In picking a Then-Album for Ringo it is natural to lean towards those gems of the early 1970s, to maybe even go to his first solo album, Sentimental Journey, as there is a trend right now for established stars to cover standards. Sentimental coverings of standards was certainly less common back in 1970 than it is now, but the album may not be the most representative of Ringo’s post-Beatles work. We’ve chosen a less familiar release, 1981’s Stop and Smell the Roses—not because it’s his best solo album but because it’s one of the best and is often overlooked.
Very few first albums by unknown artists can claim to be the reason for the launch of a successful recording company, but Jackson Browne’s eponymous album from 1972 is one of those albums. Browne’s music led the young David Geffen to found Asylum Records to get his client, the unknown Jackson Browne, a recording contract. It turned out well for both parties and some other artists who also sought asylum—such as Joni Mitchell, Warren Zevon, The Eagles, and Bob Dylan, among many others. Asylum seemed to be a magnet for great songwriters and Browne’s work is among the best.
I use that ubiquitous modern cliché in homage to Dylan himself, of course – the last, brilliant song on his 2009 album Together Through Life. (He skewers the cliché, of course, in that song.) But what about Englebert?
Neil Young’s On the Beach (the title a well known expression for time off from work) came out in the era of the Ford Pinto and the Energy Crisis and it was something of an anomaly when so many hit tunes were about heading out on the highway or dancing under flashing gel lights. Young had his fair share of highway songs as well, fewer for dancing, but On the Beach had something in it that was cognisant of its time, especially the changing role of the automobile from its role as a freedom machine to that of a destroying polluter. Acid rain—not global warming—was top of the environmental list of horrors at that time and songwriters like Young explored those issues in their songs. Young may have been best at it.