Sunday, June 19, 2011
McCartney - Paul McCartney
Apple STAO 3363
Hear Music HRM-32812-01
A post in honor of Paulie's birthday. I'm a little mortified that he is 69 years old but I'm happy that the man I've revered since I was 13 years old is still going strong. This is of course his debut solo record and I have to confess that when I first heard it as a teenager, I was bitterly disappointed. I came close to getting rid of it many times back then and there were long periods when I didn't listen to it at all. I thought it was self-indulgent, amateurish and beneath his stature as an artist. Today I don't disagree with my original assessment, but I've learned to appreciate the record's homemade charms. Although I still think it is a minor album, it has become one of my favorite of McCartney albums. "Maybe I'm Amazed" is a classic song although the original version has been eclipsed as far the radio is concerned by the live version from "Wings Over America." I understand that, it is unquestionably a more powerful version, but I like this one too, it has the appeal of a heartfelt demo, which basically it is. "Teddy Boy," "Junk" and "Every Night" are the only other first rate songs on this album. "That Would Be Something" has a nice riff, but it sounds incomplete or unfinished. With some more effort it might have been a worthy follow-up to "Get Back" instead of the pleasant filler it is here. That is true of a lot of the songs on this record which feel more like demos or run-throughs. "Valentine Day" is a nice rocking tune but McCartney couldn't even be bothered to come up with words for it nor for the less promising "Hot as Sun." Even the more polished songs like "The Lovely Linda," "Oo You" and "Man We Was Lonely" are little more than fragments or throwaways. They are likeable but totally forgettable. As good as it is, "Junk" is not so good that it needed to be reprised as an instrumental on side two. Given how prolific he was as a Beatle, it is hard to believe that he couldn't come up with something better to fill that spot or to replace "Momma Miss America" which is an instrumental that sounds like an outtake from the "Let It Be" sessions only not as good. It is a lot better than "Kreen-Akrore" though, which sounds like some teenage kid messing around in his basement. I don't even like drum solos when real drummers like Ginger Baker play them, when McCartney does one I reach for the reject button on the turntable. It is the only song I actually hate on this record. I'm critical of this record because I think McCartney is a pop genius and I expect a lot from him. I still enjoy this album though, the same way I enjoy the demos and false takes on the "Anthology" albums by the Beatles. The record is a bit like hanging around with McCartney in the studio and listening to him experiment and tinker with songs. In a way, McCartney made the album that "Let It Be" was supposed to be, except that he took the idea too far. Perhaps it was conceited for the man to think that his unfinished songs were worthy of public consumption, but I still like listening to them. I enjoy the relaxed and intimate feel of the record although I can't deny that I wish it was little better. Nonetheless even a minor Paul McCartney record is still better than a lot of people's major records and I'm very happy to have it. As an added bonus the album is loaded with charming pictures by his talented photographer wife Linda including a priceless pic of the great man picking his nose. I'd say it is worth having just for the pictures alone. So happy birthday to Sir Paul and may he have many many more. Recommended for people who wish that James Paul McCartney could live forever.
After I wrote this post, I acquired the deluxe reissue of this album. It is remastered and includes a bonus record of outtakes and live cuts. The cover art is the same although the new version has an irritating gray stripe on the side and a reduced sized cover image. The gatefold image is the same. The colors are sharper and richer on the Apple LP but the new version does boast inner sleeves covered with more of Linda’s snapshots similar to the ones on the gatefold image. As far as the remastering goes, I don’t really hear a lot of difference. It might be a little clearer than the Apple version with more separation between instruments but I’m not sure that is actually an improvement. It is not like this is “Dark Side of the Moon,” it is practically a homemade record, it isn’t supposed to sound great. I think the murkiness of the Apple mix is part of its DIY charm. As for the bonus record, it is far from essential. The three outtakes are useless. The best is “Don’t Cry Baby” which is basically an instrumental version of “Oo You” and the most interesting thing about it is hearing Paulie talking to his crying baby in what sounds like his attempt at an American accent. “Suicide” is another indulgence of McCartney’s fondness for music hall songs. It is easy to see why it stayed on the shelf. The demo of “Women Kind” is in a similar vein only worse with inane and patronizing feminist lyrics. About the best I can say about it is that it is better than “Kreen-Akrore.” Maybe. There is also a performance of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from the TV program “One Hand Clapping” that sounds a lot like the version from “Wings Over America” with a whole lot of echo a la “Let Me Roll It.” It is good but I dislike the echo. The best part of the bonus LP is the three songs from a 1979 concert in Glasgow. There is yet another version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” which is rawer than the the version from “Wings Over America” thanks to McCartney’s ragged vocal. I really like it. There is also a polished version of “Every Night” and a surprisingly good version of “Hot As Sun” that is a lot more engaging than the studio version. Does the bonus album merit owners of the Apple LP running out to buy this new version? Not really. Given that it lists for nearly 30 bucks, I’d say it was a rip-off. You can buy a really nice used copy of the Apple LP for a third as much as the deluxe version. I only bought my copy because it was brand new for less than 10 bucks. I’m happy to have it but I’d only recommend it to collectors with deep pockets.