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Goodnight Vienna
Ringo Starr

Apple 3417
Released: November 1974
Chart Peak: #8
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 12/9/74

Ringo StarrRingo's Goodnight Vienna can be neither enjoyed nor ignored -- it's downright obnoxious, and provides a landslide of incriminating evidence in support of what many of us began to believe against our will years ago -- namely, that Ringo is a jackass. His oafishness, his aw-shucks incompetence are no longer charming; in fact, he may be at this point the most irritating ex-Beatle around. He's had his moments since the empire toppled ("Back Off Boogaloo"), but his become a bad joke that's crossed the line into insult. Essentially what he's done, beginning with his last album and continuing unbearably with this one, is to get pretentious about his mawkish hi-folks-I'm-a-rank-amateur-so-what routine, with the result that it's become annoying in much the same way as Sonny Bono's Cher-less pratfalls.

Ringo has had help in this offense against nature, of course; a sizable slew of the usual ubiquitous plodders, one helluva roster of Big Names who don't mind sitting in just for a larf or two, and, most important, Richard Perry, who may be the single most depressingly facile producer in pop music today. Perry specializes in taking people who have begun to languish in the middling-straight MOR leagues and wrapping them in enough Peter Max musical tissue to make then palatable to some invisible audience of thirty-eight-year-old greenhorn pot smokers who apparently can't connect with Chicago or John Denver and so want their Andy Williams or Barbra Streisand nudged just a silly millimeter or two in the direction of Relevance.

Perry is a producer's producer, which means he can easily swamp the performer who lacks the chops or personality to rise above his cutesy settings. The joke of his work in the Ringo album was that this schlub was being given a Busby Berkeley musical fairyland to kitsch around in, and you were supposed to love the irony and celebrate the fact that Ringo was no longer an embarrassment. Whether they got the irony or not, the public went for the setup, and Ringo yielded three hit singles.

In Goodnight Vienna it looks like everyone involved has begun to take the joke seriously, as if it was never a joke at all, and from the sound of it, it too contains several potential hit singles. Of course, hit potential and total obnoxiousness have never been mutually exclusive, and this is one of the most idiotically irritating albums in recent memory. Everything has been ground out to a formula which produces relentlessly, unbearably Happy! music whose smile is frozen in a cherubic affability rigid enough to be totalitarian. The only break in this musical death lozenge is "Husbands and Wives," in which for the first time Ringo actually sounds like he means what he's saying. It's a Bobby Goldsboro-esque reading of a Roger Miller song and it works, perhaps because of the relative lack of show-biz glitz, perhaps because Ringo actually seems to relate to his kind of schmaltz himself. Maybe he'd do best as a soppy c-&-w crooner like Freddie Hart.

The whole album reminds me of a metal-flake, glow-in-the-dark music box, and it's as hard to take in its arrogance as George Harrison's new Dark Horse, with its sniveling genuflections. Along with John Lennon's recent and dismal Walls and Bridges, these albums suggest that perhaps it's time to let go of the Beatles once and for all, admit that their magical mystery pose was hollow in the first place, and accept whatever we can stomach of this (and perhaps, retroactively, much of their collective output) as Muzak, plain and simple. At least Paul McCartney writes good movie soundtracks.

- Lester Bangs, Stereo Review, 3/75.

Bonus Reviews!

This pleasant collection follows in the winning tradition of Ringo's breakthrough album, Ringo, with producer Richard Perry seeing little need to alter that disc's formula. These are crisp, infectious cover versions of originals and oldies by the likes of John Lennon, Allen Toussaint, Elton John, the Platters, Harry Nilsson and one Richard Starkey. Perry keeps the brass and backing voices busy, the top-flight session people with easy excellence and Ringo supplies that unalloyed sincerity which is his trademark and trump card. While there is nothing startling here -- the previous LP absorbed all the surprise of Ringo in a genuinely commercial solo setting -- neither is there much that isn't good for a smile.

- Tom Nolan, Rolling Stone, 4/24/75.

Fourth solo LP from Ringo offers a wide variety of songs from oldies to the rockers penned by John Lennon and Ringo individually to country oriented tunes to ballads. As a singer Ringo is not going to set the world on fire, but as a stylist he grows impressibly with each LP. And, like McCartney, Lennon, Elton John and a few others he has learned the secret of making good, AM oriented cuts. So a Ringo album means assurance of several solid singles. Helped by the usual array of superstars here (Lennon, Elton, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Harry Nilsson, Bobby Keys, Klaus Voorman, etc.), Ringo still manages to keep the album his. Basically, a fun set that typifies what Ringo was to many during his days as a Beatle: easy going, solid and good.

- Billboard, 1975.

The title tune is great Ringo, as is "No No Song," and he does well enough with the rest of the material, the exceptions bieng the three tunes he had a hand in writing himself. But the supersession form is deadening. Beaucoups of Blues took some initiative. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Even with Johns Lennon and Elton, and a couple of bonafide hits, little here holds up. * * *

- Jeff Tamarkin, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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