Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full

It’s hard to imagine, with all the stuff Paul McCartney’s been through in the past ten years – and I trust that I don’t have to elaborate on that – that he could turn out a cheerful classic album like this. It’s also his first U.S. release published by someone other than Capitol Records, the Beatles’ home label Stateside since the beginning; this one was released by a new label started up by, of all people, Starbucks. Yes, the coffee chain. But don’t let any of the above distract you from the fact that this is Sir Paul’s best offering in ten years.

The first three songs, “Dance Tonight”, “Ever Present Past” and “Your Sunshine”, are a triple-threat reminded of why the man’s considered one of the finest pop songsmiths on the planet, even four decades after most of his lifelong listeners first made his acquaintance. They’re classic specimens of McCarthy’s musical craftsmanship, and they’re just so cheerful that it’s impossible not to crack a smile. “Mister Bellamy” and “Vintage Clothes” also fall into this category, despite the former feeling just a little bit like a follow-up to “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

He also proves that he’s still fully capable of rocking out on numbers like “Only Mama Knows” and “That Was Me”, which have both quickly become a couple of my McCartney favorites. “Only Mama Knows” starts out with a string section, but after that brief intro, becomes pure rock ‘n’ roll, while “That Was Me” is an almost obligatory humorous travelogue of McCartney’s past, from his childhood to a little gig in a place called the Cavern and beyond.

Not everything is sunshine on Memory Almost Full, either; things slow down and become more introspective with “You Tell Me” and “End Of The End”. In “End Of The End”, McCartney basically lays down how he’d like to be remembered when he’s gone, a sobering thought to be sure, but it’s also a song that’s virtually destined to be played over his own obituary. There are also just a couple of hints of bitterness at recent events in his life, and the media’s attention to them: he sings “I’m not coming down / no matter what you say / I like it up here anyway” on the seemingly cheerful “Mister Bellamy”. ‘Nuff said.

4 out of 4What makes the whole endeavour that much more impressive is that McCartney has joined the ranks of the musical hermit crabs with Memory Almost Full. With the exception of any overdubbed orchestral sweeteners, the ex-Beatle literally plays and sings everything himself. You’d have to figure that if anyone in the world would be able to pull something like that off, Paul McCartney would be it. The result is his best album in about ten years – it’s pure Paul, and it’s intensely admirable both for the great music and the pure class of the guy making it. A simply outstanding album.

Order this CD

  1. Dance Tonight (2:52)
  2. Ever Present Past (2:54)
  3. See Your Sunshine (3:17)
  4. Only Mama Knows (4:17)
  5. You Tell Me (3:15)
  6. Mister Bellamy (3:39)
  7. Gratitude (3:17)
  8. Vintage Clothes (2:22)
  9. That Was Me (2:38)
  10. Feet In The Clouds (3:24)
  11. House Of Wax (4:59)
  12. End Of The End (2:51)
  13. Nod Your Head (1:55)

Released by: Hear Music
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 41:40

Paul McCartney – All The Best

Paul McCartney - All The BestSome people seem to take inordinate delight in downplaying Paul McCartney’s contributions to pop music, especially in his post-Beatles years. But I ask you: who can listen to “Coming Up”, “My Love” or “No More Lonely Nights” and say that Paul was past his prime when he coined these tunes? Forever doomed to be widely regarded as the cute, irreverent half of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting powerhouse, McCartney has always been capable of putting that perception to rest with his ballads. (C’mon, we are talking about the man chiefly responsible for “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday”.) Now, there are some tracks on here that do a lot to give McCartney’s solo portfolio that “cute, irreverent” label (I’m thinking “Band On The Run” and especially “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” – a song that some people refer to as “Hands Across The Water” – here), and a few that seem to go a bit far in trying to correct that perception (“Live And Let Die”) – but criticism of the lyrics aside, I still like just about everything on this collection.

It’s sad that Paul’s output and his chart-topping streak have come to a juddering halt in recent years – though I loved Flaming Pie – and this greatest hits disc is sorely in need of updating (thinking mainly of “The World Tonight” from Flaming Pie and “My Brave Face” here). But on its own, All My Best 4 out of 4puts the lie to the notion that Paul didn’t go anywhere after the Fab Four fell apart. Corny as some of them may seem now, all of these songs are appealing, and serve as a reminder that they were, after all, written by one half of the most successful songwriting duo in chart history. They may not have been number one with a bullet, but they did at least have wings.

Order this CD

  1. Band On The Run (5:14)
  2. Jet (4:10)
  3. Ebony And Ivory (3:43)
  4. Listen To What The Man Said (3:57)
  5. No More Lonely Nights (4:41)
  6. Silly Love Songs (5:56)
  7. Let ‘Em In (5:11)
  8. Say Say Say (3:56)
  9. Live And Let Die (3:14)
  10. Another Day (3:43)
  11. C Moon (4:35)
  12. Junior’s Farm (4:23)
  13. Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey (4:42)
  14. Coming Up (3:31)
  15. Goodnight Tonight (4:21)
  16. With A Little Luck (3:14)
  17. My Love (4:09)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1987
Total running time: 72:40

Paul McCartney – Driving Rain

Paul McCartney - Driving RainWow, it’s finally happened – Paul McCartney, whose last project I really dug was 1997’s Flaming Pie, has been dragged into the 90s. Not a bad trick, considering that this album was released in 2001.

I was pleasantly surprised by Driving Rain, having been bitterly disappointed by the retro-cover-fest that was Run Devil Run. And one of the things that I believe surprised many people about Driving Rain was the fresh frankness of the lyrics, dealing openly with McCartney’s second marriage following his first wife’s death due to cancer. But while the subject matter is a bit different for the former Beatle, his way with a pop song isn’t. Tunes like “Your Way”, “Magic” and “Driving Rain” demonstrate his melodic gift, complete with trademark hooks.

Songs like “Spinning On An Axis” and “She’s Given Up Talking”, however, introduce something new to the equation – a bit of modern groove and a much more modern sound production-wise. These things aren’t unwelcome, and I felt the number of songs given this treatment wasn’t overpowering. You won’t be wondering why Sir Paul suddenly changed his entire sound – because he hasn’t.

“Riding Into Jaipur” is the kind of Indian-flavored tune we might have expected from the late George Harrison, while “Heather” turns out to be another surprise, with a lengthy instrumental jam eventually leading up to a single verse song. “Rinse The Raindrops” is also mostly instrumental, and clocking in at ten or so minutes with its atmosphere of a nice loose jam, it would’ve made a nice album closer. But as most people know by now, it’s not the album closer – that honor goes to the hurriedly-written song “Freedom”, which addresses the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. in what I can most charitably describe as a token manner, 3 out of 4with jingoistic, repetetive lyrics that don’t really rise to the challenge of addressing the momentous events that inspired them. Honestly, I would’ve rather he’d ended Driving Rain with “Rinse The Raindrops”, or perhaps moved the “No More Lonely Nights”-esque “Your Loving Flame” down to end the album; “Freedom” is, in itself, hardly a song befitting the occasion, and not as good as the rest of the album.

Order this CD

  1. Lonely Road (3:15)
  2. From A Lover To A Friend (3:48)
  3. She’s Given Up Talking (4:57)
  4. Driving Rain (3:26)
  5. I Do (2:55)
  6. Tiny Bubble (4:20)
  7. Magic (3:57)
  8. Your Way (2:54)
  9. Spinning On An Axis (5:15)
  10. About You (2:53)
  11. Heather (3:24)
  12. Back In The Sunshine Again (4:21)
  13. Loving Flame (3:42)
  14. Riding Into Jaipur (4:06)
  15. Rinse The Raindrops (10:11)
  16. Freedom (3:31)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 66:55

Paul McCartney – Flaming Pie

Paul McCartney - Flaming PieThis is quite possibly the best solo album McCartney has ever done. It’s hard for me to give a fair accounting of why I like this one so much, because I’m biased toward any album which heavily features ELO maestro Jeff Lynne. Lynne co-produces, plays and sings on several tracks, and his sonic signature is apparent – and perfectly suited to songs written by McCartney, whose Beatles songs once inspired Lynne. Among the best tracks on the album are “Heaven On A Sunday”, which is a perfect combination of McCartney’s and Lynne’s strengths as well as featuring a guitar passage by James McCartney, Paul’s 19-year-old son; “The World Tonight”, “Beautiful Night” featuring Ringo Starr, “If You Wanna” featuring Steve Miller 4 out of 4(and it sounds like a Steve Miller tune), and the title track. The whole album is good, my list above merely highlights. Very highly recommended – Paul has finally gotten the rock ‘n’ roll part of his repertoire right without weighing it down with rampant lyrical cuteness. We already knew he’d mastered the ballad, so this new development is more than welcome.

Order this CD

  1. The Song We Were Singing (3:52)
  2. The World Tonight (4:03)
  3. If You Wanna (4:36)
  4. Somedays (4:11)
  5. Young Boy (3:54)
  6. Calico Skies (2:29)
  7. Flaming Pie (2:27)
  8. Heaven On A Sunday (4:26)
  9. Used To Be Bad (4:08)
  10. Souvenir (3:38)
  11. Little Willow (2:55)
  12. Really Love You (5:14)
  13. Beautiful Night (5:03)
  14. Great Day (2:06)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 53:46