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VINE VOICEon 9 January 2006
‘Chaos and Creation in the Backyard’ is a surprisingly sombre album, with opening single Fine Line being one of the more up-tempo tracks on the album. The Lady Madonna-esque rocker Promise To You Girl feels particularly out of place in this regard, while English Tea is the sort of highly melodic tune which will either annoy the listener as being overly twee, or enjoyed as a knowing parody. Away from these three songs the album is surprisingly – and enjoyably - downbeat, and even if the lyrics to a song like This Never Happened Before are positive then the music contains some very dark chords. Obvious Beatles comparisons come with such tracks as the Blackbird-style acoustic track Jenny Wren, or the George Harrison inspired Friends to Come, but for me the highlights include Too Much Rain, At the Mercy, This Never Happened Before and the Spanish-sounding A Certain Softness.
With not a single weak track on the album this is a very strong solo release, and the fact that almost everything is recorded by Paul McCartney himself gives it the sort of home-made charm as his debut solo record. If you’re looking for easy melodic pop songs then this album isn’t for you, instead this is a mature collection of interesting tracks that grow on the listener. Good stuff.
NB: The bonus version with the extra DVD is worthwhile, as this is a good in-depth behind the scenes look at each track on the album, while the Japanese import also contains the bonus track She Is So Beautiful.
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on 24 October 2009
After staying with Paul all these years, finding the odd gem among the poor stuff that fills many Wings and Macca solo albums, finally I can report that he has produced the masterpiece we have been waiting for. This is his best collection of songs since the White Album, which means, yes, it is better than Abbey Road, Band on the Run, Flowers in the Dirt and Flaming Pie. It truly is THAT good! The arrangements and production have been rightly praised in the reviews on this page, but it is the songwriting that shines throughout the album. This is a master craftsman finally rediscovering the muse that made him one of the greatest ever. The centrepiece of the album is Riding to Vanity Fair, a superb song in every way, but from then it picks up second wind, ending with a blaze of glory in the Lady Madonna-esque Promise to you girl, then two of the most gorgeous ballads Paul has ever written, This Never Happened Before and Anyway. Breathtaking. If you grew up loving the Beatles and have looked on in exasperation as Paul has produced mediocre albums, one after another, then rejoice! Here at last is an album worthy to stand alongside the best of his work with the Beatles. Praise indeed, but richly deserved in this case. You will not be disappointed.
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on 23 September 2005
Memo to those who, like me , have been long-term McCartney admirers but who also like me were convinced that any new material would be a mere shadow of the legend's finest achievements : here finally is a piece of work to restore your faith. Few would claim that anything by solo Paul can ever attain the iconic status of his everlasting contribution to the revolutionary music of a certain foursome (and indeed later with the hugely successful Wings), but there really are songs here to revive memories of those uniquely magical years. All tracks stand up remarkably well to the acid test of repeated hearings, not least the simple yet heartfelt "This Never Happened Before" whilst another highlight, "A Certain Softness", will have poignancy for anyone surprised, perhaps even mystified, at just how quickly it's possible to fall in love - or come close. Anti-Macca pundits take a perverted sense of pride in knocking pretty much anything produced by the man post-1970, yet their target is an artist whose longevity, versatility and special talent have yet to be equalled. Almost forty years after the Beatles' final appearance in concert, the author of 'Chaos and Creation in the Backyard' has just embarked on a sold-out tour of the US. As always, his audiences will get to hear what they expect ; but this new album is as much a part of the man they've come to see and worship as the pure gold classics which first drew them in. PS: Make sure you order the special edition with bonus DVD - the music is all the better for having seen how it was put together
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on 16 October 2005
I havn't bought a McCartney album for many years and bought this one because of the great reviews it recieved from the musical critics.
They were dead right. I could go on and on exalting the varous tracks but this would be spoiling it for you. It really is a great album and the dvd is a bonus and worth the extra money. So just go out and buy it. Vintage McCartney at his very best. You won't be disappointed !!!
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on 4 June 2006
It strikes me as a perennially cruel injustice that Macca (in common with a number of other elder rock figures) is so often dismissed by the lazier variety of music critic as irrelevant, out of touch, past-it, mawkish, or whatever is the dimissive put-down nearest to hand at time of writing. The fact is, even his worst albums have always included three or four classic songs.

Only an individual with the clothiest of cloth ears could listen to Chaos and Creation and fail to be impressed and moved by it. You will struggle to find more than one or two records genuinely as good as it in 2006.

Macca's Achilles heel has always been his tendency to release too much material. Someone once opined that he should have released only about one third as much music as he did, holding back the reams of weaker songs that might have been good enough for most artists, but which were unworthy of a Beatle. Releasing only the very best of his solo compositions would have seen him maintain the Olympean standards set by the Beatles.

The impact of his best work has sometimes been diminished because so much of the material on the same album was weak. A good example is "With a Little Luck" on London Town: a truly great song, well beyond the capability of just about anyone else you care to name. The preceding and following songs on London Town were mediocre at best, and somehow this makes "With a Little Luck" seem less great than it really is. Admittedly, the opposite effect was common on Beatles records. "Oh, Darling" probably seems better than it is for having been on Abbey Road.

Chaos and Creation is excellent from start to finish. It is similar in some ways to its strong predecessor, Driving Rain, but the melancholic tone of Chaos and Creation is more potent, somehow, than the harder Driving Rain sound. I feel that Chaos and Creation is a cousin of Beck's superb "Sea Change". Something about the mood and the sonic landscape, particularly in the second half of Chaos and Creation, reminds me of this record.

The song that stands out on the first listen is "Jenny Wren", which everyone compares to Blackbird, even though the resemblance is fairly superficial. It's a fantastic song, but subsequent listens reveal that at least as fantastic are the likes of "Riding to Vanity Fair" (reminds me of Beck's "Round the Bend"), "A Certain Softness" (delicate and nuanced), Follow Me (so very simple, yet hugely uplifting), and Anyway (again, simple and uplifting).

These are among my personal favourites, but really there are no weak tracks.

A bonus: The instrumental postscript to the album is pure Macca too - a string of short musical ideas that convey playfulness, humour and the simple joy of composing and playing that has always been one of the man's most appealing characteristics.
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on 22 May 2006
There's not a lot of chaos in the end result but lots of dedicated creativity to produce the best album Paul McCartney has made in a long time - if not his best post-Beatles LP ever.

A lot of credit has to go to renowned producer Nigel Goodrich who insisted on Macca eschewing his touring band and playing virtually every instrument. No respecter of reputation, Goodrich by all accounts worked his charge very hard to get the best results. His production also gives the album a modern sound whilst retaining those distinct McCartney characteristics.

Some credit also has to go to the brilliant arranger and sometime Divine Comedy member Joby Talbot who arranged the background strings and brass on several songs. Talbot's arrangements always embellish rather than take over the tunes with his work on the gloriously whimsical English Tea being a particularly fine example of his talents.

Most of the credit though has to go to Paul McCartney himself for a set of stripped down, catchy but long-lasting songs and some excellent playing. The lyrics - so often a cloying bugbear of Paul's solo work - are also excellent being slightly vague and very readable. It's a measure of Macca's creativity and confidence that several songs on Chaos & Creation are rightly two-three minutes long rather than being unnecessarily fleshed out to use up CD space.

Particular highlights for me range from the poppy Fine Line and Friends To Go to the more atmospheric Riding To Vanity Fair. Further highlights include the brilliant, meditative Jenny Wren, deliberately written and arranged in a similar style to The Beatles' Blackbird, and the aforementioned quintessentially eccentric English Tea. No one plays either of these styles as well as McCartney.

Although there was plenty of chaos in the creation of C&CITBY, it was well worth all the studio conflict. A brilliant album by an artist making his best music for many many years.
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on 1 August 2009
A fantastic album that is a real grower and one that I keep coming back to. No trickery, no rush jobs, just a collection of fine songs that sound as if they have been carefully worked up and perfected. These sound like very personal songs - which is not a surprise given what he was going through at the time - and the best songs on the album are particularly heartfelt and fragile. One of my favourite McCartney albums.
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on 25 November 2005
Chaos and Creation finds McCartney ageing like a quality wine, there to be enjoyed by those who recognise a good song when they hear one and for those who can appreciate the skills in writing memorable melodies and thought-provoking (usually personal) lyrics. The album shows a maturity in McCartney's songwriting knowing for once when to leave things out as opposed to trying to cram everything in.
No lush George Martinesque strings on here, although there are a few George Martin moments especially on the bridge during Follow Me and in the twee nostaligia of English Tea (where you can visualise McCartney's smug smile when he plonks his finger on that final piano note 'There, that's how you do it').
The strings are, especially during the haunting yet beautiful Riding To Vanity Fayre more akin to those used on Lennon's Imagine album, there to create a sense of well, suspense, of something sinister lurking in the background. They may carry a heaviness from Paul's own heart, a sigh at some of the images that must have been going through his mind when he wrote and recorded this album (John, George and Linda to name but three).
Infact, there's quite a bit of looking back on this album. Promise To You Girl sounds as though it should have been on the b-side to Red Rose Speedway, the guitar tone being almost identical to that played on the closing medley. And the backing vocals hark back to Abbey Road almost sounding too 'John and George'.
Fine Time is a grower really getting into its element during the instrumental break where the organ comes in. Jenny Wren could be a Double White out-take. The choice of duduk as an instrument is inspired, sounding half musical instrument, half human voice. Again it's haunting and brings a slightly disturbing feel to the song.
For me though, the finest songs are left to the end. This Never Happened Before was 'the missing Abbey Road Macca ballad'. The big key change hits you in the heart and McCartney sings this with real meaning, almost a yearning sounding both surprised and yet regretful. An astonishing track.
Likewise Anyway the album's closing track proper. Beautiful, sincere and yet with a degree of sadness. You can see Paul sat at the piano playing but his eyes are askance, looking far away, possibly into the past, but arguably into the future.
Chaos and Creation is a wonderful piece of work that finds McCartney for once maybe facing up to facts that he's not getting any younger and that sadly, of all the Beatles, only he and Ringo are still with us.
In being in a reflective and possibly sombre mood, Paul has written an album from the heart and in producer Michael Goodrich, has found someone to put those feelings onto record without the need to overdress any of those songs.
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on 4 July 2009
This is the best album of Paul McCartney's solo career. A beautiful, late-autumn call for love from a supreme songwriter without a single misstep.

Think the flame burned out with the death of The Beatles? Listen closer. This album - if you give it time, and listen with ears unburdened of the weight of history - could change your mind.

Massive credit goes to producer Nigel Godrich for reigning in McCartney's more mawkish tendancies - lyrically and musically - and guiding a work that will in time be recognised as a masterpiece.

They'll turn to this album when they're putting together evidence of some of McCartney's strongest songwriting once he's gone - when the cool factor doesn't matter any more, and songwriting's valued on its own terms, finally.

"Exquisite" - that feels right.

That's the word.
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on 23 August 2006
Never really being a great McCartney fan although I personally feel that no band or artist before or since can hold a candle to the Beatles,the only previously purchased material by Paul McCartney by me was 'BAND ON THE RUN'............

I accidentally came accross 'CHAOS AND CREATION (only having heard one track played late one night on Radio 2)and am blown away by it, not one poor track,every one grows on you more and not 5 stars....10.
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