on 7 January 2004
I bought this album on vinyl when I was about 15 (in 1982 or so) - having already exhausted the Beatles back catalogue, I set about moving onto the solo releases - but isn't that what everyone does? - and I absolutely loved it.
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.
on 2 September 2011
The music: shows the inventiveness of Paul McCartney at a high in 1970; and while these are the offcuts of his work - not really finished as they could have been by the band - the quality is such that they give great enjoyment still.
The sound quality: is clearly stronger than the 1993 remaster, particularly the quality of the vocals.
The extras: include two out-takes (less finished than the tracks that made the cut) and alternative version of Oo You and 4 live tracks, including two versions of Maybe I'm Amazed one from 1974 and one from 1979. The most surprising extra is probably the 1979 Hot as Sun - a surprise that he is still playing this 9 years later and a surprise that it sounds so strong.The extras disc, then, is also well worth having.
on 16 July 2011
If you don't have this album, why buy it? This is not your typical polished Macca album. It was recorded pretty much at home (plus some sessions in Abbey Road and Morgan Studios) - more like a series of demos than 'the final product' - in the wake of the Beatles' split. All the more fascinating for that; it includes McCartney's final take on Teddy Boy (demoed for the Beatles, never used) and the raw, soulful Maybe I'm Amazed. If the songs here were taken forward to a 'produced' album, which would have been included? McCartney has recently (MOJO mag, Aug 2011) cited tracks Junk and Maybe I'm Amazed as "woulds" and That Would Be Something as a "maybe".
If you already have a copy: is it worth replacing it with this remaster? YES. Mastered by the same team that remastered the Beatles' catalogue, the result is clear, 'close-to-mic' and - appropriately for this intimate 'DIY' album - as literal as it could be. The sound quality is amazing...
The card packaging for this reissue is good: a booklet with all the shots from the original album, and more. The second CD is basically a selection of live tracks (Glasgow, '79) and some out-takes. But the value is in the remaster of the original album; that's well worth the asking price.
Paul McCartney's first solo release after leaving The Beatles is a simple, charming, homemade album, with some tracks emitting an unfinished demo-like aura which, strangely enough, is the appeal of this real gem in Paul's back catalogue. I bought this album for the first time nearly 20 years ago and it has been a regular visitor to my CD player ever since. There are many things about this release which make it so likeable - there are classic McCartney compositions such as the gorgeous "Every Night", the beautiful "Junk" and the timeless, impeccable "Maybe I'm Amazed", which remains one of the greatest love songs ever written by any artist. There are also tracks which are the sound of McCartney letting go, jamming and making music for music's sake, such as the fantastic "Momma Miss America" and the catchy, bluesy "Oo You".
Paul raids a couple of his previously written or unfinished compositions such as "Hot As Sun", an instrumental written in the late `50s, and "Teddy Boy" which was written in 1968 but never appeared on a Beatles release (apart from the "Anthology"). The rest are experimental, enjoyable glimpses into Paul's newly found creativity as a solo artist. The whole album is an interesting statement from somebody who has found a new, unwanted artistic license to do anything he pleases - and "McCartney" is his response. I readily admit that I love this album, despite the flaws and the indulgences, but the warmth and playfulness Paul's 1970 release radiates more than compensates for the one or two moments which don't quite work.
This album is probably one of the greatest responses to the people who criticise Paul's post-Beatles output without knowing the depth of his catalogue. Some of the tracks gained exposure thanks to Cameron Crowe's great film, "Jerry Maguire", which featured "Singalong Junk" and "Momma Miss America" but this fantastic slice of McCartney remains one of the best kept secrets in Paul's closet. If you want a real treat, then invest in this album, but be warned - it may make you want to buy everything that Paul has ever released. I know I did - and I didn`t regret it.
Though his three mates had all issued solo albums, both John and George's were experimental whilst Ringo's was one of old time standards so McCartney's offering could be considered the first 'real' solo release by a Beatle. The problem is, many thought it was a bit of a cop-out . The opinion at the time was that the instrumentals were included because he struggled to fill it with anything worthwhile. The Beatles rarely went near such things for public consumption and the five here was considered far too many. (One, 'Singalong Junk', was just take one of the song before a second attempt added vocals.)
Of the rest, 'The Lovely Linda' is less than a minute long, 'Junk' was demoed in India in 1968 and another, 'Teddy Boy', half heartedly recorded by the group but probably stymied by Lennon who didn't seem to care for it. The standout track is 'Maybe I'm Amazed' and why it was never issued as a single is still a mystery 46 years later. Yes, he plays all the instruments but there's something lacking in the whole thing. I can only think it's the absence of his three mates to give it that added sparkle. It also caused a not insignificant amount of consternation, as he deliberately scheduled it for release at the same time as the Beatles' next LP.
Now remastered as part of his 'Archive' series, there's an added CD comprising live tracks, demos and alternate versions. Now, there's a reason why any 'bonus' songs included on a CD never found a contemporary release; it's because, for the most part, they aren't as good as those that did get issued. The second CD here contains seven tracks.
SUICIDE: There's a snippet of this after 'Glasses' on the first CD and when Frank Sinatra asked if McCartney had a song for him, he offered up this. The title may have been a reason why it was turned down. It's an incomplete demo in that there's some mumbling where other words would have gone had it been taken further.
MAYBE I'M AMAZED: A studio version recorded for an [at the time] unreleased film with enough vocal and backing differences to make it interesting.
EVERY NIGHT: Taken from a live show in Glasgow in 1979.
HOT AS SUN: A surprisingly live rendition of a catchy instrumental and it seems as if the audience aren't too sure what to make of it.
MAYBE I'M AMAZED: From that same Glasgow performance. As with the preceding two, this is significantly longer than its studio counterpart and was always the highlight of his early live shows.
DON'T CRY BABY: This is an alternate tracking take of 'Oo You' with some foregoing studio chatter. It's not wildly different and all rather nondescript.
WOMEN KIND: An acoustic demo about the trials and tribulations of being a female. It does have a questionable hook, which would have had to be changed had it been taken further. There aren't many words but that isn't the point; it's the mere fact it's included that matters.
Even though some of the songs were of a questionable quality and spanned the previous decade ('Hot As Sun' had been noodled with over the years), it was a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic when first released. His main problem was that he had no one to bounce ideas off and admitted as much years later. It's melodic enough to still be a decent listen, though I don't think the instrumentals will be played that many times.
I remember how this album was panned by the clever-clever critics when it was first released. Perhaps people expected something as good as 'Abbey Road'. Or perhaps they were blaming Paul for the breakup of the Beatles. Or perhaps it was too easy to write 'Paul McCartney has issued a good record' so they took the opposite line.
Either way, the criticisms were largely unfair: this is a warm, intensely personal album with some classic tracks that everyone recognises over forty years later.
The remix is very, very good - a clarity has been introduced that wasn't there before and the positioning of the instruments is precise. It's even possible to pick up a couple of glitches that were largely unheard before - remember that a lot of this album was home-recorded. That starts with 'The Lovely Linda' which McCartney recorded whilst he was getting to know his new home equipment.
I won't list every track: some of them are instrumentals and fillers really (hence four stars and not five), but others are classics. 'Every Night' is one such - a hugely melodic sing-along that once heard can never be forgotten.
'Junk' dates back to the Beatles visit to India and was around whilst they were still together. As was 'Teddy Boy' - a track I have on a Beatles bootleg that I feel sure would have made it to the next Beatles album had they stayed together.
'Maybe I'm Amazed' is the stand-out and is still part of the McCartney repertoire today, cheered at each live performance. There are a couple of first-class performances of this on the bonus disk.
After the breakup of the Beatles, McCartney was uncertain, lacking in confidence and wondering whether he could still make it after spending almost all his adult life in the world's first and biggest supergroup. This album proved his immense talent and his ability to carve a new career as a solo artist.
In its remastered form it is a good purchase and highly recommended. Over forty years later, the critics have gone but the album remains.
on 16 February 2012
Paul McCartney doesn't seem to view his work in the same way his peers in the pop world view theirs. Perhaps it's a hangover from those two-albums-a-year Beatles days. He doesn't make two albums a year these days, for which we should probably be grateful. But he isn't seeking to make masterpieces either. His post-Beatles albums can mostly be summed up as: these are the songs I've got knocking about at the moment and if you don't like this one, you might like that one; and if you don't like any of them, you might like something on the next album. He doesn't always finish everything off, or make the best of every idea. Quite a lot of half-baked ideas get through the net - if there is a net.
I'm not saying that's necessarily a good way to create a body of work. It isn't the way most pop stars work, certainly. However it is the way a lot of very credible and mostly obscure artists work. And they get away with it because they were never in The Beatles and the genius evident in a proportion of their work has never received the recognition it deserved. And it never will do, because they were never in The Beatles and their albums only contain glimpses of genius amongst a lot of half-baked and probably bad ideas.
McCartney has made some "proper" pop albums (Tug Of War springs to mind). This isn't one of them. Other reviews here outline the story behind this - his first solo album. Suffice to say that not every track is finished, not every track has a great idea behind it, and some tracks probably don't have any idea behind them at all.
But two of the tracks are Maybe I'm Amazed and Every Night. And if that doesn't mean anything to you then you should buy at least the cheaper version of this album. Because they're two of the finest pop songs anyone has ever written. (It's a testament to McCartney's talent that playing every instrument on Maybe I'm Amazed, he conjures up what you'd imagine a Beatles version would have sounded like.) And there's enough other decent stuff here to merit the purchase.
What comes between those tracks is a mixed bag. This isn't an album so much as a scrapbook. It's music made for McCartney's own amusement. When The Lovely Linda breaks down after 40 seconds, his laugh suggests he made it up on the spot to get her attention - and got it. Maybe it's self-indulgent. But it's charmingly self-indulgent. And oddly, the Liverpudlian with the London house and the Scottish farm somehow made a record with a remarkably Americana feel.
This isn't a proper album. This is mostly Macca mucking about. It isn't the best record ever made. And that isn't the end of the world. There's some fun to be had here. If you want it, here it is, come and get it. And if you don't like this one, there'll be another one along in a bit. He's not the Messiah; he's a talented boy making music for the hell of it.
on 24 September 2013
So this was it: the end of the Beatles. Although Ringo Starr had released his Sentimental Journey a month earlier, nothing on it actively suggested the band was finished. Meanwhile, McCartney casually told the world (via a press release bundled in with the album) the Beatles were splitting up. It's not surprising that it met with some hostility, particularly from the other Beatles. Paul had not been the first to leave the band, yet he pulled the ripcord in public. (He did this a month before the release of Let It Be, which put a lot of extra pressure on the band's unintended swansong.)
Given its turbulent back-story and place in the group's dissolution, it seems sensible to expect a grand statement from McCartney musically as well as historically. But it's not like that. McCartney is a deliberately low-key record, largely composed of instrumentals and sweet songs knocking around for years beforehand. It's self-produced, played and sung by McCartney entirely solo, and lyrically offers no grand statements on the Beatles, life, or anything. At first glance it's an album Paul could just as easily have put out years earlier, with the Beatles still going beside it. If you think of it as the album Paul decided to make at the expense of the Beatles, it may well disappoint.
If you can cut through the history and expectation, there is much to like. "Junk" is a beautiful tune, lilting and sad. Though it's tempting to read into the lyrics ("bye bye, says the sign in the shop window, why, why says the junk in the yard") as end-of-the-band melancholy, the song pre-dates the break-up. However, the mood is appropriate. It's reprised as a more haunting instrumental later on, which serves to suggest "Junk" (no pun intended) as the album's theme, if there is one.
Elsewhere, the music is entirely jolly and laidback. "The Lovely Linda" seems cloying and dopey, the sort of thing other Beatles would veto; without them, here it stays. Similar goes for "Teddy Boy", a very Paul-ish narrative ejected from Let It Be. "Man We Was Lonely" has such a pleasant bounce you wouldn't know it was hurriedly "given lyrics one day after lunch", and "That Would Be Something" seems cheerfully improvised, with Paul muttering in place of drum fills.
More important thematically, "Every Night" describes Linda McCartney's importance to Paul, and works as a gentle domestic counterpart to the album's one raucous moment (and probable highlight), "Maybe I'm Amazed". Less momentous, the various instrumentals barely register after they're finished, pleasant though they are.
Without the instrumentation of George, the biting wit of John or the production of anybody, the songs on McCartney can seem maddeningly slight. That's presumably the point: here is an album that won't try to conquer worlds or change music the way Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper's did. It's an unfortunate irony that it's still expected to do so, with Paul's sense of timing (and choice of press release) partly to blame. It seems even worse in hindsight, with All Things Must Pass and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band making more direct efforts to tackle the end-of-the-Beatles hype, leaving McCartney in an almost irrelevant place. However, that's all hype and history: this is just Paul making music, and on those terms it's a sweet, honest effort.
on 20 October 2011
This re-released edition of the 1970 album MCCARTNEY is certainly worth purchasing to hear what I think is an enjoyable album and sounds like it's just come from the "Let It Be" Beatle Sessions.
The instrumentals might not be that special, but tracks like "Man We Was Lonely" and "That Would Be Something" are catchy tunes. The highlights of the album though are "Every Night" and the wonderful "Maybe I'm Amazed".
This edition also features a 2nd CD with material from some live performances and unreleased songs in the studio.
Overall I find this a must buy for any Beatle/McCartney fan and I hope you find like me that it is a good album, and possibly one of Macca's best post-Beatle ones too!
on 1 September 2004
After, I must shamefully admit, not having owned this album in over twenty-six years, I picked it up again last week, and the spell was cast hard on me, once again.
This is McCartney circa Let It Be, already convinced that The Beatles were over and that there was plenty of music in him that needed to be let out. And, like a poet's notebook, it has the breadth of themes that you expect from someone who's searching for new languages rather than planning to present a finished, solid statement to the public.
Of course, being Paul, you don't get the benefit of exploring musically without being condemned for not attempting a masterpiece, so many then, and now, may have discarded "McCartney" as self-indulging, inconsistent or a bunch of rough ideas.
Actually, I go on record as saying that it is the "unfinished" or "demo" quality of this album that accounts for part of its immense charm. Furthermore, the apparent freedom Paul gave himself recording these tunes, I believe, has a lot to do with the gems he included here. After all, this is where you'll find the original version of "Maybe I'm Amazed," to this date one of his greatest songs ever.
In addition to such classic, there are several other songs that were or could have been Beatles classics. "Junk" is a gorgeous ballad that reminds you why this man continues to be revered as a sensitive songwriter and singer, "Every Night" is irresistible Pop, and "Man We Was Lonely" and That Would Be Something" are signature McCartney and a preview of what would be so appealing about Ram.
This is a document of an extremely talented young man trying to get to the joy of making music that had eluded him for a long time, weighed down by the tremendous pressure of being in the greatest band that ever was.
Listen to this, or listen again, for what it is, a work of charm, courage, and often breathtaking beauty.