guitar solo, Cox on keyboard and accordion and effective backing vocals all add to the mix, which is further enhanced by the attention grabbing dissonance of bagpipes. Taken all together, this cheeky classic is a real pleasure.

"Blue Christmas" sports a lovely blend of twangy country guitars, compliments of Dudas on electric guitar, Hudson on bass and Maness on pedal steel guitar, organ work by Cox and Ringo's sharp persistent drum line. Originally recorded by Elvis, Ringo brings a charming dynamic freshness to this classic Christmas song. Ringo's voice is smooth and strong, and he delivers a lovely vocal line with great appeal.

"Dear Santa", (Starkey/Hudson/Dudas), is a gentle Christmas ballad that could become an instant new classic. In it, Ringo sings a charming, sincere letter to Santa, insisting that although new toys are not needed, one wish would be most appreciated -- "Bring Peace and Love, that would be everything." Hoping that Santa can get it here on time, Ringo plaintively reminds Santa that it's the one gift everyone truly needs for a Happy New Year. The serious lyrics, beautiful melody and fine vocal by Ringo are further enhanced with lavishly arranged strings and sax.

The Irving Berlin Christmas classic, "White Christmas" has never sounded so new! Ringo and Mark Hudson have managed to produce the most unusual version you'll ever hear of this song! And it works beautifully! The song is done in a quick lively tempo and in an unmistakable and unforgettable raggae rhythm! Ringo's stunning drum fills and flourishes are nicely complimented by the delicious Caribbean sounds of steel drums and bells. Shunning the ordinary, the song ends with an unusual twist -- Beatle-esque backwards musical loops -- a fitting finale to a richly re-created classic.

"Pax Um Biscum" brings the album to a tender close. The Indian chant-like vocals are accompanied by sitar and strong eastern rhythms. The song's Latin title, "Peace Be With You" is repeated throughout the song in many different languages, giving the song and the album a universal appeal. Ringo's sense of humor shines through, as a barking dog also puts in an opinion on the matter! Ringo repeats "Merry Christmas" and Peace be with you" during the song, and with a whispered, "Peas and chips," at the end, making sure that although the chant's sentiment is serious, it should be said and lived with a smile.

This CD is a precious and priceless addition to any Christmas album collection. It shows off Ringo at his best -- best drumming, best voice, best humor and his best most heartfelt sentiments. Lovingly produced, this album will make it easy to keep Christmas in my heart all year long. I'll be playing it in December, April, July, September and every month in-between!

The bottom line (no pun intended!): Get it, listen to it, love it, share it, and give it to everyone you know this Christmas as a gift. Following in the brilliant tradition of Ringo's best albums: "Ringo," "Goodnite Vienna," "Time Takes Time," "Vertical Man" and "Storytellers," Ringo's latest CD, "I Wanna Be Santa Claus" deserves to take its proud place with his best.

~ Pam Dupre of Mundelein, Illinois

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This page was last updated Nov. 16, 2000.