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Paul McCartney (and Wings)

The Cute One, or the Cutesy One?

Introduction
McCartney
Ram
Wild Life
Red Rose Speedway
Band on the Run
Venus and Mars
At the Speed of Sound
Wings Over America
London Town
Back to the Egg
McCartney II
Tug of War
Pipes of Peace
Give My Regards to Broad Street
Press to Play
Back in the USSR (CHOBA B CCCP)
Flowers in the Dirt
Tripping the Live Fantastic
Off The Ground
Paul Is Live
Flaming Pie
Run Devil Run
Driving Rain
Back in the USA

As the guy who killed the Beatles, Paul McCartney sure squandered his opportunities as a solo artist. I mean, the guy frigging wrote at least half of the songs by the best pop band ever, most of those were excellent if not even more, but give him a solo career and he pretty much pisses it away on softy ballads and pop rock so lightweight it makes 'Martha My Dear' sound like Reign in Blood. McCartney has based a 30-plus year solo career on being 'the cute one' more than being 'the melodic one' or 'the one with more songwriting talent in his arching eyebrow than the entire Tin Pan Alley squatter's district'.  Paul, without someone to light fires under his butt and appeal to his competitive nature like John did in the Beatles, is left free to chase down his own particular musical vision, which for the most part falls squarely in the middle of the road. All of the former Beatles suffered similarly - whatever their worst tendencies were when they were a Beatle tended to dominate their solo work. John could show a sad lack of restraint and good taste, George could be deadly dull and nagging, Ringo, umm...pretty much sucks ass when he doesn't have Paul writing his songs for him, and Paul gets sweeter and sweeter until you're fit to puke.

If you want the short story on Paul, that's it. Dozens of albums and probably four or five CD's full of material that really proves those 'Paul Is Dead' idiots were wrong. Believe the hype. Paul has put out few bad albums, but a whole heaping fuckload of mediocre ones. Most of his albums are full of 'silly love songs', as the title of one of his best ones defiantly proclaims. It's not that Paul's corny...he's really not, and a devotion to love songs and good ol' fashioned gloppy sentimentality isn't necessarily a capital crime 'round these parts. It's that he writes stuff that obviously isn't anything more than what you see on the surface. It's a gleaming, production-perfect, melodic, and pleasurable surface, but it don't go too much deeper'n that.

It's maddening to say the least, especially when Paul lets that little light of his shine in measured doses (happening less and less frequently after the 1970's). In these moments, the Beatle returns, the magic is all around us, and it's like we're bathed in the waters of a genius after suffering through a parched desert.  It shows up the rest of his work as a big sham, either the product of a guy who is too lazy to load his big guns or one who doesn't know what the crap it is he's doing a lot of the time. Paul isn't George, he isn't defiantly sticking to his own philosophical road even as it sends his record sales sinking, and he isn't John, who kept a strong grasp on staying true to his principles (whatever his principles happened to be on that particular day) while keeping half an eye cocked on what the public wanted to buy. This is Paul, and Paul wants to sell records, send singles to Number 1, fill up stadiums, and have everybody love him. I'd say he's one guy whose career can fairly be judged on record sales. By that method of reasoning, considering that Paul's recording career has been about as lively as a cadaver convention since, like, 1983, I'd say that the guy has simply lost his way. And, unfortunately, his most recent albums are some of his least satisfying yet. 

Paul's solo career started out in 1970, after the implosion of the Beatles following the Abbey Road sessions (during which they were almost never in the same room together, I've heard. Say hello to the magic of modern recording technique, boys!) Paul was the first to leave the band publicly, even though John had officially quit during a band meeting some time earlier, and both George and Ringo had stormed out in a huff sometime in the preceding few years. Not only did Paul receive all of the heat for 'killing' the Beatles, he also received some scathing words in the press from the other three, including some legal disputes involving Capitol Records (one of the most successful companies ever run on the 'kleptomaniacal' business model).  So when Paul went in to his home studio to rush out McCartney, his first solo joint, to beat Ringo's solo album to the stores, he was pretty much starting out dry. And when his first several albums failed to deliver for anyone wanting another 'Let It Be' or 'Hey Jude' (and why the hell shouldn't we have expected that?), it took years to gain even the thinnest shred of critical respect. I think he formed Wings in 1972 to try to defray some of the flak...hey, man, don't slam Paul, he's just another guy in the band! Right. Linda McCartney was shouldering half the songwriting load....and I'm the President of the Nudist Man-Boy Love Republican Free-Trader Rifle Club for Christ. (She actually had to 'defend' her songwriting credits in court by demonstrating that she was, in fact, able to string two or three chords together, so maybe she isn't totally hopeless. But come on, it's Linda McCartney. I'm sure she was a lovely lady but John Lennon she most certainly was not.) Denny Laine may have been the former Steve Mariott of the Moody Blues, but this was Paul's show to the end.

The late 70's were nicer to Paul professionally if not artistically - his albums flew off the shelves, his Beatles past was forgotten and forgiven by most fans (a lot of whom were too young to remember or care anyway) who stopped worrying and learned to love the hooky singles, and his Wings Over America tour, his first big outing since 1966, was an unqualified smash. But Paul's megalomaniacal ways got the best of him, and despite a few attempts at sharing the songwriting duties with his sidemen (Wings At The Speed Of Sound mostly) he never could get over Denny Laine's stubborn inability to be a complete spineless wimp and cowtow to his every want. So he dissolved his second band and went on to hit it big in the next couple of years singing duets with black guys whose careers were ten times more successful than Paul's. But that was simply a last gasp...the Eighties were unkind to rock dinosaurs like Paul, and this was no exception. Suddenly, Paul's albums weren't even all that pleasant to listen to anymore, and you were about as likely to see Paul's face on MTV as you were to see Give My Regards to Broad Street winning Oscar nominations. He then spent the more nostalgia-friendly 90's mounting massive, lucrative world tours behind lukewarm albums and then squeezing out the last possible penny by releasing huge, dull live albums from the tours, as if each one would be his very last. Sir Paul still shows few signs of slowing down, making babies and new albums, peace signs and new millions on a regular basis. And as long as he's able to shake his head and 'Whooooo!', there's gonna be people supplying the green.


McCartney - Capitol 1970

Much like his penis, McCartney was dashed off in a few days while alone in his barn. More than anything else, (because there's really very little else) this album shows that, in 1970 at least, Paul could fart for fifteen minutes and have it come out with a hook.  His debut is made up of sketchy, unfinished, repetitive ditties, too loosely constructed to really be called songs, written, performed, and recorded all by The Cute One himself. I heard he even cut off all of those sheep testicles there in the cover shot singlehandedly in a fit of neuterizing rage one Sunday afternoon. The editing is near-retarded, the mixing flawed, and there's not a lot of depth to the recording...the rushed recording shows, even taking into account that Paul was twiddling all the knobs himself. But it's unrelentingly melodic, and though the songs may sound a lot like amateur hour as they're presented here, they're resilient tunes that sound like Paul really 'getting back to where he once belonged'. Take 'That Would Be Something', based around one frigging chorus and one frigging riff repeated about sixteen billion times, but it's a heckofa memorable riff, and the verse ain't so bad, neither. The big hit off the album (well, a live version of it was a hit in 1977 anyway), 'Maybe I'm Amazed' is similar...it's like 'Hey Jude' without the verses, and about as good as that sounds. Meaning, it's fantastic. Paul could take the most rudimentary descending chord sequence and turn it into a towering Space Needle of rock anthemia. So maybe this is the only song on here that probably could stand up with the best of his Beatles work, most of the rest of the album is pretty great. 'Every Night' is easygoing and bright, while 'Junk' pleas sympathy for the rusting, discarded antiques of the world. 'Oo You' is the 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' of the record, a fuzzy, dirty bomb of a tune, sleazy rock of a sort that would soon fall out of favor for Paul. For those of you looking for the cutesy, 1920's bullcrap Paul that we first heard on the White Album with 'Martha My Dear' and 'Honey Pie', only 'Teddy Boy' sorta fits that bill, and it's not near disgusting enough to separate me from my lunch. Hell, it's good too...the only bad songs I suspect are the ones I'm missing from here....my MP3 admittedly leaves off 'Valentine's Day' and 'Kreen/Akrore', a song which I've never heard anyone say a good thing about. Possibly I should reserve judgment until I pull my head from said ass and find these two tracks on Kazaa or something, but laziness has been my excuse before and I'm afraid it'll have to do again. Besides, a song would have to be mighty sucky to ruin my good will towards this record.

McCartney often sounds like it's taking place in some alternate universe where Revolver and Sergeant Pepper's never happened...this is closer to Beatles '65 in spirit than anything since John stood up to Christ. It's a bit shallow in that all the songs are right there on the surface...repeated listens sure don't reveal some lost sax solo buried in the mic or anything...Exile on Main St. this is not. But who cares when the songs are just this good. There's nothing wrong with an easily digestible album of great songs, and Paul would soon have a hard time equaling the hooks that came so easily on this album. The weird thing is that McCartney was slammed all to fuck when it came out, first for being nowhere as compelling as the last Beatles records, a nearly impossible expectation, sure, but lots of people were expecting something other than a bunch of dusty, creaky demos, no matter how melodic they are. And later, after George's monumental All Things Must Pass and John's apocalyptic Plastic Ono Band came out, there was no way that McCartney could be taken in the same breath as those masterpieces. It looked stupid and inconsequential in comparison, like 'Paul split up the Beatles for this?', as misguided as that idea may be. Whatever...now that the years have passed and everyone realizes that the Beatles are, really and truly, not going to get back together again, especially since two of them are in advanced stages of lifendectomy, we can enjoy McCartney for what it is...a melodic, homey pleasure. And that's maybe a bit homely in places, too.

Capn's Final Word: Is this it? Paul does it all himself and all we get are a bunch of cool melodies. Isn't that IT?

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Ram - Capitol 1971.

Now, at least this sounds like a worthy Paul McCartney record, even if the songs aren't obviously as good as the ones on McCartney. I mean, he actually starts and stops his tape recorder at the right times and everything. This album is simply gorgeously recorded, again all by Paul's two hands (other than the drumming and some incidental guitar work by session dudes, and maybe some keyboards and vocals by Linda), and it sounds better in places that a lot of Wings records. And Paul is still happy with his new country life, hanging out at his farm ('Eat At Home', 'Heart of the Country'), digging his new wife ('Long Haired Lady') and his freedom ('Back Seat Of My Car'). He sounds happy, even if his professional life was pretty much a mess in 1971, he certainly didn't care too much. Perhaps moreso than even McCartney, Ram is made up of happy, charming songs that don't challenge so much as invite you to set a spell and have a glass of iced tea on the front porch while watching Paul molest a neutered sheep or two. As long as these are your expectations - melody, great production, some cool vocal hooks, you'll be impressed by Ram. As long as you still hold a torch for his Beatles work, Ram will still sound like a cop-out. The only songs that would last a couple trips around the block are really the multi-part Magical Mystery Tour schizo-pop of 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' that shows Paul hadn't quite given up his love of the demon weed yet (hell, he wouldn't until at least 1980, when he got busted by the Japs, which probably explains why his Seventies work is so much better than his 80's stuff is). and the opening 'Too Many People'. I mean, however much I like dash-offs like 'Smile Away' and 'Monkberry Moon Delight', around here they smell a whole lot like filler. And I'm afraid Paul's obsession with filler material wouldn't stop here...his next two albums would be loaded with the stuff. At least here it's all cream cheese tasty and olive oil smooth. Ram never gets boring other than on the fucking 20's vaudevillian doodad 'Dear Boy', and that one even has some cool vocal harmonies to help you forget you didn't like it the first time around....when it was called 'Martha My Dear'.

Hell, this album's so chummy and positive I hate to make it sound like I don't appreciate it when I put it on and it makes me feel a little more cozy for the majority of an hour. I mean, 'I wanna horse, I wanna sheep, I wanna get me a good night's sleep' can come from this guy's mouth and I don't feel like shoving horse Capitols down his throat even once. I like Paul's corniness. I just wish he'd put some more heft behind some of these tracks. If he'd given these songs to the Beatles in some alternate universe where they didn't break up the previous year, I think they'd laugh off the majority of these. Hell, John engaged Paul that same year with his Imagine album cover and 'How Do You Sleep?', his criticism a bit over-acidic and blunt (John was nothing if not..), but not entirely undeserved. Paul had already begun to coast, and he wasn't even a year removed from Abbey Road yet. Unfortunately, it would take two more (much worse) albums before he even got around to equaling Ram in quality. At least this record sounds like it was made by a Beatle.

Capn's Final Word: Paul sounds fat and happy in his newfound freedom to make cute songs about being home with the wife. But doesn't fat mean soft?

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dver/Greece     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: Signs of "Band on the Run". It's coming, it's coming! But boring for the moment. I saw your A mark and got the mp3s but I do not agree. Sorry!

 


Wild Life - Capitol 1972

Weak first outing by Paul with his new Wings, Wild Life is a rush job that shows little of the spunk that got McCartney and Ram over on us heathens. The newfangled WingCartneys sound even more like a Paul 'n' Linda love project than last time, showing just how much influence former Moody Blues founder Denny Laine is ever going to have in this outfit. For whatever reason he was brought on board, all I hear from the guy is perhaps some nondescript strumming of the ol' six-string cigar box while Paul plays out his nursery tunes and Linda masters the blandest female vocals ever in the history of magnetic audio tape. I mean, this album is limp. The hooks have left us stranded at the bowling alley and the great melodies already snuck out the bedroom window last night. And whatever happened to the cool, macroscopic production from Ram? Is Paul too busy running his new band around the block to see how she corners, pushing the envelope and making our teeth grit and our breath shorten? Nah, Paul's keeping it real on here, keeping it basic, and keeping it dull. This is Homey Album Number Three from Mr. Domestic, and this time around the pastoral scenes just creak like an old floorboard. The band does play electric music, of a sort....I wouldn't necessarily call it rock 'n' roll, you dig, just like I wouldn't necessarily call a McDonald's hamburger patty a prime cut of steak. It may, theoretically, be made out of the same stuff, but when the hardest hitting song on here is the Paul 'n' Piano and a Bucket of Passive Aggression 'Dear Friend', a response to John Lennon's 'How Can You Sleep?' on Imagine, and just as good a song, in it's own way. John threw slashing rock daggers with the help of George Harrison's conspiring guest guitar work, and Paul fills the air with choking clouds of atmosphere that hint at the fact that Paul knows something the rest of us don't. Paul whispers 'Are you afraid, or is it really true?' like he's finding out that John has a terminal case of anal herpes gained after a long weekend at Elton John's house or something.

The main problem with Wild Life is that it sounds more like demos than McCartney did. McCartney had that ingratiating DIY homeliness indicative of a homegrown rush job (which it was), but while most of the good songs had less than six lines of lyrics, they also had enough melody to feed everybody's head. Wild Life is just flat out incomplete...ten tracks, two of which are just the fade outs of previous songs ('Bip Bop' and 'Mumbo', neither of which are going to win any Source awards any time soon, if you 'Fuck' tha 'Police', and I think you do). That's eight songs. One's a cover ('Love Is Strange', which has got to be bugging Buddy Holly up in Rock Valhalla to this very day...I swear, it's like if the Rolling Stones had written 'Dream a Little Dream'), which makes it seven. Probably only 'Dear Friend' and 'Wild Life' really unite my inner Voltron, and that's only because they are the two tracks that don't rely on a bunch of aimless strumming and geeky, chummy harmonizing. Again, Paul is probably incapable at this point of making a song without some sort of recognizable melody, thank Christ, so these filler tracks aren't as bad as what they could be, but....man. Couldn't he have waited another few months and cranked out another 'Too Many People'? Or at least discerned some reason for his new 'band' to exist? Because this album probably took no longer for Paul to write than it takes him to milk his wife and shear his guitar player.

Capn's Final Word: Lightweight, limp, and floating in a sea of banality without a rudder. A friendly bummer.

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Red Rose Speedway - Capitol 1973

A flushload more personality than on that ragged piece of asswipe called Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway has got to be the most eclectic of the Wings records. See, critics use the word 'eclectic' when we really want to say 'we don't know what the flying fucknose the artist was trying to do here, but we're too nice to say it like that'. Well fuck it...Paul McCartney had little or no idea what he's trying to do on Brown Nose Speedfreak, careening like Diana Ross on half a case of Night Train from the gloppiest MOR slop of his career ('My Love') to spiritually unclean rock 'n' roll popcorn ('Big Barn Bed', 'Get On The Right Thing') to...*gulp!*...an eleven minute suite with pretensions of Abbey Road-ism that sucks all the air out of side 2 and leaves it limper than the photographer at the Roseanne Lookalike Swimsuit Calendar photoshoot. Yup, you could say Red Rose Speedway is as messy as a month-old jack-o-lantern, and you'd be right, but it's also darn entertaining despite the fact that I outright hate parts of it.  

You know what's really a hoot 'n' a holler, though. I like all of the sappy, sweet, saccharine, treacly, cloying, syrupy songs (like 'Little Lamb Dragonfly'...man, that's the best song on here! Whoo! Let's hear it for unhindered sentimentality mixed with Paul McCartney's trademark use of notes and rhythms and how they serotonin gush into my veins like puke out of a frat pledge. Yes! Indeed, bring on the ballads, because the rockers aren't really so hot. Paul likes to rock out rough (he didn't write 'Helter Skelter' and screech out all those Little Richard covers for nothing, you know) but it causes internal rifts with his pop-melodic self, meaning that 'Big Barn Bed' and 'Get On The Right Thing' are neither here (hip-thrusting, headbanging good rock) nor there (clever pop masterpieces). Instead they're just dirty, unsatisfying pop.  

The real problem for me lies with the ending medley...unlike the second side of Abbey Road, which flew out of nowhere to mine the depths of hell, scale the peaks of heaven, and get plenty dirty making giddy mudpies in between, the Red Rose suite (the real name being something like 'Hold My Amazing Hands of Dynamite Until I Cut Off Your Love'...or something entirely different than that, maybe) is just one endless trip through the same kind of music you've already been listening to for 30-odd minutes on the rest of the album, except worse. These are obviously songs that weren't considered strong enough to warrant their own individual tracks on the record, so they were hunkered together like that. I mean, do we really need to hook together four three minute Red Rose toss-offs into one huge ugly mess? Abbey Road may have done the same thing, but it's a whole lot easier to make art out of scraps of gold than pieces of trash. This isn't a song-suite....it's a handy repository for all of the lame studio outtakes from the recording sessions, and it never fails to sour my opinion of the whole album...something that not even 'My Love', probably the deepest into the sugarbowl Paul ever got, can do. But hey, then I forget, hit 'repeat' and dig those pop gems again. Without the suite, this is an A-. With it, it's a B.  

There's outtakes on my version of this record, including a cute country-rock B-side called 'I Lie Around' that's winningly sung by Denny Laine, a weak straight C/W track sung by Paul, and a live 'Mess' that beats all of the other rockers on here for originality and grit. Imagine that.  

Capn's Final Word: A maddeningly inconsistent tour of all things Wingy. If it weren't for the piano and electric guitar, it'd be fit for the trashbin.

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jonathan     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?:   I love the ending 11-minute suite!  My favorite part of the album!  My next favorite is Little Lamb Dragonfly.    I don't think the suite were outtakes though. Beleive it or not, there are 2 hrs of Red Rose Spedway album outtakes!!  I have the boots to prove it.  He had 3 lp's worth of material, decided to trim it down to a double-album, then ultimately went with just a single disc.  There's some great unheard tracks from this period.
 


Band On The Run - Capitol 1974.

If you were to ask an average, well-listened Paul McCartney fan in 1969 to predict what a Paul McCartney album released in 1974 might sound like, it'd probably resemble Band on the Run, a stunning return to Beatles-level form. There's moments (and lots of them, but still...moments) on Band that rank as some of Paul's best-ever work. I mean, after four albums that resulted in more yawns of ambivalence than cries of joy, the fan of pure pop-rock goodness that had so much hope for Paul's solo career and so much subsequent disappointment finally has something to stand behind. I mean, it's not like Paul's solo career has been chopped liver so far (I personally like everything except for Wild Life), but nothing has necessarily impressed like this album does. It's the most cohesive, has the best lyrics, is the most diverse, is one of the most adventurous, and had a crapload of hits. And, for Neanderthals like me, Paul rocks out convincingly for the first time since, Jesus, Abbey Road? The White Album? What's probably most interesting here is that this album was recorded in Africa after drummer Danny Siewell and guitarist Henry McCullough left the band, leaving things (ho, ho!) more or less back in the hands of Paul McCartney alone, making the huge sound and workmanship even more impressive. If not for a ridiculously unnecessary reprise section and a few of the lesser tunes going on a bit long and repetitive-like, this'd get the A+ prize, but you know how that goes. Still, lemme throw my hat into the ring and say that, although Paul McCartney is an acknowledged pop genius and all, I'm still astounded as to how well this record turned out.  

One reason why this album rules so much school is that Paul lets himself wander loose with some complex arrangements (and I'm not talking about stringing a bunch of unrelated bits of idiocy together like on that Red Rose Speedway Side B pieceashit) that show off Paul's ability to string together four or five separate melodic ideas into a massive, cohesive whole. Take the opening title track. It starts as a spacey, harmonic meditation before changing to an almost angry, meanacing slow rocker in which Paul decries his wealthy ways, but that sentiment is only temporary as the song proper comes crashing through, sparkling and optimistic. I mean each one of these sections could have been made into a one-dimensional individual song like what was on Red Rose Speedway, but Paul somehow lays them over each other and makes them speak the truth. Fantastic stuff. It's been said in the past that this is a concept album, but I certainly don't see that...most of the lyrics are extremely evocative and there's a certain 'let's roll!' thematic quality of escapism, but hell....if this is a concept album then so was Ram. About, you know, being a homebody and stuff. Like Ray Davies but without the nasty cynicism and backhanded swipes at critics. And Wild Life...a concept album about sucking dick, hard? C'mon... 

Paul's also able to make it work when he flies full-speed straight ahead. 'Jet', the best song with incomprehensible lyrics about a favorite pet dog since, um, 'Eleanor Rigby', rocks with confident speed as the guitar and synth make sweet tight love together, making me think almost of a slicker, more fun 'Locomotive Breath'. Oh, and I detect Bruce Springsteen stole at least half of his sound from the outro section, what with the romantic sax coda and stuff. Funny what you dig up trying to write two or three long paragraph about every album you've ever heard. The single 'Helen Wheels' is similarly fun Teddy Boy Eddie Cochranizing, but seems a lot thinner.

Since Paul's recent successes, both artistically and financially, have been on the sugary side of the Frosted Wheat, it's no surprise that the lighter tracks on here continue to impress. 'Bluebird' has an off-the-cuff jazziness that obscures its complex harmonies and subtle shifts in tempo, and it can be easily lost amidst the towering electric giants that surround it, but it's one of Paul's more resilient light compositions. The acoustic 'Mamunia', probably the only place the influence of a long African holiday becomes obvious, is a sweet, simple ode of contentment that never was achieved on Wild Life, which was chock full of this kind of stuff. Finally, 'No Words' is something between Revolver and a power ballad, coming out sounding like the best track that was never on ELO's Eldorado album. When I get some distance from this album and think 'hey! This sounds like something on ELO's Eldorado'...except nothing on that album (besides maybe 'Can't Get It Out Of My Head') is this gorgeous and solidly constructed. Maybe I've been discounting McCartney a little bit so far, but the problem is that Paul's solo songs either hit me or they don't. Luckily, damn near all of this album hits like Mike Tyson at a traffic accident.  

The only real disappointments on this record are strangely enough, all conducted during my least favorite song on the record. 'Picasso's Last Words' has both the idiotic, completely unnecessary Band On The Run reprise section, a gimmick that has plagued Wings albums since frigging Wild Life, alternating a little snippet from each of the preceding tracks with an interminable repetition of irritating 'Drink to me...drink to my health, you know I can't drink anymore' refrain that Dustin Hoffman thought was so hilarious he asked Paul to write a song about it. Listen...Dustin Hoffman was the guy who carried fucking Isthar around for 20 years, just waiting for the perfect moment to unleash his comic masterpiece upon the populace. I trust this guy's comic sense about as much as I trust Senator Orrin Hatch to score the good dope before the Phish concert. Let's let Dustin keep playing retards and street urchins in great movies and let Paul McCartney write the lyrics, shall we? 

Anyway, besides that almost total breakdown of taste, Band on the Run is a fantabulous collection of songs, and I haven't even mentioned 'Let Me Roll It' or the closing sci-fi blowout 'Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five', my two favorite songs on here. I'd say everyone deserves to treat themselves to one of the best pop records of the 1970's, Beatles fans or otherwise. Band on the Run delivers.  

C
apn's Final Word: Paul takes a year off and somehow releases an album that makes all that came after look like hackwork. Possibly they are.

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dver/Greece     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: A lot of ideas, a lot of strong melodies, a lot of different Paul voices, some bad drumming (by Paul I think). Yep, a Classic. Fancy doing that with the other Fabs.
 


Venus and Mars - Capitol 1975.

Seems like just as much, but it's really somewhat less, Venus and Mars shows Paul and band (now reconstituted for touring purposes with drummer Joe English and twanger Jimmy McCullough again) writing songs that fall somewhere between effortless and not taking a lot of effort. I guess straight off, I'd like to say that this album is really pretty good - easygoing, rocking, confident, and entertaining - but it lacks depth. This album was clearly intended as an arena-rocking crowd pleaser for the fans to rally behind on the humongous Wings over America (and Europe, and, what? Japan?) tour the same year, so it's filled with catchy, dumb rockers to spill your beer along to. In fact, if there's one Wings album outside of Band on the Run that's probably recommended to those among us who have a serious allergy to sugary substances, it's this one, but as an appreciator of popcraft and a lover of hard rocking, I'm left marking this up as a good opportunity lost. I find few of the songs truly memorable, and though there's a healthy tendency among the guitarists on Venus and Mars just to plug in the guitars and leave the volume way up, none of the rockers here light my hair ablaze like 'Jet' or 'Helen Wheels' did last time, none of 'em, and there's twice as many to choose from. 'Rock Show' verily stomps up a thick cloud of dust (or is that glitter? heh...) but it's a workmanlike simulation of actual rocking rather than the genuine article of torn denim and bleedin' fingers. As a parody/tribute to glam rock, I guess it's alright, but it never transcends its sources and leaves Paul sounding like he's pandering. 'Letting Go' plods rather than grooves, losing what could have been a killer hook if the song had been given more of a kick in the ass, and the horns in the middle are out of place and ponderous. Hell, the only hard one that really rocks at all is Jimmy McCullough's just say no-no 'Medicine Jar' (hey, wot is this? Has the People's Republic of McCartney begun to sow the seeds of songwriting democracy again?), nicely rough around the edges and decidedly out of character lyric-wise. I wouldn't say the rockers suck, necessarily, but they just kinda take the flaccid penis and gnaw on it a little bit, you know, kinda like Geraldo Rivera did in that gay porno he made after his Al Capone's Vault special tanked it in the mid 80's (as opposed to, say, the shemale porno he made this past spring after being kicked out of Iraq for broadcasting the movements of the platoon with which he was attached. Fucking brainiac...).  

If you're looking for something special here, you have to (I know it's a shock...) turn to Paul and his delightful way to turn a stupid pop hook into a great stupid pop song. I mean, the best song by a mile and a half is 'Listen to What the Man Said', from which goony hooks are emitted like zits from a pizza-addicted fifteen year old's nose. Who else could get away with a line that starts with 'O-oh, yes indeed we know, we won't find a way to go, no matter what the man says!' than Paul? Or did he get away with it? Didn't he consistently get squashed into little pieces by those ungrateful, inbred 1970's rock critics even after he released Band on the Run? Goddamn, who the fuck cares? It's yet another great pop song, despite the fact that the sound of a soprano sax gets me sawing off my shotguns and studying my Catcher in the Rye every time. Oh whatever. La-di-da...what else? I bet most of you would think I hate the 20's-ish softshoe Betty Boop doodly-plop, and that only goes to show you that I'm as predictable as an episode of Family Matters and only half as stylishly ironic. I not only hate it, I think it damn near ruins this album, that and...yes...the reprise of the 'Venus and Mars' theme that firebombs the rest of the goodwill I had left after the first sortie went by. Ick. Can you tell I don't like reprises, at least when Wings do them? They never fail to choose one of the lamer songs on the album to bookend with, and I don't think it adds a thing besides filler.

But hell, there I go being negative again. There's lots of great songs on here, it's just that none of them are the ones that A) attempt to rock out too much, B) sound like something a second-rate Al Jolson would've found fascinating, or iii) I completely forgot already, because 'Medicine Jar' came on again and I got all rockin'-faced and squinty eyed and couldn't see the computer screen to type anymore. Whatever. I'll be damned if I can name anything on here besides 'Listen' and 'Medicine Jar' and maybe 'Rock Show' after two hours, a bag of Chee-tos, and half a gallon of fine Canadian whiskey, but it wouldn't be for lack of trying. I'd be frantically trying to tell you how astoundingly okay this record is. Yes! Let's hear it for competence, people....fuck yeah! WHOOOOO!!! 

Capn's Final Word: Paul as an arena rocker? At least we know it's going to be melodic rock, but both sides get short shrift. At it's best when Paul forgets about the rock and does what he does like no one else can.

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Wings at the Speed of Sound - Capitol 1976.

The good news is that Paul is still lightly nudging all sorts of songwriting ass with the toe of his boot here. The bad news is that, this time around, Paul has decided to be Just Another Songwriter and let his fellow Wings out to try their songwriting, *ahem* talents. Now, hell, I'm sure this sounded like a good idea at the time...the band was never as popular as they were following the Wings Over Cooked tour that brought Paul live to the masses for the first time since, jeez, no one had died in Vietnam yet, Jimmy McCullough's song was one of the highlights of Venus and Mars, and Paul probably deserved a little break. But, oh God, these sidemen chomp the bicycle pump almost to a man...the resulting album spotlights some of Paul's better sugary songwriting and a whole lot of useless, cliched junk by everyone else.  

Since we started with the good news last time, let's bring out the storm of shit this time around. Okay, I'll just bite that last paragraph I wrote in such ridiculous haste and admit I rather like McCullough's 'Wino Junko', yet another song about getting fucked up (one of the more interesting pursuits in this world of ours, so I've heard. At least after money, sex, and an incomprehensibly large number of record albums, anyway) that's not nearly as good as his song about getting fucked up on Venus and Mars. 'The Note You Never Wrote' has a decent vocal hook surrounded by a parched desert of cheese, the adult-contemporary soul 'Must Do Something About It' is about as memorable as Woody Allen's last couple dozen or so films, and Denny Laine proves he's just slightly better of a singer than Linda on the pedestrian 'Time To Hide', and Linda gives up all rights to a microphone on the criminally awful Lennon Sisters send-up 'Cook Of The House'. Man....if Linda cooks as badly as she sings, I'd be calling the health inspector to visit the McCartney house, fast. I mean, it's not that we're just hearing mediocre Paul McCartney songs anymore...we're subjecting ourselves to (largely) dreadful songs by people who really should never be let near a writing implement again.  

Not like Paul's beyond a little bit of a suck now and then ('She's My Baby' is wretched faux-soul like the 70's loved so much), but for the most part he's writing excellent pop hooks with not a darn bit of substance...not like I care. I mean, maybe for Paul, writing the lyrics to 'Silly Love Songs' was a cathartic experience, him finally able to look all of his detractors in the face and say, 'hey FUCKHEAD!!! I write these stupid songs because PEOPLE LIKE THEM and I HAPPEN TO AGREE!! Get me, needledick? Now, just keep in mind that I happened to write a few tunes you may have heard of, like fucking 'YESTERDAY' and motherfucking 'HEY JUDE', so the next time you call me a lightweight I may just LOSE MY FUCKING COOL and SMASH a CINDERBLOCK into your FACE until you have to BRUSH YOUR TEETH with a SUPPOSITORY!!!'. I dunno...all I care about is that Paul's thunky, boppy bass keeps doing that little half-disco thing that makes my face smile and my little hardhat do pushups. Or 'Let Em In'?!?!? How about 'LET'S MAKE ANOTHER TIMELESS POP HIT THAT SOUNDS LIKE 'UNCLE ALBERT/ADMIRAL HALSEY', SHALL WE?' Or not. Have I abused the Shift key enough in this paragraph yet? Wouldn't it be enough just to say 'Paul is writing transcendent pop hooks around tunes so lightweight they make 'My Love' sound like the lost extended dance remix of Cannibal Corpse's 'I Cum Blood'? Oh, hell. I've really made a 'Meat Hook Sodomy' of this review, haven't I? Well, I guess that's just because I'm 'Addicted To Vaginal Flesh' ever since I discovered 'Entrails Ripped From a Vagina'.  

'Orgasm through Torture'? 

Why, no, for I've already had a 'Post-Mortal Ejaculation', but I appreciate your offer! 

Anyway, I'd like to join the March of General Critical Opinion and elect 'Beware My Love' the best song on the album, a savage rocker (really) that manages to top even the mighty 'Jet' in on-the-edge propulsion. It's so out of character on this record (a great rocker, of which this is, to be sure, the only one) it sounds like Sid Vicious crashing a debutante ball and is probably nearly as much fun. If there's one thing you can rely on Paul for, it's surprises....the guy really throws a curveball with this one, but it works like a well-oiled stripper.  

In well-anticipated conclusion, At the Speed of Sound is disgustingly inconsistent record that has some great tunes and more than a mouthful of ones you'll wish never happened. You'll probably be able to get everything that matters (other than 'Beware My Love', that is, but that's why God made hallucinogens, isn't it?) on a compilation or two, and you'll save yourself having to suffer the absolutely horrendous bonus tracks that drag out this record to torturous lengths. Have I ever expressed how despicably long I think most of these Wings albums are once you tack on three or four bonus tracks? It's akin to being 'Force-Fed Broken Glass' while having 'Every Bone Broken' and, umm...errm... 

'Sailing!' 'I'm All Out Of Love!' 'Me and You and a Dog Named Boo!' 'Afternoon Delight!' AAARRRGGHHHHH!!!!!!!  

Capn's Final Word: As if I had to tell you, Paul's songs are best, even if he's just whispering little white lies to us.

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Kyle     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: This review makes me want to "Hammer Smash Face".

 


Wings Over America - Capitol 1977.

Paul's never been much of a live performer. Possibly back in the Cavern Club he was able to get his toilet seat on and really rock it on out to the boondocks, but there's really very little evidence of that happening. Even if he'd been charged up back in '61, there's no way that years of touring with the Beatles, which meant 30 minute shows, 100 watt amps, 30,000 decibel squealing pubescents and absolutely no way anyone could ever hear anyone else. You can see the effects of this still on Wings Over America, Paul's blowout 3-LP coffee-table souvenir of his 1976 tour of the same name, his first tour of that size since leaving the Dave Clark Five...he keeps his songs by the book (mostly), reigns in the soloing, allows about 3 seconds of silence between each song, and he, sometimes, though sadly often, howls out-of-tune as if he were still back there in Shea Stadium trying desperately to drown out 70,000 of his best friends.  And it's not like he wasn't prepared...Paul'd been building up to a massive tour since, like, 1974, and had finally reached the breaking point: he'd collected enough good songs to fill up a 2+-hour show without having to rely on too many of those old Beatle lynchpins, his band wasn't going to get any better than it was right then, and his hits were still hot on the charts. He'd timed it perfectly, and Wongs Inside America (the tour and album, though not the memorial hemorrhoid cream) was a massive success to the levels of, say, Frampton! Comes! Alive! or even Havin' and Oldies Party With Sha-Na-Na. He was the Last Beatle Standing after John's retirement, George's descent into obscurity, and Ringo, umm....being Ringo, I guess....and he was followed around like Jesus on Miracle Day by Beatlefans who wanted just a little taste of...of...'Lady Madonna'?

Yup. While Wing Platter Buffalo is admirably formed mostly of Wings material, he does go back to the wishing well a few times, including 'I've Just Seen A Face' (hey, betcha weren't expecting that one, were you, 'Mr. Predictable Hey Jude Guy!') 'Blackbird' (also interesting), 'The Long And Winding Road' (which still sucks, even without the orchestra, Paul. Maybe Phil Spector wasn't so wrong trying to cover it up with glop after all...), 'Lady Madonna', and...heh heh...'Yesterday'. Yup, all clearly Paul's original material, with no ballsy tries at tackling any Johnsongs like John did at his Elton John concert cameo when he sang Paul's 'I Saw Her Standing There'. No attempts at the second side of Abbey Road or the first side of Sergeant Peppers like he would later do in the 90's, in fact, nothing that interesting at all...if this was maybe still a controversial thing back in the mid-70's when the idea of a Beatles reunion was still very much a possibility, and Paul (ever the villain) was seen as 'co-opting' the band's past, an idea which now seems quaint and naïve in an era where Michael Jackson owns all the Beatles songs and the Beatles' merchandizing machinery cranks up every few years to generate another BBC or 1 or Anthology to add a zero or two to Yoko's and Paul's bank accounts. Whatever....all I'm saying is that, it's not like here's Paul singing 'Something' and 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Come Together' or dressing up the Wings in Beatle suits or something....he's singing songs he wrote that just happened to be recorded with his old band (and sometimes that's not even true...I bet John and George didn't have a damn thing to do with 'Lady Madonna'), which just happens to be the most popular band in the history of the world.

Anyway, back to the performance, which is, in short, unrevelatory but serviceably entertaining. The Wings just aren't powerful enough to make this stuff soar through the rafters like it potentially could, and the fact that very few changes are made means the performance is predictable and, at times, downright dull. Some of the Venus and Mars rockers benefit quite a bit from the loose (well, looser...this band couldn't be the Faces without a coupla kilos of zombie hash and about a 10 gallon jug of port wine) live setting, making lots of the first quarter or so of the show a near glam-rock stomp through a medley of 'Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet', an otherwise gritty 'Let Me Roll It', where Paul's vocal shortcomings first come into plain view as he fails to make 'My HEART is LIKE A WHEEELL!' sing out like he did on Band on the Run, 'Spirits of Ancient Egypt', and McCullough's 'Medicine Jar'. Good choices, all, and that's precisely the strength of the record...Paul's chosen pretty much the very best of the Wings output thus far, making Over America sound like one darn good compilation album. There may be no Ram songs, only 'My Love' from Red Rose Speedway, and no 'Junior's Farm' or 'Helen Wheels', but there is almost all of Venus and Mars and Band on the Run, and most of that stuff sounds just fine. The only real non-Beatle related surprises are the Moody Blues' 'Go Now', sung by Denny Laine, Paul Simon's 'Richard Cory', which seems to be included as a silly joke, and the really dull closing rock failure 'Soily', which was never released elsewhere (Thank the Lord!).

I'll say the highlights, not including most of the Beatles tracks and the more rockin' stuff I've already mentioned, are 'Band On The Run', performed flawlessly and with lots of verve towards the end, and 'Maybe I'm Amazed', probably the only true 'reinterpretation' of any track on here...it's transformed from a little Paul four-track studio gem to a massive arena rocker that makes the most of it's impressive dynamic shifts and Paul's masterful piano. It's almost a completely different song when given the rockestral treatment, but it's just as good. Choosing which one of the two is my favorite is near-impossible, and it's still one of my favorite songs the guy ever wrote. On the downside, 'Live and Let Die' is fucked up and chomped on and trainwrecked so badly I wonder why it was even included here. Was this really the best of all the performances of this song? God, one of their best works and it's totally impossible to play well live? It's not...ask Guns 'n' Roses. I'm also totally unimpressed by the ending duo of 'Hi Hi Hi' and 'Soily', which pretty much end the precedings on a down spudder instead of the raging high that 'Band' leads us to just before those two start up. Otherwise, the pacing is pretty well done...the first and second sides are good 'n' rocking, the third and fourth are more acoustic, then there's the pure pop section on sides 4 and 5, and then finally the last side tries to bring it on home. For a two-hour show, it certainly doesn't feel overlong.

Listen, I don't really know if you need this. If you want a neat primer for Wings, you could do a lot worse, and if you're already a big Paul fan I'd say it's pretty much essential as his only really interesting live release. For everyone else, well, I'd be surprised if you hated it, but if you're obsessed with Paul's craftiness and slick production, I'd stay away. It's a live release, and it's really less than special, but it's certainly better than the endless $35 souvenier sets he'd release in the 90's.

Capn's Final Word: As if I had to tell you, Paul's songs are best, even if he's just whispering little white lies to us.

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London Town - Capitol 1978

London Town is a frighteningly nondescript Wings album which sounds as if it was stamped out of a soft rock machine, just another Wings album coming down the line. No alarms and no surprises, please! At least it's tons more consistent than Speed of Sound (McCartney wisely takes back all he ever said about sharing the songwriting) but the highs are smoothed out into a rolling plain of melodic-pop that's as flat as Kansas and not nearly as exciting. Not to mention the album is LONG...with the bonus tracks it's 16 songs, and you feel every last one! I don't have time for sixteen whole airily pleasant, glazy-eyed, synthesized Valley of the Dolls zombie-pop tracks! What do I look like? A guy who listens to his albums over and over and then spends about an hour each writing some stupid review four people will ever read and three will hate? Fuck yeah! The single off here is 'With a Little Luck', and if there was ever an anti-James Brown song, this one's it. Totally white, 100% uninteresting, which almost completely describes the rest of the album. I mean, hell, yeah it's still melodic. You really can't charge McCartney for lacking melodies in the 1970's. You can criticize him for being banal, sure, level charges of failing to find challenging sidemen, point at him and laugh because he has a penis but no testacles, chain him to the back of the Dodge and drag him down to the QuickTrip and back because he's cheesier than a Green Bay tailgate party, but you can't ever say the guy forgot how to make those catchy tunes.  

I mean, the problem isn't that the songs sound alike...they don't. The opening title track is sweet and sentimental. 'Cafe on the Left Bank' is just slightly New Wave-y and sweet, even the disco blowout 'Morse Moose and the Grey Goose' is nice enough to help old ladies across the street as it boogies and shimmies and takes all the cocaine and casual sex and keeps it for it's very own. Hell, there's a song on here called 'I'm Carrying' that isn't even about being in possession of illegal drugs (no, sadly, Jimmy McCullough isn't here to write the inevitable cautionary drug song, mostly because he wasn't in the band anymore. But be sure to check out his 1979 solo album, Goddamn It, Stop Taking the Drugs, Already...Give Them to Me Instead). One development on London is McCartney's sudden interest in all the synths and squiggles and doodads that came with the explosion of Kraftwerk's rehearsal space in 1976 which sent Moogs and ARPs raining all over Western Europe. I'm not sure Paul knows what to do with these new toys - sometimes he shows a little taste, but just as often he sounds like George fiddling around on his Electronic Sound album. Those Beatles never got all that comfortable with the ol' integrated circuits, did they? Sakes alive... 

If you wait all the way to the end you might get to 'Mull Of Kintyre', an instant English folk classic (that was the highest selling single ever in the UK until that 'Do They Know It's Christmas' bullcrap in the mid-80's...I mean, it outsold 'Happy Birthday', man! And 'White Christmas'! And whatever Billy Fury or Georgie Fame song that used to hold the record.) that somehow convinces me has a little bit to it, but it may be lying harder than a CIA analyst on Meet the Vice PResident day. Oh, man, well, shit goddamn motherfucking Christian Right...this album ain't all that bad, it's just so sweet and so saccharine that my mind cries out for some meat in my sandwich. It's the first time I've been actively bored by a Paul McCartney album since Wild Life, and that album was like half as long as this one. Ah, maybe I just don't like my album so laid back and loose as to bleach out all their nice, natural colors. Whatever, just don't make me listen to this album and try to figure out why it is I don't like it anymore.  

Capn's Final Word: Just soft rock with the emphasis on soft...as in weak, lacking in strength, power, or command.

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Back to the Egg - Capitol 1979

Well, jeez. I guess I'm not much of one for these late-period Wings albums. I've given most of 'em all the same grade anyway, and though it's a really 'hey, I don't like it, but maybe you will, you disgusting freak' kind of B-, I really don't hate them at all. I mean, I sure don't think I hate them, and there's parts on Speed of Sound I think are fantastic, but I'm once again left cold by Back to the Egg, their final album, though I get a few more signs of life than I did on London Town. At least time around we've got some sand on the paper, a little pepper on the omelet, a little hair in the crack, you know what I'm saying? Paul was definitely smarting from the criticism the last couple of stinkers got for being too lightweight and trivial, so on Egg he's decided to 'Get Back' to 'Where He Once Belonged', because he's got some 'California Grass' and he wants to 'smuggle it into Japan'. Which is to say, he's upped the rocker count, tried out some metal, funk, disco, and punker trappings, and tried to make a total pandering ass out of himself rather than just remain the oblivious, unfashionable dinosaur ass he's been since, like, 1971.  

Plus, there's certainly some songs I wouldn't mind hearing again, which is more than I could ever say for the last one. But Egg also has sections that are flat out gross, most of which come as a result of Paul's continued obsession with disco, new wave, and icky synth noises. Besides the simple fact that most of these experiments suck the yak's weiner, Paul's attempts to keep current tend to marginalize his own talents, as if to be a 'punk' or to 'boogie woogie down at the juke joint', Paul can no longer be his melodic, genius self. Which is, of course, a total load of the ol' corn 'n' peanut loaf as an idea, but that's what we're stuck with. Take 'So Glad To See You Here', which so desperately wants to kick ass like Cheap Trick does, Paul's taken to emulating his legions of disciples instead of pushing the envelope all by his own self, which is pretty depressing. 'Old Siam Sir' may kick a fair amount of dust n' spit in that kind of hard-candy late 70's half arena/half new wave thing that some would call 'power pop', and in general this album smokes three or four times as much crack rock 'n' roll freebase than, say, In Through The Out Door from the same year. So, I guess it all depends on where your angles a-danglin', Lieutenant Colonel Ollie North...if you're in the mood to rock, this is a fine way to go, but the melodic stuff is mostly junk, and Paul's 'experiments' are as artificial as Sweet 'n' Low and twice as sickly sweet. 'Arrow Through Me' is synthesized crap jazz of the sort only Chicago fans would decide is funky, and the instrumental 'Rockestra Theme' attempts to orchestrate rock music by layering dozens of famous rock twanger-dudes (David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page among them) massing together and playing a rather pedestrian lick over and over again, failing to do what Boston's Tom Scholz did in a basement full of transistors and four-tracks three years prior on the Boston debut album. Not to mention that the very idea of a 'guitar choir' is a pretty silly idea anyway, what with overdubbing and Marshall stacks and all that available, not that it stopped Paul from continuing on yet one more shaky step into 'experimentalism'.

When Paul's not pandering to the youth tastes of 1979 and misguidedly wasting other fine, aging musicians precious smack-taking time, he's running that mill down into the ground, especially towards the home stretch. He's busily churning out pappy filler like 'After the Ball/Million Miles' (which, if the Muzak detectors in my brain aren't lying, contains David Gilmour playing long, lazy, boring notes, not quite awake enough to be considered a solo, in the same way he's been doing since at least 1971). 'Winter Rose/Love Awake', which follows next and continues the abuse of the poor forward slash key, is pretentiously overserious Mannheim Steamroller-type synthesism. Clearly, the contributions of Paul's fellow Wings (apparently containing more faceless sidemen for Paul to control, supposedly to flesh out the bare-bones London Town group for a tour that hit the iceberg when Paul forgot his fat sack in his suitcase and ended up spending several days in a Tokyo jail while Denny Laine slagged him off in the press for his lack of responsibility. Paul then, upon release, promptly fired Laine, because, well, you don't fuck with the man who writes the songs that make the whole world sing, dude.) are next to nothing again, and Paul's interest in continuing the group thing are definitely on the wane. His drive to get back into his home studio and play with his newfound silicon friends while Linda brings him tea got too strong...Paul was a one-man band again, Denny Laine was soon forgotten (and, before long, sadly reaching an early death), and AM radio was ready to grant McCartney a second chance.

Capn's Final Word:  Paul's drive to keep current and experiment is let down by poor material and a general sense of aimlessness. At the very least, they go down fighting.

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McCartney II - Capitol 1980.

All you need to make this album is a roomful of various synths, a strong propensity to goofiness, and about a year of free time. Which is pretty much all Paul McCartney had after he broke up the Wings and left international arena rock touring with a 'band' concept behind for becoming, once again, the Master of his Own Five Appendages, a man who was happy to revisit the One Beatle Band concept he'd already tried the last time he decided to break up a popular and well-loved musical entity. Paul remains a wonderful musician, a guy with a firm grasp on the fundamentals of things like rhythm and vocal harmonies that most folks would kill their least favorite uncle for (Why the least favorite? Well, hell, the guy isn't Stevie Wonder or anything...and he drums like Ringo Starr with a hip pointer), and I'm still impressed that his solo work continues to be at least as good as most of his Wings stuff (most of which was pretty much crap, but you know how that goes...lowered expectations and how they get you through life with a small amount of enjoyment and all that. Why else would I claim to ever like McDonald's hamburgers, American beer, professional baseball, or this dudes' solo albums? I've gotta look for the small pleasures, you know...). What's immediately striking about Big Mac II is that it's completely different from anything else in his catalogue...though not necessarily in a good way. This is Paul's one and only (well, maybe not, if you count his ridiculous Fireman electronica bullcrap he released in the late 1990's) excursion into pure synth-pop, with the emphasis on synth. That's right, synthetic synth pop made by theoretical people playing hypothetical instruments for a mostly illusory audience...as in Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Lemmy's solo albums, and that fucker who lives next door with the broken Moog and the bad Scotchguard habit. Paul, once again, is experimenting, trying to win over the hearts and minds of Today's Youth (1980), who are pissed at the vacuity of the music that came before (1976) and are forging ahead to the glorious days of 1986, when everybody would be playing music with absolutely no relationship to hippies, rock 'n' roll, tube amplification, intelligent lyrics, or strong melodies. YES!!! LET THE ELECTRONICS MARCH US BRAVELY INTO THE FUTURE!!! ENJOY THE RELAXING SOUND OF SYNDRUMS PLAYED WITHOUT IRONY BY WHITE PEOPLE!!! DO NOT MIND THE TERMINATOR UNITS AS THEY ESCORT YOU TO THE BATHING AREA FOR A REFRESHING SHOWER!!! ACHTUNG!!! EYES STRAIGHT AHEAD, MEAT PUPPET!!!!

Anyhow, the brave new world at this point seems to resemble a soundtrack to a Nintendo video game circa 1987, say, Bubble Bobble...or possibly Clu Clu Land. Those marvelous Clu Clu's, what they won't do for a graham cracker and a nice game of Yahtzee..check out 'Front Parlour', which is their national anthem as I'm led to believe. Or maybe just the song you play as you're bounching shit off your head and running through a hallucinatory land where all your adversaries look like Odie with a gland problem and platforms are somehow able to keep themselves suspended in midair and coins are larger than your body. But Paul's music is, shall we say, limited both by the technology (an actual quote: 'bleeep, blop, ook, ork ork!') and his recent bout of melodic writer's block that began some 2-3 years before. The best songs on the album ('Coming Up', 'Goodnight Tonight') are more reliable Paul pop, happy and inconsequentially well constructed, but most of the rest would most charitably be described as 'failed experimentation'. I, however, somehow think a lot of it is a hoot. A cheap, thin, hoot with not a lot of replay value, but a hoot nonetheless. I happen to really like, for example, Paul's attempt to recreate Berlin-era Bowie atmosphere on 'Summer's Day Song', and his Kraftwerkian klang klang light-industrial 'Frozen Jap' (a title which, once again, got Paul in trouble with the Japanese, who apparently have never heard the term 'shut the fuck up and leave Paul McCartney alone already'). I don't much cater to 'Temporary Secretary', which, oddly, recalls 'Drive My Car' lyrically and the last time my garbage disposal ate itself musically. It's gotta be annoying on purpose, because only the most crotchety old fart would actually think this song somehow represents the new wave. I suppose Paul might actually be crochety enough, but I'm still going to be nice and say it was another of his silly, not-quite-harmless jokes (like the years 1983-1986, the Yellow Submarine movie, and his attempt to release Sarin gas in the audience at a concert in Argentina in 1990). 'Check My Machine' is almost that irritating, but I sort of think it is funny and has some hidden message among the banjo, the whistling, the crashing drumbeats, and Paul screeching 'I'ma check!!! Mah machine!!!' over and over like Minnie Pearl hooked up to an electric shock device. 'Secret Friend' is kinda cool for about thirty seconds as the sleazy Arabian disco drumbeats and the sleazier soprano sax meld into some weird Tatooine Bar Band fiesta movement, but the problem is the thing goes on for, like, an hour and a half or something.

The 'normal' tracks aren't nearly that goofy, interesting, or nerve-shredding, so I'm going to pass through each using only one single adjective, because that's about all their worth...ready? 'On the Way' is lazy, 'Waterfalls' is snoozy, 'Nobody Knows' is stompy, 'Bogey Music' is jive, 'Darkroom' is sadistic (is it even normal? It's got a normal bassline...but the song has fewer lyrics than it does Zappa mouth-noises like 'ca-ca' and 'nu-nu'...aw, hell, it's still sadistic), and 'One of these Days' is obvious. Paul's melodic sense has really pretty much gone, and McCartney II mostly goes by eliciting groans, grimaces, and uncontrolled giggling in equal measure. But I still like the fact that Paul makes a complete ass out of himself on here and I still not only respect the guy (hell, he was obviously having a lot of fun with all his toys, even if he couldn't have written his way out of a paper bag), I think that this, in a weird way, is an essential Paul solo album like the last two absolutely weren't. It's notreally any good, but it's interesting as hell, and when was the last time Paul actually made you laugh? Who cares if it's at him more than it is with him...I'll take what I can get.

Capn's Final Word: Paul plugs in, tunes out, and keels over, but he pulls a hilarious face somewhere in there. I'll stand by it...II's a hoot.

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Brendan Tnahpellee@yahoo.com.au Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?:	In my opinion, this is the ebst Beatles solo album. This album is so much better than a lot of his other works due to the simplicity in the arrangements. Every instrument is heard clearly. This 
is in stark contrast to the drowning noise of Red Rose Speedway or Pipes of Peace. Everything is simple, infectious and yet wayout. It really satisfies that longing for something that isn't everyday, and is 
probabyl Pauls most inventive album.	

Tug of War - Capitol 1982

A return to form for ol' Paul, who realized that his time was once again at hand...the time to KICK ASS and WRITE SLICK POP SONGS for JOE PISCOPO to MAKE FUN OF with the ONE FUNNY THING HE EVER DID IN HIS ENTIRE SAD, 'ROIDED UP EXISTENCE.  Hell yeah! By 1982, most folks had forgotten about the faux 'integrity' of the lame New Wave dilution of punk rock and just wanted to get down 'n' dirty with their well-constructed uber-composer Casey Kasem Top 40 heroes, like Tonii Basil, Taco, and Sir Mister 'Long' John Paul McCartney.  So what if this record is slicker than Pee Wee Herman's palm at a Linda Lovelace film festival? Everybody was making albums as slick as this in 1982, but Paul's was just smarmy enough to reach Number One...the first time that'd happened in a few years, and the last it would happen...umm...ever (absolutely not, on general purposes, counting the Beatle's Anthology or 1 albums).  This is the first McCartney album in some time that wasn't either totally weirded out, wildly inconsistent, or nostril-cloggingly boring, and partial thanks for that has to go to producer-extraordinaire George Martin, who somehow is able to make anything he comes in contact with become classier than a $200 visit to the champagne room.  But Tug of War also strikes me as being quite overrated, because, at heart, it's just more of what Paul has been doing behind the scenes since his solo career started, create decent (and unspectacular) pop songs with reasonable melodies and impeccable sound. It's just that Tug has almost no filler, never sounds inconsequential, and Paul doesn't make many missteps, and the resulting album suddenly becomes folks' favorite Paul album? Above Band on the Run, or McCartney, or Ram, or Venus and Mars? Psha! I hawk my morning kasha in your general vicinity, you roguish lover of simple pop albums!

Tug of War may have no poor songs, but there's not too many that raise the ol' pulse level above a rolling gait, either. The two songs that I find truly memorable are, of course, the earnest Stevie Wonder duet 'Ebony and Ivory', which is sort of like 'Silly Love Songs' trading the parliadelic bass for Stevie Wonder at his most 80's-lightwieght. I can recognize a good melody when I hear one, and somehow Paul 'n' Stevie avoid making the song sound preachy or negative, but it's really no 'Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey', is it? The other duet with the Great Sightless Braided One is 'What's That You're Doing', a lame attempt at a George Clinton-style (or, in other words, what Stevie Wonder was doing in 1973...and was sickly trying to remake in 1982. Jeez, the fact that no one in their right mind dug Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants really ruined that guy, didn't it?) electrofunk bad mamma jamma that completely fails to make my inner Rerun jiggle. However, the folkabilly duet with Carl Perkins, 'Get It', is nothing more than a throwaway that does neither Paul nor the great Perkins any favors. Paul's devotion to 50's rock 'n' roll is longstanding and probably heartfelt, and I appreciate him giving one of his idols a chance to sing on a major release again, but I think he could have tried harder in the songwriting department.

My favorite track, however, is 'The Pound Is Sinking', which captures the best of the post-New Wave feel that Back to the Egg and McCartney II kept getting so very wrong. Possibly because, at heart, it's just a timeless mid-tempo folk-rocker that could very well have been on Rubber Soul (or Ram, or Venus and Mars...), but Paul thankfully includes it here and lends some well-needed fibre to an album that often resembles London Town in it's unrelenting lightness. Except, shit, these lightweight songs are better than that by a good bit, and though they don't light my fire I still can't deny their level of craft. 'Wanderlust', for example, could have been completely faceless if George Martin hadn't had his way with the trumpets, and Paul hadn't been encouraged somehow to sing dizzying rings around himself. 'Here Today', dedicated to old adversary John Lennon, shows an admirable amount of genuine warmth, but also seems a bit whitewashed and saccharine when you consider these guys shared the best and worst times of their lives together. Still, it's shitloads better than George's dismissive and impersonal 'When We Was Fab' and 'All Those Years Ago' and whatever Ringo happened to giggle through on Stop and Smell the Roses. Paul might make lightweight records, but I think he's probably got a pretty good handle on his life compared to other folks. Which may explain his inconsequentiality, huh?

Anyway, if you're looking for a golden gun to solve all of your Paul McCartney complexes ('Why isn't he any better than he is?' 'Why did he insist on involving Linda in everything?' 'Do all of his solo albums have to have some lame, completely underdeveloped concept?' 'Does Paul have to buy himself lefty pairs of scissors?' 'Is there a whiter person on the face of the earth?' 'Did I forget to take my paycheck out of my pants pocket that's now running through the spin cycle?'), Tug of War isn't it. But if you already like Paul's solo work, you should probably consider making this one of your, say, top 5 purchases. It's his best album for quite some time, too, so maybe you should stock up on the good stuff before moving on to....the rest of the Evil Eighties.

Capn's Final Word: McCartney puts out a consistent album of pop songs and everyone goes bananas over it....I say you're just smoking the peels

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Pipes of Peace - Capitol 1983

Now this is getting a little lame, this wannabe Tug of War remake. Fans of that album will probably consider this to be the inferior little brother...there's the 'social consciousness anthem' ('Pipes of Peace'), the duets with the snazzy, red-hot black singer (Michael Jackson), and there's not at all the same amount of just okay pop music, no frills, no extra mustard, not a hint of creative experimentation.  Peace sounds like what happens when the War fails. For hit singles, this one has 'Say Say Say' with the Great White Hope Himself, what I somehow consider to be one of the best singles of 1983, including what Jackson put on his Thriller record. Okay, so maybe this is actually quite a bit worse than London Town, because that one was intentionally faceless and dull, just like it's cover and subject matter, while Pipes of Peace is just a godawful mess of early MTV synmusic...not synth-pop like McCartney II was, but the aural equivalent of wearing Gucci loafers without socks and pushing the sleeves of your white suit coat up over your Miami-tanned forearms.  That is, it's trendy when it's not a total failure to resemble anything other than a steaming pile of horse pockey. There's several times on this album where I'm sincerely embarrassed for McCartney, beit when he's chasing down the skirts of the MTV generation so insincerely as he does on the adult contemporary atrocity 'So Bad', featuring some of the creepiest falsetto singing we've ever heard from Mr. Paul and on the clunker synth-molesting 'High High'.

The 1980's weren't particularly kind to much of any of the former 'Rock Establishment', the onset of MTV Pop being a lot more lethal of an assault than punk or disco put together, but I, for one had a few hopes for this album as Tug of War II: Once More Through The Mud With Paul, but I'm afraid that, whatever that thing called nads may be, this album sucks them and doesn't let go. Gets all that lint and grase right out and leaves them clean and glistening, and milky-fresh. Strangely enough, however, much like fellow dinosaur's 1983 records like the Groaning Baloons' Undercover and Eric Crappytown's Money and Cigarettes, this album is plenty bad, but not near as bad as what would soon follow just a few short years later when all connection to the 1970's was lost and the world was left in a walking nightmare of Swatch watches, day-glo Ocean Pacific baseball hats, and Bartle's and James' Peach Spritzers and nobody but Brian Bozworth and Max Headroom to lead us to safety. Pipes of Peace is at least reasonably upbeat and organic when compared to the walking festering corpse that will be Press to Play, and rarely, if not often, I'm able to forget that I'm listening to outtakes from Tug, which a lot of this record so obviously is. So there's one point where Paul starts meowing like a cat...so what? Don't you remember him doing that on 'Good Morning, Good Morning'? And I bet you thought that song was great. And yodeling? And orchestrating an MGM musical right here on his 1983 pop album? C'mon guys, he's jumping around and pulling faces and making plenty of fart sounds...doncha wanna laugh?!!?!?

Capn's Final Word: Paul attempts the MTV-ized recreation of Tug of War and ends up falling on his ass.

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Eric esweenor@charter.net    Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: "So Bad" may be one of the single most appropriate song titles ever...Paul at his most saccharine.  Everything else here is wretched.  Does it really deserve a B+?  What is this, the All Music Guide where reviews don't actually match ratings?  C'mon, I've grown to expect higher quality from the Cap'n!

(Capn's Response: Dammit, I hate it when you're right.)


Give My Regards to Broad Street - Capitol 1984

I remember very clearly having a strange obsession with Paul McCartney as a grade schooler in the mid-80's. It probably had something to do with the fact that he was one of the few actually old guys who I ever saw on MTV, and at the time that was pretty interesting...Paul didn't mousse out his hair, didn't wear spandex or military outfits, never saw the point of eyeliner, and pretty much acted like a normal person at a time when most, if not all, the pop musicians on the TV set acted out in a bizarre and ridiculous (i.e. coked-up) parody of the rock attitude. And, man, did I like Paul's music whenever it came on the radio...it probably took me a month to get over the fact that 'Say Say Say' wasn't on the Thriller cassette that my parents had up and bought me out of the blue.  The thing was, like the old joke goes, I didn't have any idea that Paul'd ever been in some other band, much less understood that he'd been making records since my parents were in college. He was just this old guy who hung around with Michael Jackson and Dan Aykroyd and played these snappy songs. The weirdest thing of all is that I thought he was hilarious. I couldn't go through seeing Paul on a Saturday Night Live performance or an MTV interview without making a wet spot on my shorts because I thought he was funnier than the Muppets and Bosom Buddies put together. Why did I think that way? You may just as easily ask why I threw up every time I smelled pecans and always ate pizza from the top down. I was a kid, man! Kids do dumb things like eat boogers, worship Barney, and think world peace is possible. But lemme tell you...Give My Regards to Broad Street looked pretty fucking appealing to me when it came out in 1984. Paul McCartney does a silly, slapstick musical?!? Boy howdy! The last time I'd felt like that was when I had a friend of mine leave his Millenium Falcon playset and about 30 Star Wars figures at my house while he went off to summer camp. You know, probably, I was the only person on the planet for whom this retarded movie and astonishingly badly-conceived soundtrack sounded like a good idea. Needless to say, I didn't ever get to go see it, never bought the record, and had to sit at home and try to catch 'No More Lonely Nights' on the radio until I got over Paul and started obsessing on ZZ Top or David Lee Roth or whoever it was.

Anyway, now that I'm older and have about a dozen or so flaky, rusty layers of cynical crust on my personality, I'm pretty astonished how positively clueless Paul McCartney was in the mid-1980's. Here's a guy who, for the most part, had conducted his career without a whole hell of a lot of slumps and mistakes breaking down almost completely and not only hoisting a sad, silly cinematic attempt at recreating Hard Day's Night all by his middle-aged lonesome (well, Linda was there, I'm sure) on a mid-80's audience who was quickly forgetting who that was that had duetted with Michael Jackson a couple years back. I've never seen the film in it's entirety, but I've had the 'joy' (stabbing pains in the chest) to 'watch' (attempt to avert my eyes to avoid being liquidated into warm People Pudding like that scene in Radiers of the Lost Ark) 'sections' (sweaty, groaning pauses between dry heaves) of this 'film' (acceptable motive for suicide), and I can say that what I saw was as bad as they all claim. Anyway, I'm too macho to be Leonard Maltin, not batter-dipped enough to be Roger Ebert, and not genius enough to be that guy from the Arkansas Democrat newspaper who was the only person from which the producers of Air Bud and Gigli could find positive reviews of their movies, so I'm going to stop with the sad and humiliating pursuit called movie criticism and return to the sad and humiliating pursuit called Web Music Criticism.

Give My Herpes to that Broad on the Street (the soundtrack album, not the men's fragrance) is just extremely weird...and bewilderingly misguided. It's Paul's attempt at a sort of Todd Rundgren's Faithful album, except instead of rerecording his favorite songs by other people, he decides to reproduce in the studio, note for note, his own back catalogue! Never thought you needed another version of 'Good Day Sunshine' or 'For No One', or 'Silly Love Songs' did you? Well, Mr. McCartney knows better! It does, in fact, get sillier: he remakes versions of songs that are less than two years old, like Tug of War's 'Wanderlust' and 'Ballroom Dancing', and frigging 'So Bad' from Pipes of Peace, which came out just the year before! And when I say he remakes them, I mean he recreates everything (well, not the orchestras...those are usually replaced by synths, as a good student of the mid-1980's should have done. Those drums sound fakey, too, but with 1984 production, God only knows if they're real or they're Memorex) even down to the solos. Now, I'm all for hearing Paul's classics just one more time, but I'd like to remind you that this album is something below a live album, and I'm not all that hot on live albums that don't do anything new or exciting with the source material (i.e. Paul's own lame-ass live albums) anyway, so creating Xerox copies of the stuff in sterile production environments is paramount to clubbing baby seals with mint condition 1959 Les Paul Customs for me. Add in that Paul's voice is definitely showing the ravages of 40-years of, erm.... extremely clean and wholesome living, and you can see how unimpressed I might be with this stuff. Now, not every song is exactly like we've heard it before, and here's where it goes from poor to sickening.  Rearranging 'Ballroom Dancing' slightly is one thing (fuck around all you want with your recent material for all I care, Paul), but soundtrack-izing 'Eleanor Rigby' into some multi-part, Disney-orchestra, progged-out run-on sentence that blabbles and blobbles for nine minutes. It's flat-out perverse, is what it is, and shows how much understanding and care Paul has for his own past. 

Broad Street isn't a total loss for one reason, and that's the fine single 'No More Lonely Nights', featuring Dr. David Gilmour, D.D.S. on sustained, overprocessed grimace solos.  It's maybe not the single I think of when I think of Paul (which is, to be honest, 'Honey Pie'), but it is a clean, melodic statement of Paul and Linda's peculiar co-dependence, and I think the melody is close to top-notch. There's a couple more new tracks, not that you'd notice unless I told you about them (or you're a Pipes of Peace expert and can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these two songs weren't actually on that album under a different title, a feat I'm happy to admit I'm unable to achieve), and two disgusting remix versions of 'No More Lonely Nights' which should've stayed on the ass-side of the single. I say that unless you, like I was, are fascinated to find out that your beloved Paul was actually in a band some long-ass time ago, and would like to find out the 411 on that one sweet-petit, Broad Street is something to stay far away from. What is 'Broad Street', anyway? Did the publishers of 'Give My Regards to Broadway' threaten to sue or something? And if so, why didn't Paul try to find an original title, instead of just perverting an old, classic one? Paul was all about the profanation in 1984, man, all about it.

Capn's Final Word: Akin to Leonardo DaVinci redoing the Mona Lisa using finger paints. A sad soundtrack and another happy childhood memory dashed.

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Press to Play - Capitol 1986

Now, scholars of recent Paul McCartney solo albums might pose the question: What would happen if we mixed the pointless, weak pop of Pipes of Peace with the pointless, weak synthesizer experimentation of McCartney II? Would it really beat out Band on the Run to rival Abbey Road as Paul's best work ever? Would it not just go on to competing against Bach and Mozart in melodicism and flourish as the best music a human being could ever offer? Could the resulting CD really cure cancer if waved in the general direction of the tumourous area? If you were to place the CD on a football field against the 1986 New York Giants, would Press to Play win by 4 touchdowns, or 5? If we'd sent a copy of Press on the Voyager space probe instead of whatever crap we did send, would the receiving aliens be able to resist worshipping the Great Press and deifying Paul McCartney as Creator? Could we then colonize their planet in the name of 'Pretty Little Head' and use the aliens as our personal pleasure slaves? What about the Amazons? WHAT ABOUT THE PYGMIES!?!?  

In a word, fuck no. Press to Play sucks mighty ass. It was probably not going to be any good anyway, yet goes above and beyond in its determined quest to become the worst Paul McCartney album ever. Whatever it does, it definitely disappoints no one who expected a horrible outing from Paul following the precipitous dropoff in the quality of his work after Tug of War. Paul McCartney in 1986 was more confused than a blindfolded Ronald Reagan in a revolving door and less fashionably coiffured, and probably wrote worse songs (you've never heard Reagan's anti-democrat fist-pumping political protest anthem 'Because That's What My Astrologist Told Me to Do'? Or what about 'California Unter Alles'? Man, you haven't lived until you've heard Caspar Weinburger rip the solo up on 'Eat My Warhead, Bitch! (The Perestroika Song)') Paul not only fails to deliver a decent single, something he's done reliably since Red Rose Speedway, he also fails to write one decent track, even something as nondescript as a Pipes of Peace filler track seems beyond his capabilities here. Now, I wouldn't say this is unlistenable, but it's almost assuredly unlikable. There's constant affronts to commonly accepted good taste in the name of 1986 trendiness, from the 'KERPLASH!!!' drum samples to the massive layers of shimmery, artificial reverb. This is an album that stole half of it's sound from Don Henley's Building the Perfect Beast, half from a Cyndi Lauper album, and the remaining 50% from Duran Duran, none of which are probably bad on their own, but mix them up in a great big stewpot with Paul at the spoon and we've already got trouble. Paul's voice, for one, is completely out of place on a record that sounds like this...Paul's particular Pipes of (no) Peace remind me here of nothing more than somebody's drunk uncle fucking about with the band's cheese-keyboard setup at a wedding reception while the family grimaces, groans, and prays to God he won't urinate in the punchbowl anytime soon.

It's not for me to really speculate on what Paul's motives were to release an album so obviously clueless, so clearly out of his element, but that's clearly what he's done on Press. This is an album so horrible as to be humorless, without even the 'laughing with him or AT him' quality of McCartney II's sillier material. Nope...Paul's in a stonefaced serious mood here, as witnessed by 'Pretty Little Head', which makes me think of an episode of Miami Vice co-scored by Depeche Mode and Buster Poindexter. Paul, funnily enough, attempts punk anger on, duh, 'Angry', and he ends up sounding like Grandpa Simpson fuming over having missed a Matlock episode. All the ballads sound either like poor versions of things we've heard before, or simply quieter versions of the drum-machine Thalidomide babies that infect the rest of the disc. Things get a little less irritating and a lot more dull on the second half, my least favorite tracks there being the march tempo Michael Boltonisms of 'Tough on a Tightrope' and the white antifunk of 'Write Away', which I think was even a single. Sorry, citizens of 1986, but you'll have to suffer another year or two before college rock starts winding back up again and you'll get to stop subjecting yourself to this nonsense.

Heh, I used to love the qwonky, jerky movie theme 'Spies Like Us', though (included as a bonus track for cool people retarded or ignorant enough to buy this album nowadays), and have a fond memory stomping around the snow on the playground singing it with Michael Shumaker and Brian Allen back there at Rhien Benninghoven Elementary. Probably followed by us trying to fart on each other before failing to get picked for kickball and losing a couple of boots in the huge mudfield that always seemed to form west of the swings. Ah...the joys of youth. You think Paul will ever get tired of trying to fart on us all by releasing these awful albums? I'd say doubtful.

I hate to sound hateful, but Paul McCartney used an estimated 6% of his talent while making Press to Play, and I'd like to remind you all that to scratch your asscrack successfully takes at least 12.5%. This album is so much worse than anything else I've come across so far in his catalogue, it has to be given some sort of recognition. This isn't merely messy, like Wild Life, or boring, like London Town....this album runs the decathlon of bad. I mean, this album is so bad, it rivals latter-day Culture Club and Frankie Goes To Hollywood records for sheer power of the awfulness. It's plastic, dissonant, cheesy, insincere, ugly, old, and soft all at the same time. Again, this isn't Neil Hamburger, Reefer Madness, Bat Out Of Hell hardy-har so-bad-its-funny crap that idiotic hipsters like to champion because they're gay and have no taste, this is a premeditated affront to Paul McCartney's memory and music as a whole. Avoid at all costs.

Capn's Final Word: A most disgusting attempt to keep current by sucking just as much as the worst plastic pop of the 80's. Has little or no input from the McCartney you and I know...this must be held as proof that the real Paul didn't die in 1967, he died in 1982.

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CHOBA B CCCP - Capitol/Melodia 1987

Back in the USSR, doncha know, and an album full of 50's rawkinrow cover tunes like what Paul digs singing so darn much because he's about as original as a knock-knock joke. Released as a goodwill gesture towards the rabid rock fans of the Soviet Union (I'm not kidding about that...people there take their rock 'n' roll seriously, possibly because it was officially banned for so long, possibly because Russians tend to be obsessive about everything, but in a good, I've-got-a-million-and-a-half-out-of-print-jazz-records-in-my-one-room-apartment kind of way.) and as therapy for Paul, who'd hit absolute bottom with Too Depressed to Play the year before. Yes, conceptually it parallels John's Rock 'n' Roll album of a decade or so before, but while John got the support of all the Wall of Sound and Liver of Scotch he was able to scratch up, reinventing many of the songs in his own, bombastic, mid-70's drunken asshole image, Paul just clucks his heels and runs through fourteen tracks in 50 minutes (probably taking no more than a few hours of studio time in all) and goes back to wondering which pants he left his talent in. CCCP is, well, energetic as most 50's rock 'n' roll is (calling 50's rock 'n' roll energetic is like calling heavy metal 'loud', American beer 'wussy', or those skanky Hilton girls 'nauseating'....it's so redundant as to be meaningless), so has that certain minimum level of entertainment value a bunch of swinging seniors could be expected to have, but it ain't got too much more than that. I guess as a sampler of great 50's tunes (Paul's selections can hardly be faulted, but more on that later), I'd probably go here before I would to Rock 'n' Roll, but I'd probably go here almost never anyway.

Let's see, small insignificant details that I'll feel guilty is I don't fill up my review with despite really saying all I want to say about this record, hrmm.....Paul's track selection has a few left turns in it, like Duke Ellington's 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore' and 'Midnight Special' like what CCR did so well (isn't that Big Bill Broonzy's song? Leadbelly's too, but I don't dig him near as much), and it's got 'Summertime', a gutsy selection, but one that unfortunately points up Paul's voice, which is now about as thin and unreliable as a five-cent condom when he's not belting it out straight. Most of the rest of the tracks are predictable...your 'Lucille', your 'That's All Right, Mama', your 'Twenty Flight Rock'. Paul's longrunning comeback-era touring band is also first (partially) encountered here. Guitarist Mick Green pulls off some good garage-band soloing when Paul lets out the leash, but for the most part things are played strictly to the vest.

I suppose my level of enjoyment of this little record is high enough to justify somebody buying it cheap, but since this thing is almost impossible to find anymore, that whole recommendation flies out the window and gets sucked right into the 747 jet inlet and smashed into a bazillion tiny pieces. There's really no reason for anyone to buy this unless they're a big fan of Paul's voice, or happen to be huge Mick Green fans, but I will be thankful that at least this finally cracked the synth-pop egg that'd been surrounding Paul for most the 1980's. From here on out, Paul would return to simply boring us with melodic roughage rather than shoving MTV icepicks in our ears...

Capn's Final Word: Silly rock 'n' roll songs? 'fraid so, but if you get a couple of good, enjoyable listens out of it, you will have officially spent more time on it than Paul did. But, hey, it's (only) rock 'n' roll man!

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Flowers in the Dirt - Capitol 1989

A comeback album of sorts, at least from the likes of Press to Play, but long and dull enough to earn my derision nevertheless, Flowers in the Dirt is Paul's own personal '1989 Album'. Dirt joins the ranks of Dylan's Oh Mercy!, the Stones' Steel Wheels, Clapton's Journeyman, and that darned Bonnie Raitt album as one of the overlong, overrated, and overhyped 'retro'-professional albums that came out in the same year and seemed to indicate the long-awaiting reawakening of the Dinosaurs from their 1980's hibernation. Unfortunately, sober, tasteful packaging, live drummers, and endless songlistings weren't enough to save any one of these from their general lack of good songs, and Flowers is no exception. If anything, this album returns Paul to familiar territory...he's back playing faceless, professional pop music that neither offends or excites, and ends up sounding like a cross between Tug of War and London Town, as professional and clean as the first and as mellow and consistent as the second. Wait, no...this sounds like an addition of Tug of War to London Town...it's well over an hour long, sixteen songs in all with the inevitably boring bonus tracks! Whooeee! It's a maximum dose of Macca! Fill up on them bits 'n' bytes, Paul! You never made a double album in the 70's, so Now's Your Chance!

While most of the songs are pleasantly forgettable, only a few are really worth noting. The single 'My Brave Face' gives Paul his strongest album opener since McCartney II, a mid-tempo adultpop Let's Hear It For The Boy! track written with grouch extraordinaire Elvis Costello, also conveniently wallowing in the latter stages of a career slump. 'My Brave Face' was the biggest hit either one had had in years, and it's a strong track. I'm just a bit disappointed that Paul wasn't able to write it himself. I hear quite a bit of Costelloism in the 'Eversinceyouwentaway...' part, and in general the song feels more like Elvis than Paul, but I guess that's what collaboration is all about. (They later duet together on 'You Want Her Too', but it's just gross. Costello is okay on his own but his belt-sander voice shouldn't much be singing with other folks, dig?) 'Figure of Eight' is also strong, reminding me of something that might have fit in on Venus and Mars or maybe one of the better ELO albums.

The rest of the album, as I've said, is passably pleasant adult pop of the same stripe you may have heard on FM Radio's Lite Hits stations from Rod Stewart or Eric Clapton or Anal Cunt around the same time (what, you've never heard of the Cunt's 1990 Adult Contempo Top 10 single 'Only Love Can Mend A Broken Heart, But Give Me A Fifth of Wild Turkey, A Butter Knife, and A Sewing Kit, and I'll Give It A Try Myself'? Rube.) It's VH-1 music, nice 'n' kind and without a hint of offensive odor or static cling (I think all of the 'rock' from this album was removed in the single-cell phase was grown clandestinely in a petri dish in the janitor's closet and sold to the Russians as CHOBA B CCCP.), and nearly zero personality. The impeccable, subtle production and over reliance on smoooooth mid-tempo posters creates an almost impenetrable mental block to the individual tracks on this record. They're so smooth and so slick I not only don't get a grip on them, I don't even know when they've come and gone. Again, not horrible, and probably more interesting and upbeat than my ol' whipping boy London Town, but still not something Paul needs to base a huge blowout tour on.

Capn's Final Word: Paul sneaks his way back into respectability, which means talking too softly to make any sense.

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Tripping the Live Fantastic - Capitol 1990

Whoops! His biggest tour in like 14 years, and he does it in support of the yawner My Poop Smells Like Flowers. Not like Paul's ever gonna rip it up onstage anyway, especially not if he keeps releasing these double-CD live extravaganzas that seem to serve no purpose other than to keep the grass green and remind everyone that Paul McCartney can put his name to a whole shitload of popular hit songs. And when I say shitload, I mean JESUS JUMPING FUCKNOSE PAT ROBERTSON ON A GREASED SPIT...gasp! 37 of them! Thirty fucking seven tracks on this thing, which means that listening to the whole thing in one setting will take something like 20 more minutes than the entire span of your life will take to complete, which therefore means you're last moments will come somewhere in the middle of 'Get Back', I suppose not such a bad way to go. And this isn't like Wings Over America, which was a well-paced retrospective of his then-recent Wings albums posing as a rockin' good time with a couple of Beatles tracks thrown in for giggles 'n' squiggles. This is Paul McCartney running roughshod over a thirty-year back catalogue without regard to whether it's right, karmically advisable to have 'Let It Be' rubbing elbows with boring-ass Flowers in the Dirt material, which, by the way, he includes liberally. And while it's pretty cool to hear things like the Abbey Road suite performed pseudo-live ('pseudo' because the sound here is so pristine, a lot of the usual 'live ambience' is lost completely in a warm, sparkly wasteland), many of these versions are so by-the-book that it's impossible not to focus on the glaring drawbacks of this set, namely that Paul's band is really pretty darned dull and that Paul's voice isn't just deteriorating into cracks and whistles whenever he pushes it beyond 55, it's that he's gotten so much in the habit of improvising with his 'whoo!'s and 'doo doo doo!'s that he often forgets to sing the melody.  I mean, the set never once reaches the point where I'm ready to shut it off in disgust, but never once in more that two hours does it push beyond the level of almost, sorta competent. And this much latter-day Paul McCartney in one place, especially with such a liberal quantity of latter-day bullshit tracks like 'We Got Married' and 'This One' that I couldn't pick out of a lineup at gunpoint if given Cliff's Notes and a 20 minute headstart. I'd say that while fans could very well appreciate Wings Over America, I really doubt anyone who didn't lose their virginity at one of these shows would ever be so huge a fan as to hold this album in high regard. Due to the interminable length, the schizoid setlist, the unimaginative performances, Tripping the Live Fantastic has got to get the boot.

Capn's Final Word: Paul's Delicate Sound of Thunder, and just as bad.

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Off the Ground - Capitol 1993

Finally scraping himself from the windshield of history, Ground is the most interesting album Paul'd released in over a decade, and probably one of the more consistent albums of his entire career. For once, Paul sounds completely in command of his style and songwriting as if he's broken free of some weight that'd dragged down his albums for nearly 20 years. Possibly he's jazzed working with an actual band again (his Flowers/Tripping band is his longest-standing musical collaboration since Wings), or maybe he's just responding nicely to the more elderly-friendly market atmosphere of the early 1990's. But whatever it is, the man's back....he's older than most geological formations and likes to write songs that appeal to other folks as old or older than himself, but they're good songs,  and Paul writing for his own age group makes a lot more sense than him trying to run down each and every new trend in a lame and pointless attempt to keep up with the Chumbawumbas and the Cardigans of this world (actually, he does still try from time to time, witness his groady Fireman electronic side project, but he at least has the wherewithal to keep his experiments separate from his usual output). Funnily enough, after the mind-numbing repetitiveness of Flowers in the Dirt, Off the Ground has gone the way of his early Wings albums...he's stylistically all over the place. Of course, everything is still smooth, light, and slick by definition, but I shouldn't even have to mention that by now, but it's a good inconsistency rather than an annoying one. There's everything from sweeping ballads ('The Lovers that Never Were') to Dire Straits-y speedboogie ('Biker Like an Icon') and 90's big-beat pop rock ('Off the Ground') and slow love songs that seem ripped from your favorite Wings record ('Winedark Open Sea'). Which may make it sound like Paul is in some sort of introspective mood, which he's really not; that was Flowers in the Dirt, where he pretty much tip-tapped around the wide-open spaces in his own psyche for an hour or so.  Off the Ground is more upbeat, more worldly, more universalist. It's got some lo-cal political commentary ('Peace in the Neighborhood' and 'Lookin' For Changes') so innocuous that it won't bother anyone who isn't Rush Limbaugh on a Oxycontin jones, plus a few of those C'mon People, Let's Get Together Now anthems (title track, 'Hope Of Deliverance') that either make you warm and fuzzy or make your skin crawl off and hide under the couch. Whatever...it's Paul McCartney, and if you're a cynic or nihilist and you're wondering if you should buy Off the Ground or not, you're probably half fit for the tranq drip anyhow.

Off the Ground isn't flawless, and in fact it's got more than its fair share of rotting fish brains on the second side (the gawdawful psychedelic-revival 'Golden Earth Girl' is fit to make me start lining anyone with a headband or a beaded necklace up against the city wall blindfolded, knowwhatImean?), but as a whole I'm encouraged and cheered up by this release. Paul's eased himself back into a semi-relevance, and rediscovered his ability to keep melodic no matter what style of music he's trying to reinterpret as soft-pop McCartney music. He's still Paul, with all the baggage that comes with that after a 20-odd year solo career, but he's still Paul.

Capn's Final Word: Is Paul being what Paul is enough? Possibly so...his best album in decades.

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Paul is Live - Capitol 1993

Preferable to Tripping the Live Fantastic, but probably only because it's half as long. Also, it doesn't have quite so many of the old, broke-dick live warhorses Paul's been grinding into nostalgic dust since the Wings Over America tour, preferring to keep to the 'secondary' favorites ('Drive My Car', 'Let Me Roll It', 'Michelle', a much better 'Live and Let Die' than on WOA) and containing, miraculously, no overlap with Tripping. Makes for a more interesting selection of songs, but not too many real surprises. Call it the Lost Third Tripping Disc if you want to, for that's pretty much what it is....same band, same thick coating of songs from the recent Off the Ground, same note-perfect interpretations of songs that made Paul, John, George, and Ringo famous 30 years prior performed by Paul and a bunch of faceless sidemen, same degenerating vocals, same predictability...or, not! Heh! The ending section (beginning with a chorus of locusts signaling the end of the world on 'Welcome to Soundcheck') is as intimate as a stadium soundcheck can be, as Paul and band trundle out something called 'Hotel In Benidorm' followed by a nice 'Cmon People' from Ground and....wowza! An 'I Wanna Be Your Man' that sounds nothing like either the Stones or the Beatles versions, but rather is Diddlied like a certain man named Bo, making for one of the real highlights of the disc. I also have to mention how cool it is to have Paul give us a version of 'Kansas City' as performed in KC itself, which just happens to be not only the hometown of some Kansas City wine and some crazy little women, but also your Humble Reviewer. Makes me hunger for some ribs, it does...

Capn's Final Word: Better than the average Paul live album, but mostly because it's shorter than the average Paul live album. He still ain't no Foghat onstage tho.

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Flaming Pie - Capitol 1997

Ummm....I just noticed Sir Paul McDufflenut gets a LOT of B-minuses, which, according to the handy dandy CapnMarvel rating explaninator, means that he's infected with the gargantuan hookworm, the heebie jeebies, and should forever be known as the Crawlin' King-Daddy Craw-snake. Or just makes a lot of albums that are either so well-crafted or so goddamned melodic that I can't rate them any lower even though they're boring as fuck. Well, not as FUCK, which is actually pretty intriguing under the right lighting and/or chemical combinations, but more boring like, say, lacrosse is boring. Some people like it a whole lot, and I'm pretty afraid of offending people who worship Paul McCartney and/or lacrosse, so I give them B-minuses when I really never want to hear the record again in my life. You know what I like to listen to when I get my chance to listen to something freely? Krautrock, Journey, gangsta rap, and Willie Nelson, almost exclusively. At least, that's what it's been lately...no critical darlings, no Loudin Wainwright or Yo La Tengo or frigging Yeah Yeah Yeahs, just a bunch of nasty misfits I'd probably not allow sleep on my couch after a gig. So when I sit here and talk about how a Paul McCartney album is a B-, don't assume that I'm doing it for any other reason than I really don't like it, but I can see how someone else could. Oh, and I think I'd rather have a slab of ribs with candles on it for my birthday than a stupid cake. Or maybe a nice brisket sandwich. Think you could arrange that?

Anyway, Flaming Pie is probably a bit more emotionally grounded for dear ol' Paul, as his darling wife of few nights separation was obviously coming down with a bad case of the death, and he was trying to deal with the possibility of her loss. Paul was a guy who, when compared to most rock musicians of his generation, had pretty much a cakewalk through life...no legal problems, no brushes with death, no drug addiction, no pots of scalding grits thrown on his back, no motorcycle crashes...just year after year of domesticated contentedness and slowly but steadily declining artistic merit and a few nights in jail for misplacing a frigging J. But WHAM! Linda gets cancer and Paul's automatically thrust into a place where he has no control, and he has to deal with it artistically, which he's not particularly adept at doing. So Flaming Pie, as much as I want to give it more credit as an extremely hard album to make, is actually dreary, repetitive, and dull when compared to Off the Ground. Sadly, this isn't the dreariness of someone a little more in touch with the dark and dusty parts of the soul, like, say, Lou Reed, this is just 'I forgot how to write a melody that doesn't sound like all the others on this record' dreary. No excursions into the meaning of loneliness or the destitution of losing the mother of your children, just the reaction you might expect Paul to make in your most cynical daydreams...vague, not too deep, close to the vest. The most striking feature of Flaming Pie is that this is the quietest album he's made in some time (London Town? I forget now...20+ albums'll do that to ya), there's acoustic strumming galore, so much so that it almost sounds to me like he's trying over and over to rewrite 'Mull of Kintyre' with varying results. There are some harrowing moments, most of which fall right at the beginning of the CD, like the chummy 'Song We Were Singing' (a nostalgic song that may be about either the Beatles or Linda) or the toppermost of the poppermost, 'Somedays', which cuts to the heart of Paul's feelings of loss and sadness, probably the only time he really lets his feelings go. 

The rest of Flaming Pie? Well goddamn you, Jeff Lynne, but it all sounds the same! The same martial 2-4 electrobeat that Lynne's been perforating his songs with since 1972, not to mention his ever-present choruses and generally contrived, reverbed sound. On one hand, it's amazing he's able to make pretty much anyone sound decent with it, but on the other it's pretty funny how everyone sounds the same. I dunno...Paul's able to make it work sometimes ('Young Boy') and other times it sounds like he's just awoken from sustaining major brain damage and told to write a song ('Flaming Pie'), but whatever it is, you know how the song's gonna go instinctively before it even begins. All you need to do is hear the gentle strumming and that goddamned snare drum and you automatically sense this song's gonna be, well, pretty fucking predictable, you know? And it's not like Lynne's production is automatically a kiss of death. George Harrison's Cloud 9 of 10 years before was a fun, upbeat bunch of poptones like George had never written before. As if he'd written a Paul album. And this, my friends, must be Paul's attempt at a George Harrison album as he sees it...you know, airy, spare, lots of lead guitar. It's just, you know, lacking in those special Paul-ish intangibles that could knock it over the edge. The production is either self-consciously 'raw' or, as I've mentioned before, over-slick, never meeting in that kind middle where Off the Ground sat. The melodies are almost always slight, and Paul relies on formula (blues! acoustic ballad! mid-tempo rocker! another acoustic ballad!) more than he has in recent memory, without so much as a mention of his main strength, which is his strong ability with a pop hook over a pop arrangement of pop instrumentation. Nah...Paul is either trying to be George here, or he's trying to be Eric Clapton Unplugged ('Great Day' is just a sad approximation of that old-people favorite....), but he's not trying hard enough to be himself. And I don't much like it.

Hell, you too might get tired of Paul's endless albums full of light, melodic pop, but you might not be able to seek refuge in the soothing sounds of Amon Duul II or Journey's Infinity album like me, so maybe Flaming Pie might just work for you as an interesting change of pace. I just happen to see it as uninteresting, and a change of pace in the wrong direction, like slowing down....besides, Flaming Pie shouldn't be one of your first Paul solo albums anyway, lest you completely get the wrong idea of what he's about. Fantatics, well...I'm sure they have 50 hours of Oobo Jouboo tapes full of rehearsals and studio tuning sessions for this album, and don't need anyone's opinion nohow. I'll just crawl back into the capable arms of Mr. Neal Schon now, thanks...

Capn's Final Word: Paul's mourning album, but he doesn't mourn. And if he did, does Paul actually mourn like this? Sounding like Eric Clapton at his most Adult Contemporary/cuddly? Or as rough and slight as James Taylor with a head cold?

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Run Devil Run - EMI 1999

Hell, now this is more fun than CHOBA B CCCP, even if it's exactly the same frigging idea. Paul's only got so many of 'em, you know...he's got the Slick Pop Album, the Disgusting Experimental Wad of Dick Snot, the Massive Live Album, the Small Acoustic Album...and the 50's Teddy Boy Revival. That's been pretty much it since, say, 1975, and I dare you to find one of his albums that doesn't fit snugly into one of my handy dandy categorizations I've so smugly listed above. Me? An asshole? Why, thank you for saying so! If only Paul's other albums would show steady improvement like his retro-throwback covers records do, he'd have more perfect scores than the Beatles. And his experimental albums might not make me want to puke my guts out!

Shit...I'd hate for you to come out of this thing thinking I hate Paul. I really don't. I've probably gotten as much total enjoyment out of his solo albums as George or John's, it's just that there's so many more of them. Like anyone, though, Paul's bag of tricks gets more and more ossified as he gets older, and Paul's solo career has never had too many extremely high points, anyway. So when he comes out with a second album of old 50's covers, most of which was probably recorded live in the studio, most of which sounds freakishly similar to an album he recorded 12 years before (which, fair enough, was never intended to be released in the US), and you have to wonder whether the man is slipping or not. And the conclusion? Well, if Paul hadn't put together what amounts to a superstar band of badass motherfathers like David Gilmour (you'd never guess it was him...he plays rock 'n' roll guitar, something I've never heard from the guy before! Cool! My opinion has just jumped a notch or two!), Mick Green, Klaus Voorman (yeah, John's ol' bass player and the guy who doodled the Revolver cover back in the day) and, WHOOO! Deep Purple's Ian Paice on skins! Whoo! Lemme tell you, this band rips, and does it like a punk band, all coiled threat and massive solos jiggering off their fingers like they're 5 days into a weeklong meth binge and they're fresh out of shelves to organize. The production is also fantastic, just 'retro'd' enough to sound appropriately slap-backy and and dark, just clean and compressed enough to not sound like a live album. 

So while you're sitting through yet another version of 'Brown-Eyed Handsome Man' or 'All Shook Up', you can marvel at the band sound and wallow in the warm, fuzzy production setup. And though most of the other cover songs on the album are pretty obscure ('No Other Baby'? 'Honey Hush'? 'Movie Magg'? Don't look to me for guidance here, babies. I admit I'm pretty retarded about pre-Beatles rock music that isn't by Presley, Berry, Holly, or Richard, or the ol' blues guys.), they're still 50's rock 'n' roll. If you're jazzed about that stuff, well, you're probably already salivating over the thought of this record. I feel like 50's rock 'n' roll is great from time to time, and I'd certainly consider putting this rockin' album on if I had a hankerin' for the antique stuff, but I'd probably end up putting on Elvis' 50 Golden Greats or Chuck's Great Twenty Eight instead. I mean, Paul's about as close to an original as you can get without being one, but if I really want to hear some great boogie-woogie, I'll go to the source, thanks. While, again, I appreciate Paul's obvious devotion and fandom to his roots, I'd probably prefer him writing his own material again.

Oooh...but he does! Just three songs, but they're all great and they fit into the classics and misfits around them like beans in chili. 'Run Devil Run' especially is more genuine heat than Paul's been able to squeeze out since, umm...'Helter Skelter'? A Chuck Berry narrative/rocker blasting out of the sun like a fusion powered golf cart, it's fast, loose, and out of control, and I love the fuck out of it. 'Try Not To Cry' is more stereotypical, but 'What It Is' has an infectiously goofy chorus where Paul's words just fall all over each other. Hell, they're all good songs...I'd certainly buy an album full of 'em, anyway.

Capn's Final Word: A fine hoopty-do by a bunch of guys I figured to be washed up after Duke, but this is such enjoyable and high-quality work I just do not care about the 80's-ness of it all. A good album is a good album no matter if it has fake drums and plastic production or not.

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Driving Rain - EMI 2001

Paul is so close to having a pretty great album in Driving Rain, but he doesn't make it. He sounds more engaged than he has since the 70's, and for once the chances he takes aren't related to sad attempts at keeping current, but are genuine, real steps off the main road. With Rain, Paul takes his first hesitant steps on his own after nearly a lifetime with Linda (well...Run Devil Run was the first post-Linda album, but he had a little help from his friends, plus a bunch of cover songs I'm sure he knows so well he could play them while in a coma) and while he ruminates on pain and loss in a much more convincing way than he did on the majorly weak and he seems game to take his newfound love of dirty-ass rock 'n' roll to the masses, and I'm all for that. Rain is loose, about as loose as any Paul album since Ram, but while his early albums had that certain coiled greatness that seemed to belie the very off-hand nature, Rain sounds like he's giving all he's got. Does it even bear mentioning that all Paul's got isn't really that much anymore? I've been saying it for what, 30+ reviews? These songs don't have too many layers to 'em, and the more times I listen to this record, the thinner it gets. Take, for example, 'She's Given Up Talking', probably one of the more creepy moments in Paul's career. It's a brooding dirge interspersed with techno-sounding sections, and at first listen it might make the hair on your knuckles stand upright. But listen to it again and you'll understand that mostly, all that's happening is that cliche beat, Paul's lyrics make little or no impact, and the final effect is one of a limp McCartney II experiment as remixed by Daniel Lanois. There's lots of songs on here like that....at first, they sound great, but let 'em grow on you and you'll begin to realize they don't hold too much repeat value. However, the real weird shit, like the George-ish sitar blowout 'Riding Into Jaipur', isn't as bad as you might expect it could be. There's a real heart beating under all this stuff, unlike, say, Press to Play, which had a belching bile pump, but this is about as far as I'd like Paul to go with this stuff...he's eclectic, but he's not off his rocker, either.

The problem with Driving Rain is, as has been the case in the past, Paul doesn't know when the proper time is to shut the fuck up and let his songs speak for themselves. The man packs 'From A Lover to a Friend' so full of words that it almost drowns the delicate twilight of the song, and, worst of all, he packs the 10+ minute 'Rinse the Raindrops' (an otherwise intriguing jam excursion) so full of 'whoo!'s' and 'heeee!'s' that, by the time it's over I'm sick of it. We've already discussed his rapidly degenerating voicebox, but this is probably a major factor in my dislike of Paul's over-demonstrative tendencies on Rain. Superficially, Paul still sounds like Paul, but his timbre is thinner, his voice flat-out cracks sometimes, and if he ever begins singing above a talk-level, his voice loses every bit of character altogether. Musically, this album is acceptable but has little chemistry...Paul's not spent much time with this band, and it shows. While the players challenge him more than the Flowers/OTG band did, and have a more woody, genuine sound than that often over-slick bunch, they also clash with Paul more. And when they do attempt to sound slick, like on the poor title track, they sound insular and plastic. Can Paul ever win? His best band ever (well, besides, you know...them) had a dude from Deep Purple and another from Pink Floyd in it, and they only helped him out because he was down in the dumps and wanted to play a bunch of fun 50's tunes. This new band could be anybody, but they sound like they could be playing with anybody, too. A faceless bunch of jerks, in other words.  But, for the most part, the writing overcomes these shortcomings...the melodies on this record come ready and they come often. Anyone not moved at least once or twice by this record should probably just resign himself to listening to Anal Cunt until he relents and learns to appreciate a damn melody already. Of course, lyrically it's another story, and that's yet another problem with Driving Rain...

Aw hell...what I mean is that Paul writes some winners and a fair share of stinkers on this album, much like he did way back on Off the Ground, but, hell...I feel awful rating what's probably Paul's most open-hearted work ever, but lyrically this thing's a gloppy, self-consciously indulgent load of mucous bubbles. He's mourning, he's balling a pegleg model chick half his age, he's trying to come to grips with getting remarried...what, am I supposed to get in the middle of this? He's writing what he feels, which is a lot of confusion and pain and feelings of starting over 'back in the sunlight again' and all that...he hasn't been so honest in awhile, but he's still not all that deep when you get down into it. Paul's public reaction to Linda's death was quite a bit like what his public persona was with her in life: a little too ideal, a little too storybook. If it's genuine, hell, that's excellent for Paul, and even if it's not, I don't much care. Paul's been doing the cute, homey thing for so long I can't help but believe it's true. All I'm saying is that it's a lot more interesting to hear Paul do songs where his heart is bleeding on the floor than more wifey-devotional tracks like 'I Do' that I liked better 30 years back when they were written for Linda. I don't have a damn thing against Heather, and I wish them well (and, in fact, think the near-instrumental 'Heather' is fine work), just to let you know. But I do get bored by all the cuddly wuddly on this record. 'Tiny Bubbles' isn't kind and insightful, it's just bullcrap. It's awful ironic that Mr. Softie is now tons more effective when he flexes a bit of muscle than when he's proclaiming his love. His vision is clearer, but he's still unable to write another 'Silly Love Songs', and that's a little sad.

Oh God, my copy has that fucking Republican Blackshirt War Anthem 'Freedom' on it. A sixty-odd year old Paul McCartney flexing his brittle, liver-spotted forearm at me and telling me he's willing to 'fight for the right to live in freedom'? Well, go right ahead, Paulie Boy, pick up that M-16 and get marching, you fucking fascist. Since when did you start buying into the sweaty wet dreams of a Texan president and all of his porky, bloodthirsty keepers? It's one thing to feel sorrow and pain after 9/11, it's quite another to be playing propaganda queen to the worst tendencies of American 'patriotism' (more guns, more Jesus, lower taxes, kill some brown folks, Hallelijah!). I hope, sincerely hope that Paul did it only to have a hit after going, what, 8 years without one? That at least could be understandable...but the alternative, that Paul's writing songs for poor kids to march off to war to is more than I can handle.

Driving Rain is one of Paul's most maddening works. On one hand, it tries so hard musically that I'm willing to feel good about it, but there's instances of ugliness and unoriginality that supercede all that. I guess I have to feel charitable that he's still fighting as hard as he is, but unless he shapes up and includes at least one song that could conceivably be played after the next concert tour is over, I'm gonna have to start believing Paul's just buying himself time now.

Capn's Final Word: Getting more inconsistent, and those lyrics wouldn't convince a 500-pound Mexican to have another burrito, but the melodies are solid as a rock. Once this guy gets his shit together and pulls off the lyrics, melodies, and variety at the same time, he'll probably be so excited his head will explode.

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Federico   fedefer20@hotmail.com  Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Yeah Ryan, you hit it right on the spot with that "Freedom" song. I couldn't actually believe my ears when I first heard it, I nearly sickened, it sounded like a bloody Bush propaganda... I mean, or George Junior wrote the lyrics or Paul writes his speeches. Ah, I love Paul, really, but with this song and being a vegetarian he totally blew it. If he wasn't the man who wrote "Hey Jude"...

Federico (AKA The dumb one from Gaucholand).

 


Back in the US - EMI 2003

Docked a few points for complete and utter worthlessness, and pissing me off, and kicking my dog, and putting baby laxative in my gas tank and sugar in my cocaine. This is essentially a reworking of Tripping the Live Fantastic, yet another huge double live cash-in from the latest huge mega-tour with very little to recommend it for people who actually care about things like making a live performance different from a studio one, stepping on the gas a bit more in concert, and not having pretty much every line McCartney sings doubled by the entire band on backups. Also, the Beatles impressions of this particular band mimick the real thing even more odiously than the Tripping/Paul Image Limited one. It's as if he's found himself a little karaoke Beatles and all he has to do is wind 'em up, say 'Whoooo!', and the folks'll cream their corn to buy more tickets. Well, isn't that pretty much exactly what happened? I can't blame Paul for doing this kind of crass commercial thing, I guess...he's proud of the songs he's written, and well he should be. They're his (or, well, 'John's and his', most of them, and NOT 'his and John's' if you get my meaning. Fucking guy thinks billing is going to improve his image? Maybe he should've worried about image before he released aging crud like Flaming Bag of Poop.) and he can perform whatever he wants to. And if I don't want to hear him sing 'The Long and Winding Road' another fucking time just like the last time, well, that's my own business, I guess.  

Otherwise, I can't really say anything about this live record I haven't already said what seems like a dozen times. If you don't have a live Paul record, buy Wings Over America. If you want another, get Paul is Live. If you feel you need all the Beatles hits, get the Beatles albums. If you want to hear the new songs, get Driving Rain. Now, go knock yourself out.

Capn's Final Word: A fine hoopty-do by a bunch of guys I figured to be washed up after Duke, but this is such enjoyable and high-quality work I just do not care about the 80's-ness of it all. A good album is a good album no matter if it has fake drums and plastic production or not.

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