He played everything on this album. We were left in no doubt that his claim that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles, while snide, wasn’t entirely rash. Everything about this album says, "This is organic – this is me freed from John’s pretension and artifice". McCartney’s homely, almost idiot-savant, gift for songwriting seemed to be undiminished now that he was on his own. Opening track The Lovely Linda, although barely more than a sketch, was written in order to try out a new 4-track. Macca was back to being the guy who couldn't make a cup of tea without it inspiring a top 40 hit. His creative wellspring had been topped up by spending more time with his kin. This was revealed by the design for the album, compiled from Linda’s (excellent) holiday snaps. The iconic image of cherries left on a seaside wall for birds to feed on has slowly usurped the actual cover art of Macca with cherubic baby Stella peeking out of the lining of his sheepskin.
This said, it hadn't been an entirely clean break. Some of the tunes were left over from the Fab Four endgame. Junk was originally written in the Maharishi’s camp and Teddy Boy was a Let It Be reject. But even some of the songs that seemed to have an exotic nature were deceptively domestic. Kreen-Akrore may well have been about rainforest tribesmen, but McCartney’s information came directly from a TV documentary he watched with his family. And, really, this is what this album is: written and recorded by a victor, someone who has successfully negotiated his retreat from being one of the most famous people on the face of the planet to blissful semi-retirement to the homestead. He would go on greater things – including McCartney II, released a decade later – but this debut album represents a necessary start to the most consistently pleasing solo career of all The Beatles.
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Twenty or so years later, I still think it's a great little record. If you like Paul McCartney, then you'll love this album - every song exemplifies the man, and his capacity to write superb pieces of music, the occasional wonderful lyric, but more than any of that, this record presents Paul as a soon to be solo Beatle, proving to himself, and everyone else, that he COULD do it on his own, no matter how terrifying that prospect was at the time.
Other reviews will cite the classic songs such as 'Maybe I'm Amazed' as the reason for buying this, but for me 'Junk' and 'Every Night' are comparable, and certainly Junk is one of the most poignant songs that has EVER been written. Even tracks like 'The Lovely Linda' - throwaways to some - offer a quirky insight into McCartney's mindset at that time, and the strength of the relationship he had with Linda was defined forever.
Yes, there are elements of home 'doodling' on some tracks, but so what? It isn't indulgence, it's called 'talent', and he was more than capable of playing whatever instrument he needed (and had done so on a number of occasions within the Beatles - listen to his demo of 'Come And Get It' as an example). But this was the first time that he didn't have to answer to anyone other than himself, and this collection of songs demonstrates the excitement and fun that he generated by playing and recording everything himself. It's mostly a very upbeat record, with the odd nervous glance at the future thrown in for good measure.
But regardless of what anyone else has said about McCartney's 'form' at this time, this was a man very much on top of his game. He'd done his best to drag the Beatles through the mire that was the Get Back sessions (and pick up the Day By Day series of Nagra tape rolls if you can), saw the Abbey Road project through to completion, and now he took time out to relax and think about the future. Place yourself in his shoes... you're in the biggest band in the world... a band that has been your life for 13 years? And then it's over... how frightening is that?
That the public were probably expecting more supposedly Beatlesy material is not McCartney's fault nor problem. But none of these tracks are out of kilter with what he wrote for Abbey Road and Let It Be, and many of these songs were presented to the Beatles during those sessions, but held back/rejected.
To sum up, this is a wonderfully warm and intimate record, made by a music genius... one of the few that we have left. If you've never heard it, buy it and cherish it.
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