Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paul McCartney: "McCartney" and "McCartney II" reissues

Imagine being one of the dominant commercial and creative forces in the world's biggest band preparing to release his first solo album.   How to make a statement?  On "McCartney", Paul threw together a half-baked collection of ad libbed instrumentals, song snippets and throwaways - with one bonafide classic McCartney love song thrown in for good measure.  That's not to say the album is bad; it isn't at all.  It's barely sewn together nature is the charm.   Rather than face the impossible and combat an impossible task of living up to The Beatles' monstrous legend, Paul rejected the pressure and wiped the slate clean.   It's a sweet little album born from a period of venomous turmoil as The Beatles' slow and painful disintegration reached its final stages.  It sounds almost like a tonic.   Newly remastered, it sounds warmer and more charming than ever, and Paul's scorching ballad "Maybe I'm Amazed" - with one of his best-ever vocals - has never sounded better.  "McCartney" laid waste to The Beatles' mythology as powerfully as John's soul-baring "Plastic Ono Band" album - just in an entirely different way.   John unleashed his demons;  Paul sought care-free escape.

A decade later, after years recording and touring with Wings, Paul returned to solo recording and "McCartney II".   The insanely catchy ditty "Coming Up" landed him a #1 hit, and the album was a bit of a commercial return for him.  But the material was still very basic and generally uninspired.  The synthesizer experiments on "Temoprary Secretary" resulted in a ghastly novelty number that Paul inexplicably released as the album's 3rd single.  "On My Way" - with Paul's plodding drums - sounds barely a demo.   It's a strangely soulless album with an aura of purposelessness.   Very little inspiration here - it all sounds routine.   There are a few positive moments, but generally speaking "McCartney II" is only for the completists.  At least  it sounds good - these reissues have been done with care and are a definite improvement on what has previously been available. 

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