"'The Long And Winding Road' is more than a song," Ringo Starr sings on the title track of his latest album Choose Love. And one of the most remarkable things about Choose Love is that this far down that long and winding road, Ringo Starr has never sounded more excited and engaged by the music he’s making and the message of love that it spreads.
Choose Love is full of inspired songs of innocence and experience -- the heartfelt and heartening work of someone who's lived a little and learned a lot. This is rousing, rough and ready rock & roll that lovingly embraces the past, but has its eye very much on our shared future. And it's an album first and foremost about the best choice any of us have -- Love.
"What other choice is there?" Starr asks as he sits at home with Mark Hudson. Hudson is one of his key fellow travelers in the journey of the Roundheads, the loose but tight combo of collaborators – Hudson, Steve Dudas, Gary Burr and auxiliary Roundhead Jim Cox -- who have worked with Ringo on his recent run of winning albums. For Starr, love is a theme of profound and enduring importance. "From the beginning, the Beatles were saying 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and 'Love Me Do.' It was all about love and that’s still the most powerful message. If you look at the overall picture, the Beatles were about love and what better subject is there really?"
Having lost his way somewhere in the first half of the Seventies, Ringo Starr eventually found love with his wife Barbara and found his way back to his love of music in at the start of the Nineties. And now with the Roundheads he rediscovered his rightful place in the world. "I am a band member," he declares. "That's who I am. That's who I want to be. It takes a band — even more than it takes a village — to make music like this. By now, we feel like we know each other's minds, we know where we’re going. It takes time — time takes time. The good news is that as we’ve been making records together a while now, and I’m proud if this album shows growth and progress in terms of playing like a band."
"That's what we are — a well-to-do garage band," says Starr says with a grin.
"Speak for yourself," Hudson says with a laugh.
Though the new album features a few guests, notably Chrissie Hynde on "Don’t Hang Up," roots guitarist Robert Randolph on "Fading In, Fading Out" and "Oh My Lord", Billy Preston on "Oh My Lord,” Ringo and the Roundheads are once again at the beating heart of Choose Love.
"Every time before we start a new album we sit down and think, okay what do we do now? On the last album, RingoRama, we decided to feature the drums – the drumming on that album is unbelievable. Ringo was literally the driving force on that album. This time Ringo wanted to go the other way. He said, "I want it to sound like a band, a little more down and dirty and guitar-driven." And as soon as we got on that page, we started writing that way as well."
"This has been a joy in my life working with the guys," Starr says. You can have fun and you can even have that bad day with each other and it's not held against you. So you have the freedom to be who you are and still be together. It’s been a remarkable run already, but ten years from now it will be all blues because that will be the only speed I’ll be able to play."
Until then, Starr is proud to spread his own good word. "You have to get a lot of experience to get to the point where you can say 'Choose Love' in an honest way," he says. "Life is filled with ups and downs, but in the end it’s best filled with love — tha's my conclusion. That it's the best choice any of us have."