on 6 June 2007
Right, let's be honest about things and get this Beatles monkey off our chests. Aren't we all guilty about trying to protect the sacred memory which is THE BEATLES and by doing so have unfairly criticized a great deal of Paul McCartney's post-Beatles music.
The number of times I have read a critical review of a McCartney product which contains such comment as ''Well it's all right but it's not 'Revolver''' and writes off the album without really giving an objective opinion.....well it's time to put the record straight!
'Memory Almost Full' is nothing less than a masterpiece of music by a man who quite clearly is not resting on his considerable iconic reputation, but clearly still feels that he has a point to prove to the doubters.
Music journalists from their cossetted offices write that McCartney has done little or nothing of note since the Beatles.......who split up all of 37 years ago!....I will give you a list of songs which would EASILY have graced ANY Beatles album,,,,,,,,yes, including Revolver' and I make no apologies for doing so........from this album 'Mr Bellamy' and 'The End of the End'.. from 'Chaos and Creation'.....'Anyway', 'Too Much Rain','Jenny Wren'
Young Boy, Another Day, Wanderlust, Maybe I'm Amazed, Tug of War, No More Lonely Nights, Back Seat of My Car, Silly Love Songs, Here Today, Junior's Farm,.......the list is endless.
My point is this.....by all means remember the Beatles with a deal of reverence, because I certainly do, but do not do a disservice to a former Beatle in the process by dismissing his post-Beatles music because of this obsession with keeping THAT group above all others.
The point is this new album deserves to be heard without any preconceptions and I hope the genius which is McCartney comes shining through.
on 6 June 2007
Imagine this if you will: you're a Beatle - part of a band that have gone down in history as the finest group this country has produced, like, ever. You've written classic songs like Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude, Let It Be, Maybe I'm Amazed, Live And Let Die...the list goes on. Now imagine that, because of your vast back catalogue, not only are people expecting you to come up with better, they're also expecting you to change the world and come up with a revolutionary new album. So, no pressure then.
It's almost as if making music isn't enough for Paul McCartney, people are always wanting more. If he comes up with brilliant material, people say it's good, but not as good as The Beatles. If he comes up with poor material, people say he's lost it.
Paul must ponder this every so often as he sits having his morning tea in the english rain. And what has he done here? Well, Paul for one knows two things for sure:
1. If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well.
2. Just do what you're best at.
And that's what Paul's done. He's made a fantastic album (and even that might not be enough for some), certainly his best for years. "Chaos And Creation In The Backyard" was a great album, but it did not have that "classic" feel to it - perhaps he was somewhat restrained by producer Nigel Godrich (with no disrespect to Nigel). On "Memory Almost Full", Paul forgets the criticisms, the complaints, the "he's lost it" that we read so often. Here he makes an album that is 110% Paul all over. It's got the ballads, the rock 'n' roll, the sentiment, the epics, the scarily clever arrangements and key changes, and, more importantly, it's got the humour.
Perhaps as a prime example of Paul going back to basics and back to what he does best is album opener "Dance Tonight". A deceptively simple song, primarily just Paul, a drum and a Mandolin, a great video and we've got one of his catchiest songs in years. It's simple. It works.
The album continues in this upbeat mood with "Ever Present Past" and a rather 80s sounding influence runs through this, something probably only Paul could get away with.
Some tracks on the album really could be on a Wings album - and if that's the case, the songs here are Wings at their very best. Certainly "See Your Sunshine" and "Only Mama Knows" have Wings written all over them and it's great to hear Paul's voice and his bass sounding so vibrant again.
"You Tell Me" is a classic McCartney acoustic ballad with a melody you swear you've heard somewhere before. "Mr Bellamy" is Paul finding both his creative genius and his humour again, an insanely clever track.
"Gratitude" improves with each listen, while "Vintage Clothes" is an ode to days and fashions gone by.
The five songs which bring "Memory Almost Full" to a close are just brilliant. It's the strongest finish to any McCartney album since, well, "Band On The Run". You can hear the skiffle influences on "That Was Me" and you could almost be at The Cavern Club again. "Feet In The Clouds" is very Wings/ELO, a great pop song with a great chorus to match.
We then come into the absolute highlight of the album - "House Of Wax". I'm gonna put my opinion on the line here and tell you, with not a shadow of a doubt in my mind, that "House Of Wax" is the single best solo track Paul has recorded since "Maybe I'm Amazed". It's that good. It builds and builds to the point where you sit and actually feel every hair on your body stand on end - just make sure you play it loud.
We then reach "The End Of The End" - a gorgeous heartfelt song in which Paul ponders his future, and indeed, his death. Yet only Paul could manage to talk about these things whilst maintaining a typically-McCartney upbeat melody. It has the ability to make you smile and cry at the same time. It's as though "The End" on Abbey Road was the end of The Beatles and here, on "The End Of The End", Paul thinks about everything he's accomplished in his life. Beautiful.
But just when you think you've got Paul all summed up, we hit track 13 - "Nod Your Head". Now ladies and gentlement, here we have a 2-minute brilliant brilliant track in which Paul's haivng the time of his life just rocking out.
"If you really love me baby, nod your head" he sings.
Well, are you all ready?
on 4 June 2007
An admission. I haven't bought a Paul McCartney album since Venus and Mars 30 years ago. Another admission. This album is like 13 Beatles songs have been unearthed from a vault; they are superb. The guy sounds full of enthusiasm and confidence, the lyrics are sharp, the arrangements are clever. From the opening track 'Dance Tonight' right through 'Mr Bellamy' and 'The End of the End', this is a masterpiece by anybody's standards. The guy has gone up in my estimation hugely. If you are a Beatles fan, this is the most important album for over 3 decades. If you are not a Beatles fan, take a listen to how music should be written. This is a masterclass to all those bands starting out. Well done Mate, you are still a genius. Totally recommended.
on 3 June 2007
I really enjoyed the standalone album of Memory Almost Full and you can read about the album itself elsewhere - here I just want to talk about what is different with this deluxe version.
Apart from having a slightly different box, the deluxe limited edition also has a second disc with three unreleased bonus tracks and audio commentary describing the music. This disc also has on it the music video for 'Dance Tonight', directed by Michel Gondry (who recently directed The Science of Sleep and has a lot of music video/advert experience) and stars McKenzie Crook (probably best known as Gareth from The Office and a zombie pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean) - I enjoyed the video, though I probably wouldn't watch it more than a few times.
There are also six foldout color postcard-sized photos. The photos and bonus tracks are nice but it's the commentary that really sets the deluxe edition apart. On it, Paul gives insights into individual tracks as well as mentioning that the album title came after he had finished all the music. Paul has claimed that "Memory Almost Full" is a phrase intended to sum up our reaction to the modern world and the way we are bombarded with so much information.
What he doesn't mention is that "Memory Almost Full" is an anagram of "for my soulmate LLM". I wonder if that is intentional?
on 3 June 2007
Just before I talk about the album I'd like to point out that this Limited Edition one appears to be exactly the same as the normal album but has a little extra booklet with it. Other than that, they're identical.
As someone who doesn't religiously follow Paul McCartney's output I expected this album to be a bit out of touch and uninteresting. I couldn't have been more wrong! It's a well balanced collection of tracks mixing different styles and always providing the kind of great music that sticks in your head hours after the song is finished.
The opening track 'Dance Tonight' is fun and catchy but the upbeat Mandolin sound did worry me that the rest of the album would just be a retread of Wings-era McCartney. By the time the excellent 'Mr. Bellamy' came on any doubts had faded. 'Mr. Bellamy' is my favourite track of the album: a jaunty, hazy, arty song which makes me smile and want to move my head about in a silly fashion in time with the tune. Spread across the rest of the album are other tracks that make you feel like moving (the energetic 'House of Wax' particularly) but also some more relaxed, laid back ones such as 'See You Sunshine' and a nice bit of high pitched Falsetto from 'You Tell Me'.
All in all this is a varied, enjoyable collection of tunes that it would be easy to understate the quality of simply because we've come to expect excellent music from McCartney. As someone coming to it thinking it might be boring, I was blown away and enjoy this as much (if not more) than other music I listen to from younger artists. The real quality is in the variety.
on 7 July 2007
IN MY OPINON HIS BEST SINCE FLAMING PIE. GIVE THIS MAN CREDIT HE TRIES TO DO DIFFERENT STYLES OF MUSIC UNLIKE MOST BANDS OUT THERE, WHERE THEY GET A HIT SIMGLE AND EVERYTHING ELSE TENDS TO STAY IN THE SAME FORMAT IE: IT SOUNDS THE SAME.
YOU MUST PLAY THIS ALBUM 3 OR 4 TIMES TO START TO GET INTO IT LIKE MOST OF PAULS ALBUMS. HE SEEMS TO HAVE GONE BACK TO A WINGS SOUND OF 74 WITH "ONLY MAMA KNOWS"WHICH I LOVE. MY FAVES ARE " MR BELLAMY", VINTAGE CLOTHES AND FEET IN THE CLOUDS.
THE ONLY DOWNER IS THAT I THINK HE IS TRYING TO SING SONGS THAT ARE TOO HIGH FOR HIS VOCALS ESPECIALLY "YOU TELL ME".
I EVEN GET THE SENSE THAT PAUL MAYBE WINDING DOWN AS HE THINKS ABOUT HIS LIFE WHICH SEEMS TO COME OUT IN THE TRACK " THE END OF THE END".
SO PLEASE PLEASE PLAY THIS A FEW TIMES BEFORE YOU START TO KNOCK IT.
BUT I DO HOPE HE DOES TOUR OVER HERE NEXT YEAR AS HE IS FANTASTIC LIVE EVEN AT 65
on 6 June 2007
It must be me,
but I really don't know what's going on here. Being a life long follower of Paul McCartney I am becoming more and more disappointed with his offerings. Since the wonderful "Flaming Pie" and the losing of Linda he seems to have lost his way. I thought he was on his way back after a few good songs on "Chaos and Creation" and when I heard that this album returned to the "Wings" sound I immediately pre-ordered my copy. The album starts well with the wonderfully simple "Dance Tonight" and followed by "Ever Present Past" a typical catchy McCartney song. Even the third song "See Your Sunshine" keeps the momentum going; "Only Mama Knows" is a good solid rocker, unfortunately that's where everything ends. Too many woo woo's and ooooooooo ooooooo's and McCartney screaming his way through the tracks and the voice just not making it. Especially on "You Tell Me" where the falsetto voice almost made my ears bleed. Somebody should tell him that he hasn't the voice he had, so drop it down an octave or three!!!
"Gratitude" is just awful, purely because of the way McCartney screams (sorry) sings it. "Vintage Clothes" is better but instead of continuing with the fast beat it opens with it keeps stopping with a slower chorus, very strange. "That Was Me" follows immediately as part of a medley and is a very catchy glimpse of his past.
All the songs have really interesting parts but seem to lose direction. "Feet in the Clouds" is a good example, a nice slower number, but the "I find it very very very very very very hard" part makes me think that he didn't know what else to sing. He is indeed finding it hard.
"House of Wax" is full of high pitched singing and woo woo's....again McCartney thrashing his way through the vocals accompanied by heavy guitar riffs.
"Nod Your Head"....oh dear!
I seem to be going against the grain of many of the reviews so have a listen and make up your own minds. I suppose for me I have more problems with the standard of the vocals than anything else. How people can insist McCartney's voice is still as good as ever beats me. Maybe after a few more listens the album will grow, although this will never be a favourite.
on 16 June 2007
This is a good album. If not quite great, it certainly contains many glimpses of this man's greatness, more so than the last album in my opinion. 'Chaos' seemed to see McCartney to quote Mrs Thatcher's famous quote of the Liberal Party playing the fuddled fiddle in the muddled middle". Here McCartney storms back with a much more personal and focused album, despite being a mixture of new and four year old material. For example the falsetto ballad You Tell Me' is similar to Chaos' Jenny Wren" but is more moving because it is written in the first person rather than about some Wren character...the sort which Lennon hated... 'he makes them up like a novelist' he remarked with some disdain in 1980. The lyrics here are not brilliant but at least they serve some purpose!
'Only Mama Knows' is the best rocker he has produced since....since 'Old Siam Sir' probably. And that was 28 years ago! It's a great rocker and deserves the Plastic Ono Band instruction to Play Loud! 'Mr Bellamy' is impressive whimsical McCartney. Third party lyrics maybe but the musical wackiness make up for this. The opener 'Dance Tonight' is proof conclusive that you don't need more than three chords to make a good song. Like Status Quo at their best. Although I can hardly imagine them covering this one! No this one is uniquely Mccartney, although will somone please tell me the difference between a mandolin used here and a ukekele used to such effect by McCartney at the Concert For George concert?
The best track here for me is 'That Was Me'. Great melody and great vocals both in the first two verses and then in the screaming final verse. This one will bring a smile to your face. Like Dylan on his superb last album, these elder statesmen have still got what it takes. Which is supremely pleasing. 'Cos I was starting to wonder about Paul comparing his last album to Paul Simon and Bob Dylan's latest. I needn't have worried. After listening to this track one can not help but mourn the fact that there are only two Beatles alive on this planet. Someone give me a Tardis quick to see what John and George are up to! 'House Of Wax' is also very moving with very distinctive McCartney guitar, reminiscent of the solo on 'Once Upon A Long Ago' from 1987. 'Vintage Clothes' on first listening is an oddity but now is a fine track. Original. And that's not easy from someone who's been doing this for 45 years.
'Gratitude' is the weak link here. Pretty disposable unfortunately, despite a passionate vocal which cannot lift this song above mediocrity. The backing vocals are just annoying. But the album closes with 'End Of The End' and 'Nod Your Head' which see Paul at two ends of his musical scale. The former is a decent ballad about death which is not quite the classic it could be. 'Nod Your Head' is amusing, reminds me of 'Rinse The Raindrops' from Driving Rain (2001). I couldn't help wondering if the lyric 'better than staying in bed' was a belated dig at John and Yoko. Or maybe it was just a line to rhyme with Nodd Your Head.
Who cares? I think that John Lennon would find this album eminently listenable. Who knows what he might have accomplished had he not been shot by The Biggest Loser? But at least we have a decent Paul album in 2007. That is a cause for celebration. And the bass paying by the way is a tour de force on many tracks. I think someone may have reminded him that this is one of his greatest qualities. Worth buying for the bass playing on 'That Was Me' alone.
on 18 June 2007
Some of the reviews on this site for this album make my blood boil. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, those reviewers who trashed this album because it is different to the last one and the saintly Nigel Godrich isn't on it, need their ears syringing out. And are these all supposed to be reviews of the album?- some of them (the ones who aren't doing an assassination of it) read more like bubble-gum entries on a My Space blog. And the reviewer who really takes the biscuit here is the one who compares "Mr Bellamy" to "some of ELO's records"- does he know anything about the Beatles and McCartney? Even the most uninformed of listeners could tell you that ELO openly stole their entire sound (not "some ELO records") from Abbey Road-era Beatles, especially McCartney's songs. I don't think McCartney would bother stealing the sound back from them- he invented it. You may as well say he's stealing the Beatles sound from Oasis.
"Memory Almost Full" is naturally a very different affair to "Chaos and Creation" where Nigel Godrich (quite rightly on the whole) put him in a musical strait-jacket to produce something less indulgent than the messy and overblown "Driving Rain" (which nonetheless had some decent numbers on it). Before the release of "Memory Almost Full" my worst fear was that McCartney would, as he has in the past, lurch from one great album like "Chaos", where he is carefully controlled and channelled by a producer who isn't afraid to tell him what is good and what isn't, to being demob happy and doing something sloppy and indulgent (as he did when he followed up "Flaming Pie" with "Driving Rain" or, even further back, the superb "Flowers In the Dirt" which was followed by the lacklustre "Off The Ground").
But thankfully age has brought wisdom and we are living in an age where Macca is a lot keener to protect his legacy. "Memory Almost Full" manages to make a run of two very strong albums in a row. Yes, it is a return to the Wings sound on the whole, and Wings in my opinion where not always that great, especially early on, but this is Wings on a very good day, with some excellent songs that mix an earlier sound with the quality of writing seen on" Chaos". And I love hearing McCartney writing more about his early days in Liverpool, as on "That Was Me" which is long overdue.
I had to laugh at the review here by Mcfabb's Emporium- are you really a lifelong McCartney fan as you state, or are you Nigel Godrich writing under a pseudonym? It reminded me of Nigel Godrich's patronising attitude when he said in an interview about the making of "Chaos and Creation" that he had sat Paul down at the start and played him a selection of his past songs and albums, pointing out which ones he thought were good and which ones hadn't worked and why! ("Sorry Paul, said Nigel, but I really don't think "Hey Jude" cut the mustard as a single -too long and indulgent- perhaps you'd like Uncle Nige to delete it from your back catalogue for you?") And then he went on to imply that he had wanted to produce a decent album for Paul, because the poor lad had produced so much mediocrity of late and wasn't capable of producing something passable without Uncle Nigel's help. The nerve of the man!
Well Nigel (and Mcfabb's Emporium) - David Kahne has produced something just as good in its own way with "Memory Almost Full", and Paul has managed to put together a superb collection of songs without your patronising help! And while I wouldn't deny that "Chaos" is a great album, there was on the whole much more of Nigel Godrich on it than Paul McCartney, which a lot of us real McCartney fans don't always appreciate. "Memory Almost Full" is a top notch album precisely because it sounds like Paul McCartney, at his best. And he sounds more cheerful which does us all good- "Chaos" was a bit miserable wasn't it?
He can do it without you, Nigel! Long live "Memory Almost Full"!!
on 25 May 2007
After the dark Chaos & Creation album from 2005, McCartney returns with a more later period Wings-like popalbum in 2007. The songs sound fresh and are cleverly arranged. Macca seems to have found his popsensibility again, without losing his edgy side.
8 songs on the album are great, the other 5 are less stellar, but no drag either.
Here is a song-by-song review of the album:
"Dance Tonight" is an upbeat simple popsong, written and played on a banjo. It gets three stars ***
"Ever Present Past" is more substantial than DT. I especially like the chorus bit... "I think I do I did...". Reminds me a bit of the "Driving Rain" title track. The guitar bit in the middle is also interesting. Note the flute at the end, which sounds like the one The Beatles used on the Magical Mistery Tour album. I rank this 4 stars ****
"See You Sunshine". Starts similar to the song "Tiny Bubble" from Driving Rain, but it is more satisfying than that one. It has a nice laid back feel. I rank this ***,5 stars
"Only Mama knows". When I saw the title, I didn't expect the song i was about to hear. This is great!! Think "About You" from Driving Rain. Intelligent hooks, great guitars, great speed and great voice!! He can still do it! I rank this ***** stars.
"You Tell Me" Nice song (a slow Blue Bird), but I am not a fan of Macca using his falsetto (high Voice). Ranking: *** stars (one point less because of the high voice)
"Mister Bellamy" Another unexpected song. Does not sound like anything he did before. Interesting arrangement, great voice and melodic. Reminds a bit of the old 10cc. A strong **** stars
"Gratitude". Great voice, and arrangement. Reminds me of a slower version of the song "Souvenir" from Flaming Pie and of the song "Call Me Back Again " of Venus & Mars. A grower! ****.
"Vintage Clothes". Sounds like a song from the Wings album "London Town" called "Famous Groupies",. It has an interesting rythm, harmony and guitar arrangement. ****
"That Was Me" starts similar to his song for the "Vanilla Sky" movie. The chorus is fab. A strong ****!
"Feet In The Clouds" Not the best lyrics, but the song is great musically (fab vocals arrangement). In spite of the lyrics I give this ****.
"House Of Wax"... woow! Macca goes Ozzy! A very powerful ballad, with a lot of echo, orchestra and guitar distortion. *****
In "End Of The End" he sings about his moment he will die and the way he whish the things will be at his funeral and about him going to the other side... very nice atmosphere. Reminds of "This Never Happened Before" from Chaos & Creation. Nice. ***
"Nod Your Head" Great, great ending but much too short! It leaves wanting more. ****
Special note: the bass playing of Paul on this album is very good!
Conclusion: an interesting album, with a good mix of ballads, uptempo pop and rock. It surely wil end up as one of better albums of Macca. My overall score is about ****, which means "good".
Recommended to both Macca fans and people who 'just' like great pop/rock music.