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.
on 15 October 2013
Music is such a personal thing. McCartney whether it be Beatles, Wings or Solo has been part of my life. 70's, 80's, 90's and now 00's - he's there. Every album, without exception always has a few cracking tunes on it. How many cracking tunes is debatable. I often go back to old albums and suddenly find something I wasn't interested in ten years ago rings true to me now. It's remarkable really - he did all the Beatle stuff and still comes back with more - every single album! Those that write him off as being too old, clearly spend too much time reading the Daily Mail - remember we all get old. His voice has aged, but it doesn't in my mind at least, detract from the fact he can still write amazing melodic tunes that always have me going back for more.
This album is no exception. But perhaps it is an exception, because there's more cracking stuff on here than on many of his previous attempts. Twists and turns, lovely bridges and that constant bass - the McCartney bass! Two days after release it's too early to tell whether it'll be a laster (initial impressions tell me it is). I thought Memory Almost Full was great when I first heard it, but I find it too loud and get tired after a few songs. This is different. How can he be 71? Only one song tells you his age and that's clearly done on purpose.
Go listen - and if you're not too busy reading the Daily Mail go listen to it again!
on 17 October 2013
The first listen of a new McCartney collection of songs serves as an introduction. The second and subsequent listens gradually and finally unfolds the familiar ground of McCartney's melodic genius in both its obvious and subtle forms. New is a typically textured McCartney album - all the genres are there both modern and traditional in style. The melodies are infectious. I've played the album repeatedly to the point that it is not only on my ipod but also uploaded and playing repeatedly in my head especially Alligator and Queenie Eye. Worth the wait.
on 17 October 2013
Update 30/01/14 - Macca has just won the "Rock Song of the Year 2013" award at the grammy's for "Cut Me Some Slack" which is performed with the ex Nivarna band members. It can be found on the "Sound City - Reel to Reel" album which is a mixture of artists writing songs and performing with the ex Nirvana band (Stevie Nicks is pretty good too!)
Cut Me Some Slack is one of his best "Magical" songs and fits nicely after Appreciate on a remix of this album. Since my first review I also have to admit that "Early Days" is a classic and has now joined the "Magical Tune" section. This is a very good album that warrants repeat plays and if you cheat (like me!) and add the grammy winner it upgrades the album to 4.5 stars and one of his best even if "On My Way To Work" is still frustrating the life out of me as it should also have been a classic!
Original review - This is a pleasant Macca album (Forget paying for the 3 bonus deluxe tracks though) and we should not compare everything to his many finest moments so cut him some slack!
But my Beatle influence theory takes a knock here. After working on the Beatles Anthology the superb Flaming Pie followed. Then many more Beatle tunes found their way into live concerts and the excellent Chaos & Creation, Memory Almost Full and Electric Arguments followed. So what has happened after Good Evening New York City!
The above albums were packed with those unique Beatle "Magical Tunes" and the reason a star is dropped here is simply the missing Magical Tunes. This is best summed up by "On My Way to Work" and "New". The former had the potential of "We Can Work It Out" but loses itself midway through and an annoying guitar blasts in which sounds out of place. "New" though a trademark catchy tune likewise just falls short of finding that extra spark.
The ballads "Early Days" and "Hosanna" have promise but fall just short of the quality of "Somedays", "End of The End", Heaven On A Sunday", or "Jenny Wren". Likewise there is nothing of the quality of "That Was Me", "Young Boy", "Dance Till We're High", "Only Mamma Knows ""Highway" or "Light From Your Lighthouse" etc.
Yet compared to other artists you have to admire the master craftsman at work here and an album that is still going to give much pleasure as he has the skill to make average songs good and dodgy songs into decent fillers. It does sound disjointed with the 4 producers and the album lacks a purpose and feel compared too much of his work. Save Us is a decent opening rocker and there are several catchy "7 out of 10" songs such as Alligator and Queenie Eye as well as the songs mentioned above. Fans will enjoy this but it is not a going to be considered a classic - just very good.
on 21 December 2013
Pau McCartney has since 'Flaming Pie' produced a series of interesting, if not to everyone's taste, solo albums of which this is the latest and perhaps the most accessible since 'Flaming Pie'. It contains some of his most succinct pop songs in years starting with a wonderful rock track 'Save Us' and leading to tracks that cover his past and present, it is less ruminative than 'Memory Almost Full'. Working with his touring band gives the album a camaraderie that an albums made with session musicians sometimes lack, also I am generally not a fan of multi producer albums which tend to be a bit inconsistent, but the producers on this including Ethan Johns, Mark Ronson and Giles Martin seem to gel. So what you have with this is a really good McCartney solo album his best since...well you pick your favourite.
on 5 December 2013
OK, so I am a biased all things Beatles fan, and I have all of his albums (apart from the last covers one), but I approached this album with trepidation. The last few albums have not been particular favourites, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but this is a cracker! From the very first few notes of the first song right through to the end, this album is excellent. Catchy songs which are still going round in my head weeks after the first listen. There are some intensely personal songs on here, from the early days of The Beatles through to his feelings for his new wife. A range of musical styles are used, with some of the tracks echoing early Beatles, others mid/late Beatles, some sound like Wings, and all refreshingly up-to-date and distinctly Macca! My favourite McCartney album since Band On The Run - recommended.
on 14 October 2013
"I Can Bet" imo is one of the top four songs on the album, along with "New" , "Queenie Eye" , and "Save Us" . I'm not sure what my running order is with those three, but I think "I Can Bet " is the most obvious next single on the album - cracking chorus...
"Queenie Eye" sounds a bit like recent Gary Barlow / Take That - and that's by no means a criticism.
Apart from the songs mentioned, I'm not sure if there is a song on this album as good as "From A Lover To A Friend" , "Fine Line" , "Mr . Bellamy" or " I Want to Come Home". It is early days though, and only my opinion.
Speaking of "Early Days", the song reminds me of "The Songs we were singing".
Love the lyric "there but for the grace of god go you and I - do some good before you say goodbye " from "Everybody Out There". Very poignant.
My early impression is that Paul Epworth's overall production is the most effective and impressive. Good drummer too...
Paul is on a hiding to nothing. If the new sounds are "edgy" , he is accused of trying to hard.If He sticks to tried and tested methods, he is accused of not trying hard enough .... jeez !
Finally , at 71 - his voice is great. Very little evidence of autotune here, and some fragile moments, but apparently Ethan Johns for one was using first takes!
Can people just accept that his voice is not the same as it was when he was 25 ? How could it possibly be? Unlike other guys his age , Paul actually works hard , and performs constantly . Wear and tear is inevitible , and on this album , he still manages some wonderful vocals - (not least the soaring notes on Alligator)
These are my initial (disjointed) thoughts . They may evolve !
In fact , now on my fourth listen, and some of my percieved "lesser" songs are already growing on me . One of them being "Looking at Her" . 4.5 out of 5 stars. May soon be 5 ....
Edited after 7 listens . Now five stars !
After two days repeated listining , I'd like to add this proper song by song review :-
Ok, proper song by song review :
Save Us - Classic uptempo McCartney.Could be from BOTR, BTTE, Flowers in The Dirt , Off The ground or Flaming Pie. In a perfect world , this would be a massive hit single. Love the little "Queen" bit . 9/10
Alligator - starts off like a Driving Rain song - the chorus sounds a bit like a LIly Allen Song ! Impressive high register vocals for someone whose voice is apparently "Shot"! 7/10.
On My Way To Work - Ok song.Doesn't really do much , but is a pleasant listen nonetheless. Melody is quite catchy , but the tempo is pedestrian. 6/10
Queenie Eye - WOW ! Great arrangement, Great performance ,quirky, majestic,great chords. A 100 carat gold single if I ever heard one . Again in a perfect world....
This sounds like Gary Barlow/Take That trying to sound like the Beatles!
Early Days - One that has really grown on me . Tender, fragile and poignant. For those who think Paul's voice has [i]suddenly[/i] deteriorated, I find this song AND performance incredibly reminiscent of "The Songs We Were Singing" from "Flaming Pie" 16 years ago...
New - classic swinging 60's Macca. Infectuous , clever and upbeat. "Penny Lane" meets "Got to get you into my life". I see from the sleeve notes, that it has real horns on it . Despite some peoples thoughts, I always thought they were real - just heavily compressed .Nice work Mark Ronson too ;)
Appreciate - like an updated "Press To play" song reminiscent of "Pretty Little Head". Its not a bad song, but doesn't do enough for me.Good "club" song , but possibly my least favourite on the album along with "Road" and "Struggle" ....
Everybody Out there - straight out of the "Flaming Pie/Off The Ground " school of McCartney tracks. I have mixed feelings in the extreme here. The "Everybody out There" bit seems contrived and meaningless, while the "there but for the grace of god" bit , is both musically and lyrically beautiful - so on balance ...
Hossana - At first I thought this was incredibly ordinary. At day two I now think it is understated but beautiful. The chorus knocks me out .Hairs on the back of my neck stuff. This is a bit like "New's" version of Winedark Open Sea. It also reminds me of some of the stuff that Ethan Johns did with Crowded House on the "Time On Earth" album. For the chorus alone ....
I Can Bet - SUPERB! Perfect, clsassic McCartney pop/rock. It has everything. Great performance , and production. Touches of wings - the spirit of Linda on moog ! Quirky new recording touches and arrangement - and a killer catchy chorus. THIS to me is what a number one single sounds like!
Looking At Her - Another one that crept up on me ! Thought little of it first, but the chorus is sublime :) The modern production style works well with the song .
Road - Maybe my least fav after "Appreciate"and "Struggle". It's good enough , and ambitious , but it hasn't caught my imagination .... yet. One of the tracks on the album with more cutting edge production. This also reminds me of "Pretty Little Head" from "Press To Play".
Turned Out - This song sounds like it was written by George Harrison ! Paul said that "Friends to go " from "Chaos" was like a George song - this SO much more so. The melody chords and slide guitar are VERY George.
Get Me Out Of Here - Another one that I thought at first " whats the big deal" , but that has totally changed . McCartney delta blues style! Lo-Fi vocals, great Robert Johnson style acoustic guitar, and Seasick Steve style percussion. This is reminiscent of the Liverpool band "Gomez".
Struggle - An extra track on the Japanese edition. Would fit perfectly on Electric Arguments by The Fireman. I haven't heard this as much as the others , but at the moment sounds very much to me like an experimental Paul B side. If the production was less experimental , I think I'd enjoy the basis of the song more.
Scared - A nice Paul piano ballad, but imo not in the same league as "From a Lover To A Friend", "Your Loving Frame", "This Never happened To Me before" , or "I want to Come Home". That said , it is still a good song.It sounds like a bit of an afterthought though, and with a bit more work on the arrangement, I may have thought more of it.Have to say , a really odd ending to the album...
When all is said and done, I think the person who has made the biggest overall impression on me production wise of the four involved, would have to be Paul Epworth. "Save Us" and "Queenie Eye" are just VERY well made in every way possible...
on 25 October 2015
My son is 6 and could listen to New (the song, not the CD) repeatedly for hours! Not all great, but enough that I can merge with Memory almost full to make a full album of brilliance, which considering how much Macca's written is amazing to achieve
on 18 November 2013
Paul, nay Sir Paul has a very long and productive life as both artist and composer. although many will find some of his works as the best thing since sliced bread, at the same time other works can be a little trite and insubstantial.
on the whole this album fills the brief of good rock based music. although a little light and not his best album still worth a listen to
on 16 October 2013
Since, probably the early nineties, McCartney has (Unfairly) been dismissed by a lot of music critics as a recording artist with nothing more offer, this seems to have taken a great weight of expectancy off McCartney's shoulders, resulting in an outstanding run of studio albums (Flaming Pie, Driving Rain, Chaos & Creation, Memory almost full & Electric Arguments).
This winning streak continues (mostly) with "New".
The big talking point with this new record is the four producers, but oddly if you weren't told of this fact, I don't think you would have guessed, with not a massive amount of diversity in the production of the tracks. There could have been a bit more experimentation; "Appreciate" really the only example of McCartney's left-field attitude to music (most Paul McCartney fans I'm sure are also quite broadminded in their musical tastes & would not have minded a few more challenging songs).
Plus when an artist records with a single producer on a project, they usually build up a strong relationship, with each party bringing something important to the table.
As for the songs themselves, they're mostly quite complex, with lots of over-dubs (I think each producer was trying to stamp their individual mark on the record). On one hand this means that repeated listens to the album unlocks sounds & bit of music you miss on previous listens, but on the other hand it could be deemed over-egging the pudding just a little. It's just a shame there aren't any simple, stripped down tracks which McCartney does so well, to give the record a bit more diversity.
As for the extra tracks, "Turned Out" is a great retro rocker in a similar vain to "Save Us", "Get me out of Here" has a nice bluesy Led Zeppelin feel to it, the hidden track ""How much you mean to me" is your bog standard piano ballad that McCartney can write in his sleep, still worth paying the extra for though.
There is always a unfair hope that McCartney's next album is going to be as good as Sgt Pepper, which I know is ridiculous, but there's always a small part of your brain that always thinks so.
So a good, if not outstanding album, I don't think it's a strong as "Chaos & Creation" & "Memory almost Full", but his done a lot worse in his career.