Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney • Flowers in the Dirt [2017 Reissues]

If you follow all the latest reissue news on the many fine blogs there are dedicated to such important info, you may know that PAUL McCARTNEY has been under fire for this, the latest in his Archive Collection series. Flowers in the Dirt has just been reissued in multiple formats, including a 2CD version, a 2LP vinyl version, and a super deluxe 3CD+DVD box set. All three include the original 12-track 1989 album (the CD versions had and have an additional track) plus a second disc of demos. The super deluxe adds on a third CD of “demos” and a DVD featuring videos of the singles and documentary footage. What’s all the hubbub, bub? you ask. And for that you’ll have to read on (or if you’re impatient, skip down a few paragraphs)…

Flowers in the Dirt was one of McCartney’s occasional “return to form” releases – an album that brought him some solid chart success after nearly a decade of drought (from ’83 until ’89 was a struggle – remember “Spies Like Us”?). Arriving just ahead of the single release of lead-off track, “My Brave Face,” Flowers was at once contemporary and completely McCartney. This album showed Macca at his best, with sweet, hooky pop on tracks like “This One” and “Figure of Eight” (both released as singles), lush confections like “Motor of Love” and the super single-that-wasn’t, “Rough Ride.” It was also a record featuring songs the once-Beatle co-wrote with new wave wunderkind Elvis Costello, whom it was noted filled a sort of John Lennon role – EC being a foil for McCartney to bounce ideas off of, and (presumably) a voice of reason if Paul were to lose the plot. “My Brave Face,” penned by the pair, placed in the Top 20, and Costello’s recording of “Veronica” (also composed by McCartney/MacManus) gave EC his highest placing ever in America. The demos the two recorded together are what make the second CD/LP a got-to-have; here are nine of the songs the duo wrote together, performed raw ’n’ ready and including great tunes that never made it to proper release, such as “Tommy’s Coming Home” and “Twenty Fine Fingers.” You get these same nine songs, further along in arrangement, on disc three of the super deluxe edition, and (I’m told) much closer to full band versions. I haven’t picked up this version yet, and here’s why…

This 1989 limited edition version of Flowers in the Dirt included a 3″ CD with non-album tune “Party Party,” which is only included as a download in the 2017 box set.

Flowers’ super deluxe version also comes with a disc’s worth of downloads, comprising many of the b-sides and remixes spawned by the album. Many hardcore fans feel these should have been included as physical media, especially considering the high cost of the set. With four books included, it does seem like McCartney’s leaning more on his own scribbles ’n’ doodles and then-wife Linda’s photos than on the music – and that’s supposed to be what these “archival releases” are all about. It also happens that this means some great songs are missing, such as “Flying to My Home” and the two sides of the 1987 single that preceded the album, “Once Upon a Long Ago” and “Back on My Feet,” which were never even released in the USA. For a box set at such a price this disc-worth of tuneage is conspicuously missing. Sure, many of us already have these items via the singles (vinyl and CD) they came from – or via a plethora of bootlegs – but it’s the principle of the thing! And besides, these items were already officially released once so it’s not like Macca’s denying a demo’s release because his voice sounds hoarse or out of tune. He claims he’s trying to stick with the times by offering these tracks as downloads, but really, the only people likely to buy the super deluxe version of Flowers want them on physical media – people who are generally older than those who spend their time downloading music. McCartney and his advisory team need to wake up! Conduct some fucking focus groups, people! Find out what the bulk of the likely buyers want, and give them that. Jeez. Do I have to do this myself?! (Don’t even get me started on Paul’s cassette-only release for Record Store Day!)

ANYHOW. Flowers in the Dirt is a brilliant record, and this remaster (I’m judging from the CD) sounds just fine. Nothing stands out one way or the other from the original 1989 release, though I’m hoping the vinyl is better than the original. Those buying the CD version in the USA may want to pick up a copy at Best Buy, who offer a free limited edition 7″ of “My Brave Face” (b/w “Flying to My Home”) via coupon included in the package.

4/5 (Capitol/UMe; 2CD, 2LP and 3CD/1DVD box set)

For more about the FITD controversy, visit Paul Sinclair’s excellent SuperDeluxeEdition.

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John Lennon • Rock ’N’ Roll [album] vs. Paul McCartney • СНОВА Б СССР [album]

lennon-rocknroll_400pxOr Battle of The Beatles Heavyweights! Right about now in 1975, former Beatle JOHN LENNON released an album of Rock ’N’ Roll oldies – and it was to be his last for over five years. At the time the critics weren’t exactly singing the praises of it or their hero’s seeming lack of new songs. In fact, they were fairly forthright about it. It doesn’t really matter anymore, though, as today Rock ’N’ Roll stands as the man’s unique tribute to the music that inspired him, eventually to form his own band and then change the face of popular music forever.

PAUL McCARTNEY, on the other hand, was then on a roll with his band Wings. By 1987, though, Lennon’s esteemed Beatles bandmate was having a rough time of it. The hits had slowed considerably and, in an attempt to recharge his psyche, Macca revisited his rockin’ roots and did a covers album of his own, Choba Б CCCP. It was initially only available in Russia (hence the title: Back in the USSR). The record was imported and bootlegged heavily, and after McCartney issued a few of the songs as B-sides to a 1987 single, “Once Upon a Long Ago” (not released in the US), he eventually relented and released an extended version of the album on CD for all the world to hear.

mccartney-chobabcccp_400pxLennon and McCartney, though once united in rhyme in The Beatles, chose different songs for their respective tributes. They both relied heavily on the big names of ’50s rock: Fats Domino (“Ain’t That a Shame” was the only song covered by both, with McCartney also doing Fats’ “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” and “I’m in Love Again”), Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. The albums were recorded over ten years apart, with different bands and under different circumstances (by ’87 Lennon had been dead for seven years, which must have weighed heavily on McCartney’s mind as he went about making his record). So pitting the two records against each other isn’t really a fair fight. But since I’m the referee in this ring, I’ve chosen to go for it anyway and render my decision. No punching below the belt, no name calling, gentlemen, let’s have a fair fight and may the best man win!

lennon-mccartney-hamburg_400pxLennon’s LP, Rock ’N’ Roll, is a very thick-sounding record. Replete with not only guitar and keyboards but a horn section, its production – by Lennon and “Wall Of Sound” originator Phil Spector – is multi-layered and at times suffers from too-much-happening-all-at-once. Yet the arrangements are quite spectacular, sometimes unique (the slow reggaefied rhythm of “You Can’t Catch Me,” for instance), and delivered with commitment. When John sings “Stand by Me” you can feel the song’s import on his life. The album’s been reissued many times. I highly recommend the 2010 vinyl, remastered from 24/96 digital files (purportedly taken directly from the analog master) but very detailed and with no noticable digital ick. For a different take on the material, find the 2005 CD – it was remixed at the time and de-clutters some of the arrangements to give you a different, maybe even better idea of just what was going on at Record Plant East Studios (“everybody here says ‘hi’”) all those years ago.

As for Choba Б CCCP, McCartney’s take on some of his favorite rock ’n’ roll classics, it’s also a winner. (I know, I know: There are no ties allowed. Wait for it.) Sparse compared to Lennon’s, these arrangements pretty much stick to your standard guitar/piano/bass/drums variety, making for a more immediate feel. Yes, the snare’s a bit overbearing (this was the mid ’80s, after all) and the guitar sometimes has a slightly over-processed tone, but this album sounds no more “Eighties” than Lennon’s does “Seventies.” McCartney, too, sounds like he means it when he’s singing Bo Diddley’s “Crackin’ Up” or Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” a song fabled in Beatles lore as the one he impressed Lennon with in 1957 or so when the two boys met and cemented their connection to each other forever. Though McCartney’s covers album was second in release (and really, Ringo Starr did an album of covers in 1970! – not a rock ’n’ roll outing), it’s hard to say which one is first in terms of greatness. But because there are no ties in pugilism – and because America loves a winner – I gotta go with Lennon. By a hair. Yes, those who know me know that McCartney is my man, but Lennon ain’t no slouch either. “But Marsh,” you might say, “McCartney’s put out a lot of crap as a solo artist.” And I would reply with, “Had Lennon kept releasing records for another thirty plus years, he might have put out a similar number of stinkers himself.” Besides: YOU WON. Let it be.

4.5/5 (Lennon, Parlophone/Apple); 4/5 (McCartney, Capitol)

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Paul McCartney • Pure McCartney (4CD, 2CD, 4LP)

puremccartneyIt’s amazing that Paul McCartney hadn’t gotten around to a compilation of his solo/Wings material of this magnitude until now. Pure McCartney follows in the footsteps of his previous best-ofs in that it completely overlooks chapters of his output as if he’s embarrassed by them… Or warning the marketplace that a certain album is about to be given the Archive Series treatment and thus including none of its tracks. Could he be that canny? That crass? I hate to say it: Yes.

As is the custom these days, this compilation comes in multiple form factors: you have the budget 2CD version, the 4LP version and the mega 4CD version. With 67 tracks on this behemoth, you’d think Macca could cover all of the ground he’s trodden since his first solo album in 1970 and yet he completely avoids Driving Rain (not the greatest album), Run Devil Run (a ’90s album of covers) and 1989’s brilliant Flowers in the Dirt. I’d expect a 4CD collection of a 45 year solo career to favor some albums more than others – Band on the Run and Ram are heavily represented – but I’d also figure at least one song from each album would be manageable. And since Flowers is such a classic, you’d think a big hit like “My Brave Face” would make the cut. Nope. (Don’t get me started on the fact that there’s only two songs from Venus and Mars here.) There’s no reason to not represent Flowers except that he’s trying to avoid cannibalising an Archive Series release later in the year. And that smacks of pure commercialism.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 5.32.25 PMMy grumbling aside, Pure McCartney still has no trouble showing what a brilliant songwriter, bass player and singer the man is. What he does include here sees to that handily, even on the 2CD version. No need for me to go over the individual tracks except to say I’m sure no one could match this man’s output in terms of quality. Still, it’s not like each CD is 80-minutes-full, so there was certainly room for reps from Flowers, Driving Rain and Run Devil Run. Oh well. It’s his best-of and he can do what he wants with it. In fact, it IS pure McCartney to purposefully skip over bits ‘n’ bobs of his catalog. Wings Greatest (a one LP comp from 1978) skipped “Listen to What the Man Said” (a #1 hit!) and 1987’s All The Best! and 2001’s Wingspan similarly missed key tracks depending on what country’s version you bought. (All the Best! in the UK featured his then current single, “Once Upon a Long Ago,” which wasn’t even released in the US and thus didn’t make the American version of the compilation. Yet here on Pure McCartney there are five songs from his latest, New. Maybe his memory’s going and so the most recent stuff is at the forefront of his genius brain.)

Take a look at the tracklist of the various versions to decide whether you need this release. For me, I have everything on the 4CD version so I expect to be skipping over this one, at least for now. And that, my friends, is Pure Gooch.

3/5 for contents, 5/5 for quality! (Hear Music)

 

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Paul McCartney & Wings Vs. Timo Maas & James Teej • 1985 (Single)

1985-480x480There are so many Paul McCartney fans who’ll buy whatever the man puts out – and then bitch about what a ripoff it is, or how he could’ve been more generous with the bonus tracks or yadda yadda yadda! Truth is, I’m pretty glad he bothers to put out anything at all. I haven’t bought everything that’s come out (news to my wife!), and I’m a bit behind on getting the releases I do want, but his new releases are still something I look forward to. Some are hits, some are misses…

1985 is a new single that is based on the 1973 song, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” which was the final track on the legendary Band on the Run album. Remixed by Timo Maas & James Teej, 1985 is a 12″ single or download (which I’m basing my review on; the physical release isn’t available until 5/27) that was first released a couple months ago as a white label promo (limited to 300 copies, see image below). They were real sly about the artist credit but these days trying to keep something a secret is a losing battle; the word was out that it was a Macca-sanctioned release within moments. Super Deluxe Edition reported, “They [Maas & Teej] clearly utilise stems from the original multi-track, meaning that this can only have been created with McCartney’s cooperation,” (SDE’s original post here) and that must be the case because there’s no way someone could have remixed the track to this degree without having the original multitrack files to work from.

R-8321072-1459302729-5449.jpegI think 1985 is pretty cool. The Radio Edit version is concise, taking most of the strengths of the McCartney & Wings track and creating an imaginative remix. The piano track is practically a no-show, though, so the tune is carried more by Macca’s bass line. The Club Mix and Remix versions are longer, naturally, than the “edit” and approach the subject from different directions; I prefer the Remix for listening though both versions are fairly similar.

McCartney’s been a fan of the electronica for a long time – he quietly released his first stab at it, credited as The Fireman, in 1991 – so it’s not a case of “Hey, that old guy’s trying to be hip by proving he’s into the latest thing. Isn’t he adorable?!” Since then he’s done two more Fireman releases (all of which were created with his buddy, Youth) and a 2LP remix item titled Twin Freaks in collaboration with Freelance Hellraiser in 2005. If you’re not a fan of the remix, or of the way they mashed up The Beatles on the Love project for Cirque de Soleil, you may not like 1985. But since the download is only three bucks, you could easily get a preview of the tracks before plunking down the money for the 12″. I’m grateful that my favorite musician of all time is still with us, treating us to sometimes old, sometimes new, sometimes borrowed or blue versions of the music I grew up with. I can’t imagine a world without Paul.

Though I bet my wife can…

3/5 (Virgin/EMI)

Here’s a clip of Wings in 1974 doing “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” from the longform film One Hand Clapping, which wasn’t released until the super deluxe Band On The Run reissue in 2010.

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Wings • Wings at the Speed of Sound (Deluxe Edition CD)

watsos_deluxebookWings at the Speed of Sound has always been there for me. I bought it in 1976 when it first came out (back when you could get a single vinyl LP on sale for $3.99!), and though it wasn’t as good to me then as Venus and Mars was, it was still “the new McCartney album” so it was hard to find too much fault with it. Over the years it has gone up and down in my estimation, but recently some interesting – dare I say, mysterious – facts have come to light. I’ll share those in a few paragraphs.

You can say how lightweight you think this album is, but if you do you’re only thinking of the hit singles (“Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In”) and not the stellar album tracks such as “Beware My Love” (still my fave on WATSOS), “Time to Hide” and even Linda McCartney’s “Cook of the House.” Here we have an album where Paul McCartney was sharing the lead vocals with the band (even drummer Joe English gets a shot in “Must Do Something About It”), and using the horn section he first put together for Venus and Mars and Wings’ 1975 tour to great success. This in turn fed the tour of 1976 that resulted in the 3LP Wings Over America. I won’t go as far as to say that this is classic McCartney but it’s certainly standing there waiting on the porch to get into the house.

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Wings at the Speed of Sound, Sarah Gooch, acrylic on canvas, 2015.

Now, here’s what’s amazing about Wings at the Speed of Sound to me. I learned a few years ago when I first started dating my wife Sarah that “Silly Love Songs” was #1 the week she was born. That’s super cool! (Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away Little Girl” was my birthweek #1 – ugh.)  When I finally got this deluxe book edition, which comes with 2 CDs, a DVD and a real sweet book with great photos and lots of facsimile concert tickets, song lyrics, etc., I learned something even cooler. Turns out, according to the notes in the book here, that Wings began recording “Silly Love Songs” on my birthday, January 16, 1976. Whoa! If that’s not some kinda prophecy or whatever from Sir Paul then I don’t know what is! And did I mention that Sarah did a painting for me a year or so ago that she titled “Wings at the Speed of Sound”? Yep. Take a look right here.

watson_backcoverPaul McCartney’s Archive Series has had some great entries – Band on the Run, Ram and Wings Over America being top dogs – but I can’t say that WATSOS is one of them. It’s not exactly substantial in terms of bonus tracks (there’s got to be more early versions, demos, rough mixes, etc. they could have used), though there is a version of “Beware My Love” with John Bonham on drums. The book has lots of great photos and is laid out nicely. The CDs sound great. The DVD, though, is pretty short, with just one music video (“Silly Love Songs”) and two short documentary films that only the most die-hard Macca fan would watch more than once. Yet it’s clear that this album now has an even more special place in my heart that I never would have figured on way back when.

3.5/5 (Hear Music)

 

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The Family Way • Original Soundtrack Recording

To call The Family Way a holy grail for Paul McCartney fans would be missing a point: Macca wrote only the tunes (or “cues” in movie music-ese) here. He’s not on the record at all. The orchestrations were done by The Beatles’ producer George Martin, who by 1966 had already shown quite a bit of talent at arranging for orchestras and such; he’d done a good bit of it before ever laying ears on Liverpool’s finest. So when McCartney was approached to score this British comedy/drama’s soundtrack, there was probably no doubt who’d be doing the heavy lifting. And yet, without chunes, a record ain’t nothing but a slab of black wax.

the-family-wayThe melody bits Paul gave George to orchestrate are quite catchy, and though a few of them reprise in different forms here and there (as you’d expect in a soundtrack), the barely 27 minute album is nice to listen to, even if you haven’t–and you probably haven’t–seen the movie. Starring Hayley Mills as a newlywed who gets mired in a comical series of events that prevent her and her husband from consummating their marriage, The Family Way was based on a Bill Naughton (Alfie) play, All in Good Time, and released in December 1966, just a half year before The Beatles would introduce Sgt. Pepper to the world.

This release is of the stereo mix of the record, most likely from the 2011 remaster that came from the original first generation master tapes and was used to produce Varese Sarabande’s first-ever stereo CD issue of the soundtrack. Another Record Store Day 2015 release, The Family Way is a nice addition to your Macca collection and certainly costs WAY less than a decent copy of the original vinyl.

2.5/5 (Varese Sarabande)

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