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Something New from Paul McCartney
on 14 October 2013
It's been a while since Paul McCartney released an album of new material - Memory Almost Full came out in 2007 and The Fireman's Electric Arguments in 2008. New has been well worth the wait though, as not only is it full of classic McCartney tunes, it also, like most of his output over the last decade or so, shows a willingness both lyrically and sonically to be experimental at times.
The album sees Paul working with four producers, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns, Paul Epworth and Giles Martin, McCartney's original idea was to trial all four of them and use the one he enjoyed working with most to produce the album. Instead he ended up recording with all four - Martin producing seven tracks, Epworth and Johns three each and Ronson two.
McCartney's touring band of Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr and Paul "Wix" Wickens feature on seven of the album's songs, although this isn't strictly speaking a band album - something McCartney hasn't done since 1993's Off The Ground.
A brief song by song breakdown of the album -
"Save Us" - Produced by Paul Epworth this gets the album off to a cracking start. With Queen-like harmonies it's an upbeat rocker that could easily become a live favourite. Although it sounds like a band performance, actually it only features McCartney and Epworth - McCartney on guitar, bass and vocals with Epworth on drums.
"Alligator" - Produced by Mark Ronson, this features all of McCartney's band and has a strong vocal from Paul. Very Wings-like.
"On My Way To Work" - Produced by Giles Martin, this is another band song. One of several songs that casts an eye back to McCartney's life back in Liverpool as a young man. The notion of McCartney riding buses and clocking into work is somewhat incongruous, but it's a decent track enhanced by the bands performance.
"Queenie Eye" - Produced by Paul Epworth. The tempo rises again with this infectious sing-along track. Another song that would work very well in the live environment, it's a great toe-tapper.
"Early Days" - Produced by Ethan Johns. This is a song that harks back to his Beatles past, with lyrics such as "dressed in black from head to toe, two guitars across our backs". The sparse acoustic opening and McCartney's cracking vocals are quite affecting - one of the less cluttered productions on the album, it sounds as if it could have come from the Flaming Pie album.
"New" - Produced by Mark Ronson. The first song to surface from the album, back in August, it's a catchy slice of upbeat pop that could easily fit into most McCartney albums from the last six decades.
"Appreciate" - Produced by Giles Martin. Coming directly after the uplifting "New" this moody song is a change of pace - featuring distorted McCartney vocals, driving percussion from Abe and some nice guitar work from Brian and Rusty.
"Everybody Out There" - Produced by Giles Martin. Abe, Brian and Rusty are all featured on this one, along with unidentified members of Paul's family - simply referred to as the "McCartney Family Chorus". McCartney has admitted that the call and response part of the song was designed for audience interaction. So while the song feels a little contrived, it's another bouncy piece of feel-good pop that's difficult not to like.
"Hosanna" - Produced by Ethan Johns. An acoustic ballad, which is nice enough but it doesn't really go anywhere. One of the lesser tracks on the album.
"I Can Bet" - Produced by Giles Martin. Things pick up again with this sprightly track, featuring Rusty and Wix. Not the best song on the album, but it's a very entertaining three and a half minutes.
"Looking At Her" - Produced by Giles Martin. A slower song, with distorted vocals from Paul. It really gets into gear when the instrumental break kicks in. A bit of a slow-burner, but this song is definitely a grower.
"Road" - Produced by Paul Epworth. One of the songs that took a few plays to click, but it's a good, low-key, track.
"Turned Out" - Produced by Ethan Johns. A nice up-tempo rocker, this should prove to be a popular song in his live set.
"Get Me Out Of Here" - Produced by Giles Martin. Another track with distorted vocals, and here we also see McCartney doing his best bluesman impression. A pity it was relegated to being a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition, as it could have swapped with On My Way To Work on the Standard Edition.
"Scared" - Produced by Giles Martin. A hidden track, appearing 20 seconds after Get Me Out Of Here has finished. It's a solo McCartney performance that sees him playing piano, Bill Black's bass and vibraphone. A tender ballad that sounds heartfelt, it means that the album ends on a somewhat sombre note, although the song is still positive in its outlook.
With the bonus tracks, New clocks in at around the 52 minute mark. Losing both Hosanna and On My Way To Work would have tightened things up, as more isn't necessarily more - but New is a very strong collection of songs that can comfortably sit alongside the very best of his solo material.