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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anything But - More Questions than Answers, 26 Nov. 2013
This review is from: New (Audio CD)
McCartney is a legend and it is always difficult to critique a legend, especially when you have been a fan since time was and have pretty much all his albums in various formats tucked away somewhere. Like any artist of his standing, McCartney commands fierce loyalty in some quarters who will rave about his every output; he has also attracted his fair share of critics from only about the 1960s ('granny music', Linda with Wings etc). So any 'new' album will inevitably score the collection of 5 stars and 1 star on a site such as this. Frankly, this album deserves neither; it has its strengths but it has its weaknesses; there are some joyous uplifting tracks such as 'New' and 'Road', but there are some cringe-worthy moments for which McCartney has an unfoprtunate history of including when lesser artists would accept the track should be canned - eg the intensely banal lyrics of 'On My Way to Work' and the 'Early Days'. A number of the tracks are reasonably bland and mediocre, which is not necessarily atypical of many albums - we need the filler tracks in between the major hits - and certainly it boasts the high level of production and musical performance that McCartney excels in when he takes the time to produce a high quality sound, engaging no fewer than 4 producers on this album. There are two key areas in which the album lets itself down - firstly, McCartney really needs to engage someone to help him write lyrics, a skill which is not improving with his advanced age; secondly, he needs someone to explain that his falsetto voice and high register generally is showing its thinness with advanced age. Each of these weaknesses could be readily addressed - who wouldn't give their right arm to co-write with a legend, and songs can be pitched at more comfortable ranges (or, heaven forbid, voices adjusted by digital enhancement). But repeated listening to this album over the past few weeks drew inevitable comparisons to Sachin Tendulkar's retirement at age 40. Surely Tendulkar is talented enough to keep playing at the highest level for at least another 2 or 3 years (like Graham Gooch) and probably for 5 years. He could readily keep playing the 1st class circuit for at least another decade, perhaps longer (like Sid Barnes) and thereafter any club would gladly pay him to keep on plying his wares as an aging superstar at increasingly lower levels until, like McCartney, he was 70 or more. There are international 'super Vets' competitions for over 60s, so there is no physical reason Tendulkar could not keep going and going, no doubt still drawing a (diminishing) crowd of fans and signing autographs. But the question becomes - should he ? Had McCartney reitred at 40 as well, then his swan-song would have been the excellent 'Tug of War' and we'd have missed out on some quality 'innings' (eg Flowers in the Dirt, Flaming Pie) amid the lesser output wrought by advanced age. Like Wordsworth, McCartney has decided to plough on into his 70s plus, and history will judge him from afar as to whether this is a good career move. Commercially, i have no doubt it is profitable, but surely an artist of his standing does not need to worry about such aspects. So listening to the album raises more questions than it answers - what should a legend go on to do in his 70s ? Is it OK for a man in his 70s to be singing about teenage angst ? Is an album of middling standards worth producing for the sake of a couple of good tracks that emerge, almost accidentally ? The fans will scream 'yes' and beg for more; the public will shrug its shoulders and move on. Downloads and CDs are becoming cheaper to buy, and certainly the 12 quid for 'New' is not wasted on what is generally a pleasant enough musical journey - with a couple of really poor numbers, It won't change your life, but it won't ruin your day. If you can, spring for the extra 2 quid and grab the deluxe edition, since track 13 'Turned Out' is one of the stronger ones and the hidden track 15 isn't too bad either - begs another question, how do artists decide on which tracks to eliminate from an album when clearly there are a couple of more worthy candidates on 'New' for scrapping ?
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Initial post: 2 Dec 2013 12:01:42 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Dec 2013 12:02:31 GMT
Macca has form when it comes to hiding away his better tracks. Ou Est Le Soleil is a groovy number off Flowers in the Dirt, but left off the vinyl version for reasons of space. 222 is a lovely atmospheric number left off the Memory Almost Full album. Other tracks like Kicked Around No More didn't make it onto Off The Ground, while others of the same era went onto B-sides, despite sounding more commercial and poppy. In other respects too, Macca does seem to be into self-sabotage. Surely there are ways to make his weak vocals on a song like New sound stronger? On other tracks it can have a poignant feel however, such as Early Days.

I am glad Macca did not retire at 40 as frankly many argue his output has picked up since Flowers in the Dirt. But there is a point when I start to wonder if he wouldn't be better off bringing in other vocalists with a similar sound to his. There are many many songs I feel could be hits if only they had a different approach and a younger voice.
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