Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band

What can you really say about a single concert that successfully features "The Glamorous Life" and "Lucky Man," "The Logical Song" and "The No-No Song," "All The Young Dudes" and "No One Is To Blame"? Well, you can say this - thanks Ringo Starr, Sheila E., Greg Lake, Ian Hunter, Roger Hodgson, Howard Jones and Mark Rivera for a night of great music and fab fun.

If you think hard about it, Ringo Starr's All-Star road trips shouldn't work quite so well. And the 2001 edition of the All-Starrs - possibly the most eclectic traveling hot weather hit machine to ever grace a venue near you - was arguably the most unlikely package deal of all. Impressively, it was also the most entertaining and crowd-pleasing All-Star show yet.

There's a valuable lesson here: don't think so hard. Sometimes an idea is just crazy enough to work. This much I know first-hand: I've been a regular pilgrim to the All-Star extravaganza ever since they were inaugurated back in 1989, and the truth is that I've never for a moment regretted making the musical trip. Seven times now Ringo and his hand-picked boys of summer - and in 2001, the fairest All-Starr of all, Sheila E. - have shown the world what can be done with a bunch of beloved songs and a good deal of help from your friends, both old and new.

The 2001 edition of the All-Starrs - now happily documented on this King Biscuit release - was "the best 1-800-BAND you'll see this year," as Ringo told me with a grin when we sat in his lovely yard shortly before the seventh edition of the All-Starrs hit the road that August. "Everyone has their hits, and people come to see those people do the hits - me included - and to see the whole combination. And it's always like, "What the hell is he going to play with those guys? Some people are like, 'I've got to see that.' But you know it's worked for 12 years.' Indeed it has. Roger Hodgson - who proved to be in stunning form on the tour as he sang some of those high-flying and still super Supertramp classics - openly addressed the All Starr's curious but potent mix of players when his turn came to speak during the 2001 tour. As he wryly put it, "I tell ya, when I saw the list of the band this year and thought, how's this gonna work? What a motley crew. But it's been incredible. I don't think any of us have had such a great time in a long time. I think what makes it so special is there is so much respect and support. I just love playing these guy's songs."

Right there is the simple brilliance of the entire All-Starr concept - with its spirit of support and no-filler set list. Life as an All-Starr takes these talented singers and players out of their own usual musical contexts, with whatever old tensions and rivalries may exist there. And when these familiar players are all thrown into a short-term, high-profile summer band, the collective mission becomes what it should always be: coming together, playing some good music, giving the audience a fine time.

Over the years this sort of back-to-basics approach has led to a significant breakthrough for many All-Starrs, none more so than the ever changing group's benevolent leader himself. The truth is that the first All-Starr tour marked the public start of Ringo Starr's heartening second coming as an entertainer, a singer, a songwriter and yes, a drummer. After too many years of being a self-described "lost boy," a newly sober Ringo finally found himself again at the end of the Eighties. And it's only fitting that he found himself right where he's always belonged. Behind the drum set and in front of a crowd of people who can't get enough of him.

One of my favorite Ringo Starr songs that All-Starr performed on the 2001 summer jaunt was "Don't Go Where The Road Don't Go." In the end, this tune from the Time Takes Time album is much more than a winning, propulsive rocker - it's also solid bit of advice. Ringo, here's hoping you stay on the road forever. And while you're at it, please don't forget to take the rest of us along for a ride.

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