ringo starr

Album: “Give More Love”

Grade: B

We’re on the road again with the skiffle band king, Ringo Starr. The busy Beatle is out with his 19th solo album, “Give More Love,” featuring a who’s-who of rock greats as supporting cast.

Starr says he has more energy now than he did 25 years ago. It shows out of the gate with “We’re On The Road Again,” a fun track with Sir Paul McCartney holding court on bass while an energized Starr sings about gigging and moving on down the road. Toto’s Steve Lukather delivers the real punch here with some tight guitar work.

“Laughable,” is another solid track. Peter Frampton co-wrote it and folds in his signature soaring guitar. “Electricity” is also one of the top songs on the 14-track “Give more Love.” It’s a medium-paced, bluesy jaunt, co-written by hit machine Glen Ballard and starring Joe Walsh on guitar and Don Was of Was (Not Was) on bass. Dare I say Starr is the weak link on this one?

Starr is mostly metronome-like in vocal delivery. He can sing passably, but it’s not the component that really moves the needle. It’s the surrounding ensemble of famed musicians that brings things together.

– Ron Harris, Associated Press

Musiq Soulchild

Album: “Feel the Real”

Grade: A-

Besides its double-album length, the most ear-catching aspect of Musiq Soulchild’s “Feel the Real” is the chance to hear the Philadelphia-born artist during nearly every moment of his eighth album.

“Feel the Real” is long, dense and mostly fulfilling, but Musiq’s omnipresence also requires commitment to get through its more than 97 minutes at once.

Doubling down on varied aspects of love and romance, from the popular theme of friends with “Benefits” and the insistent-but-not-in-a-stalking-kind-of-way persistence of “Sooner or Later,” to the Stevie Wonder-sounding “Like the Weather” and its determination to outlast the forecast, to the head-over-heels passionate abandon of the title track, the man born Taalib Johnson has crafted an often truly spectacular set.

As with many, if not most, double albums, quality control seems to slip a bit on the second disc, despite its highlights.

There are alluring sonic details spread along the two discs – a nearly prog-rock guitar at the start of “Test Drive,” big band drums launching “Sooner or Later,” an Isaac Hayes-like soul feel on “Start Over” and a guitar-piano combination that screams Radiohead on “Hard Liquor” – but sometimes they taper off deeper into the songs, dissolving some of their appeal.

Album closer “Simple Things” contains a few elements some of the other songs could have benefited from in larger doses – an instrumental solo and about 20 seconds of stripped-down vocals which charm with their beauty and, duh, simplicity.

Clearly, there’s a lot of music in Musiq Soulchild these days – he also released an album in 2016 – and, despite some excesses, “Feel the Real” reaffirms him as a dependable source of quality R&B, hip-hop, soul or whatever category he’s into or placed in at this moment.

– Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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