Everyone knew there was a new McCartney album on the way (his first studio release for 4½ years), but none realised it would be issued so soon after being announced, and it certainly wasn't envisaged to be a collection of personal favourites, two newly written songs and a re-recording of a 33 year old album track. It's available in two versions; the usual jewel case, and a deluxe pack with two extra songs, expanded sleeve notes, three postcards and access to an exclusive live show. An easy listening offering of songs he heard, and was influenced by, during his formative years (and he has chosen many that might not be familiar), the booklet explains how he and John tried to copy these songs. I'm surprised McCartney hasn't done anything like this until now; and another first is that he just sings on this. Then again, maybe he's been planning such a project and only just got round to doing something about it. Joined by Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, and Diane Krall and her band, who play with the lightest of touches on their instruments, whats the deluxe version like?
I'M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER. A piano and double bass led jazz tune, this is whispered in fine style in a way you might imagine someone suddenly joining in with the house band. A potential single?
HOME (WHERE THE SHADOWS FALL). Maybe the most obscure song included, this is nicely sung in a late-night fireside way.
IT'S ONLY A PAPER MOON. An occasional voice straining to reach the right notes doesn't seem to spoil the shortest track that has an effective violin and whistling middle eight. It certainly grows on you.
MORE I CANNOT WISH YOU Annoying. Not in a bad way but you just wish it would start instead of sounding like a three minute introduction to something more substantial. But that's the tune itself, not the way it's presented. For my money, the poorest thing included.
THE GLORY OF LOVE. Rather intimate this, but then so are all the other songs, one to be sung to your new wife, or a very old one. One thing this CD has going for it is that you can actually hear every word sung, something many are guilty of in their failing.
WE THREE (MY ECHO, MY SHADOW AND ME). Delivered in a way only McCartney could get away with, don't be surprised to hear this on Radio 2. Whilst the whole CD is good, this is one I particularly like.
AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE. A weirdly titled clever tune on antonyms, this is a bit of a toe-tapper that will have you singing the title to yourself. My own favourite.
MY VALENTINE. The first of two new original compositions, this is an acoustic and piano track that could actually become a favourite of club supper acts. It sounds plodding at first but it does grow on you. With just the guitar player from the band remaining, you can imagine the spurned lover slumped over the piano, a dying rose and whisky glass on the top, bemoaning his luck to an empty floor. This could be a single, though he needs to be quick about it. Expect cover versions.
ALWAYS. I didn't recognise this from the introduction, but when the main body began I was singing along, as will you if you recognise it. Once more, the music doesn't swamp the singing.
MY VERY GOOD FRIEND THE MILKMAN. More whistling bookends a song about a lovelorn soul tempting his girlfriend to marry him through a variety of others. It's rather cute.
BYE BYE BLACKBIRD. The second Beatle to record this (after Ringo in 1970), this is taken at a slower pace but doesn't suffer from that, even though you think it might peter out at some point.
GET YOURSELF ANOTHER FOOL. Whilst much of what precedes and follows this track is taken in a laid-back style, this has a far stronger vocal and is another of my favourites. The longest track, the use of the guitar compliments this well.
THE INCH WORM. All of those of a certain age will remember this from listening to Junior Choice on the radio. Possibly the biggest surprise on a surprising collection, no doubt it's the Danny Kaye version he remembers and not the one by the cast of Grange Hill. With backing vocalists doing the adding up, it's one of only two songs not to have a full ending.
ONLY OUR HEARTS. The other new self penned song; it sits well with the rest of this collection. Sounding as if it was written for Nancy, it's one that might well be covered by other artists.
BABY'S REQUEST. Fitting in well, this is taken at a more leisurely pace than the version on 'Back to the Egg' with a good trombone middle. There's an elongated instrumental fading ending.
MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE. Another nice tune to be sung at the end of the day when the candles are burning.
This is bound to be a decent seller and maybe, given the contents, there will be those that wouldn't normally buy his product delving in because they like this style of music. I was pleased he didn't go down the big band route, but use backing that respects the deliberate understated vocals. If pretenders such as Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams, Michael Buble and others can release CDs of `standards', why not the biggest name of them all? It might be the songs or it might be the way in which they're presented, but McCartney shows he still has the capability to deliver. There may be those who dismiss this as self-indulgent, and maybe that's what it is; Ringo made his `for his mum', so maybe Macca wanted to do this for himself and his wife, and there's nothing wrong with that. A very nice CD.