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 Paul McCartney

British rock artist

McCartney

Ram

Wild Life (1971)

Red Rose Speedway

Band on the Run

Venus and Mars

Wings at the Speed of Sound

Wings over America

London Town

Back to the Egg

McCartney II

Tug Of War

Pipes of Peace

Give My Regards to Broad Street

Press to Play

Flowers in the Dirt

Off The Ground

Flaming Pie

Standing Stone

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Memory Almost Full

Kisses on the Bottom

 

 

 

 

PAUL McCARTNEY (including Wings)

Paul McCartney has always been something of an enigma outside the Beatles. When he branched out on his own there was considerable expectations surrounding his output. I think most reviewers would agree that the results have been patchy to say the least. The solo albums all have a certain charm about them but whether they have succeeded, well I think the jury is out on that one. So come with me on a journey through the solo input of what is undeniably one of the greatest songwriters to grace our world. Oh by the way this also encompasses McCartney's albums with Wings

McCartney ( Apple 1970) - 6.5

It is almost as if McCartney wanted to mark the break-up of the Beatles and the issuing of his first solo album with a low key performance featuring some rather strange instrumentals, punctuated with quirky songs that were to become his trademark. I have to say I still do enjoy these early offering, but am always puzzled by them. Are the songs a re-action to the ending of the Beatles or something more? Are these the songs the Beatles would have turned to if they hadn't split? We will never know the answer. McCartney was a home produced effort with Paul playing all the instruments - which might account for some of the bad mistakes like Kreen-Akrore which is plain awful. Having said that there is charm in songs like Every Night and Junk and my favourite on the album Man We Were Lonely. Sadly there is too much dross and filler to push the album above the average. McCartney always rated Maybe I'm Amazed as one of his favourite songs. I have never been able to take to it as it stretches the man's vocals beyond the comfortable. Sadly McCartney has never had more than an adequate voice.

 

Ram (Apple 1971) - 6

Ram doesn't make an auspicious start as McCartney hurls his vocals into Too Many People - another mundane rocker that degenerates into a mess. So where does the album go from there? The answer is to a mundane Blues number entitled 3 Legs. So from that point it can only be an upward journey. And from there the album decides its going to turn to more quirky McCartney ballads and almost vaudevillian songs and things do improve. Ram On re-established the solo McCartney credentials to an extent and I have a soft spot for Heart of the Country, the nonsense of Monkberry Moon Delight (despite the horribly strangled vocals) and The Back Seat of My Car. The highlight of the album, however, is one of those Macca songs that still go round my head every so often well over 30 years after it was written. I refer to Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. Overall its' another hotch potch of material and no real departure from the previous album. McCartney has hit a formula and he's going to stick with it.

 

Wild Life - 4

Mumbo/ Bip Bop/ Love is Strange/ Wild Life/ Some People Never Know/ I Am Your Singer/ Bip Bop Link/ Tomorrow/ Dear Friend/ Mumbo Link.

This was the first album under the Wings heading and it really does defy description at times. McCartney seems to want to dish the Beatles legacy by producing an album full of strangled vocals and lightweight material. It's as if he wants to make a point - although of course there were hints of what was to come with the Beatles White Album. This doesn't have any of the charm of that, however. McCartney has a new band, he wants to stamp his authority on things but it's almost as if the wheels have come off and he really doesn't want to fix what is broken. So we get strangulated attitude infested vocals on the opening two nonsense tracks and if you want to know where Wings were lyrically at this time just listen to the almost nursery rhyme feel of the title track. Some People Never Know is a rather tedious quasi ballad and Tomorrow is almost in the same vein. There's plenty of huffing and puffing and whilst the album doesn't actually fall into the truly awful category, it's a million miles from what one could reasonably expect from one of our generation's great songwriters. I would label this musical waffle.

 

Red Rose Speedway (Apple 1973) - 6

McCartney never seemed to progress with album after album of similar material. Again we have the mundane mixed with the quirky charm. Songs like My Love have a Beatlesque beauty whilst songs like Little Lamb Dragonfly show that at heart McCartney has always been a romantic. McCartney's more obscure writing was to surface to better effect on Band on the Run. Others like When the Night and the dreadful Big Barn Bed  and Loup (1st Indian on the Moon) stretch the patience just a little too much. Some of McCartney's lyrics also bordered on the childish and probably this album was guilty of that as much as any other. The Medley of Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love and Power Cut had Macca trying to re-find the feel of Abbey Road - with partial success. For the moment it was very much more of the same - a kind of marking time experience with possibly the promise of something a little more substantial at some time in the future.

 

Band on the Run (Apple 1973) - 7.5

For many this was the album where McCartney proved again that he was able to write genuine rock songs and not just album filler material. Band on the Run re-established him as a songwriter of great warmth and ability. Songs from this album are as instantly memorable as those of say Abbey Road and Let It Be. The title track is a marvellous epic song that changes directions without ever being constrained to the verse-chorus-verse set-up. I always think it lends much to Surfs Up by the Beach Boys which has a similar feel. It is a high-point start that many of the other solo albums never quite achieved. Then comes a McCartney rocker that actually works in the form of Jet. Bluebird could have come from the Beatles White album and thankfully the album misses out the low spots that seem to invade many of the others thanks to late on offerings like Picasso's Last Words and Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five. There is a much better and together feel about the album.

 

McCartney II (Parlophone 1980) - 2

McCartney returned to basics after the break-up of Wings to deliver what was essentially a follow-up to the McCartney album with Macca responsible for the sounds and the songs. A funky start with Coming Up doesn't augur well for the remainder of the album. Then we go into plink plink overdrive with Temporary Secretary. McCartney seems to be trying to drag himself into the synth infested eighties and the result is at times embarrassing. The lyrics on Temporary Secretary are stunningly awful. I'm not sure whether the guy was trying to be amusing or serious but this was certainly an insult to the memory of the Beatles. In the intro to On The Way he seems to want to sound like Lennon counting down. So three songs into the album there's absolutely nothing of interest. Thankfully Waterfalls redresses some of the balance illustrating that McCartney has always been at his best when writing wry ballads. Then we're back to the drivel of Nobody Knows and attempts to sound like a sink on the instrumental Front Parlour. The attempts to go all moody continue on the part instrumental Summer Day Song and the full instrumental Frozen Jap (no marks for the title here). Bogey Music must be one of the worst songs McCartney has ever written - just look at the lyrics "Everybody bogey. Bogey on the Street, Without bogey music, Life is incomplete." Mind you Darkroom isn't very inspiring either "come along with me to my darkroom" He just falls short of adding "let's see what develops." This really is a dreadful album.

 

Tug of War (EMI 1982) 5.5

McCartney teamed up with George Martin for a fuller sound. So would it be a return to the glory days of the Beatles? Sadly the answer was no. The production is decent and the songs have a fuller feel about them, but McCartney tries to encompass too many musical styles and that detracts from the overall feel of the album - making it seem a piecemeal and bitty effort. It starts on a high with the title track with its full orchestration, but then the album soon loses interest with collaborations with Stevie Wonder on What's That You're Doing just not working at any level and of course there's Ebony and Ivory ('nuff said). Elsewhere it seems the same old melange. There are some high spots, but all too many lows on an edgy album where once again McCartney seems to be searching for some kind of identity.

 

Flaming Pie - 7

Now this is quite a tasty pie. McCartney comes up with an album of simple melodies. On first hearing this seems ordinary in the extreme. Then those melodies start going into the sub conscious and it gets better with every hearing. This was one album where McCartney seemed to exude joy and sparkle. Arguably there's nothing here to compare with the Beatles greats but it does prove that Macca could still write a melody or two. There are of course no surprises with the ballads mixed in with the bluesy high pitched numbers, but it is certainly more effective than some of his work.

 

Standing Stone -  1

Oh dear! Oh dear. Do tell me if I'm missing something, but this is just plain dreadful. If the Liverpool Oratorio wasn't bad enough Macca comes up with an even more turgid classical work. Unanimously panned by the critics, it is easy to agree with their assessment. This is dull, pretentious, stodgy and pointless. Macca seems to have overdosed on Holst, Mahler and Wagner. Unfortunately he has none of their breadth of vision. If McCartney wanted to write pseudo-classical music he should have listened to John Barry's excellent Dances with Wolves soundtrack which manages to combine menace with themes of great beauty. Or he could have gone for anything from Philip Glass or Michael Nyman. This is short of melody and plain dull. It has a huge Mahlerian feel but without any of that great composer's charm or subtlety.

Memory Almost Full - 6.5

Memory Almost Full was started before the previous album "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" which means that some of the songs are circa 2003 and others more up to date. It's the usual mix but with McCartney albums I am always looking for charm and here it does exist. There's something about this album that is attractive, although at times his voice, as usual, strains to hit the right notes. At times here it is the lyrics rather than the melodies that take on the most importance. Macca confronts his mortality by taking a loving journey back in time with myriad references to days of the Fab Four. It's like looking through the McCartney scrapbook, seeing stained old photographs but realising that there were plenty of good times. It is an upbeat album that is really summed up by "That Was Me" where he harks back to the past with almost reverential tones. I'm sure we've all looked at old photos and said "that was me." McCartney is almost looking at his past through the eyes of a young child with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Then we have the poignant "End of the End" which has some of McCartney's best lyrics for many years. At times Macca's writing can be childish and frankly embarrassing but here he is on top form: "On the day that I die I'd like jokes to be told and stories of old to be rolled out like carpets that children have played on and laid on while listening to stories of old." I don't think there will be any danger of that not happening. Elsewhere he concocts another of his band of characters in Mr Bellamy. Overall it's a retrospective McCartney in decent form. I would love him to construct an entire album looking back at his life from his days on the streets of Liverpool to international superstardom. Until then this goes some of the way to fitting the bill.

Kisses on the Bottom - 4

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter/Home (When Shadows Fall)/It's Only a Paper Moon/More I Cannot Wish You/The Glory of Love/We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me),Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive/My Valentine/Always/My Very Good Friend the Milkman/Bye Bye Blackbird/Get Yourself Another Fool/The Inch Worm/Only Our Hearts

I know that it is almost sacrilege to criticise Macca but I also know that opinions on his latest offering will be divided. This is a slow, smoochy, laid back album featuring many of the songs that McCartney loved as a boy and nobody would deny him the right to record whatever he wants in whatever style he wants. Here he is firmly in Michael Bubble territory. McCartney has arguably always been at his best when delivering ballads. He doesn't have the greatest voice but there's plenty of understated passion in this collection which is doused in strings and smoky jazz club vibes. But it isn't totally convincing either. Firstly we have to ask the question what is the point of Macca recording these songs other than for his own personal enjoyment? They have all been done so many times before and anybody with a line-in on the history of popular music and song will be familiar with them. So does McCartney add anything to them? Again it's a mixed answer. Yes he obviously cherishes and nurtures each and every one but no there isn't anything significantly different. The interesting point comes with the two new McCartney compositions My Valentine and Only Our Hearts, both of which blend in smoothly with the other pieces. My Valentine is as good as anything on the album and shows that McCartney is still a fine songwriter and therein lies the dilemma. So many albums of covers have been produced by so many modern artists that you begin to question the validity of such a product. Can it be through contractual obligations or a lack of originality and new material. In Macca's case the answer is probably no. I believe that he has brought out this collection out of a genuine love of the songs but that doesn't necessarily justify its release. Of course the fact that so many people will take this album to their hearts does justify it, but that doesn't, in itself, make it a critical success. So I am very much torn in my criticism but the deciding factor is probably the question: "Will I be returning to this album regularly throughout the year and the answer is sadly no. McCartney is capable of producing his own songs in this style as he proves with the two originals. Now an album of 15 originals would have been quite something.