"McCartney" Album Reissued And Revisited After Forty Years.
First McCartney Solo Album After The Beatles
Forty-one years ago, earlier this month, Paul McCartney released his first solo album signaling the official end of the Beatles. Less than a year earlier, the Beatles had completed their last studio album "Abbey Road" and were set to release "Let It Be" around the same time as "McCartney" album. McCartney fought with the others and ultimately won the right to release "McCartney" ahead of "Let It Be". Tensions were high among the former ex-Beatles which probably had a hand in the negative reviews of the other three towards this solo album.
The "McCartney" album saw Paul playing all the instruments on every track. Only Linda McCartney added some extra vocals on the LP. The following is a review of each track plus summary comments on the album as a whole.
The Lovely Linda
The opening track features a direct reference to his newlywed wife, could hardly be surprising seeing that the Beatles wrote about the women in their lives (be it their mothers, wives, girlfriends, acquaintances or fictional). Both the bass and drums have a similar feel to "Two Of Us" which would be released shortly afterward on "Let It Be". The galloping feel of the rhythm of the song would also be repeated at least one more time with "Another Day". The brevity and simplicity of the track seems to support the notion that this was originally for just testing out the equipment. The laughing/crying at the conclusion may have been put in to pique the listener's curiosity.
That Would Be Something
A curious mix of country and gospel and with a tinge of Elvis near the conclusion, McCartney seems to have be content with sticking with only two lines for lyrical content. The song starting out simply with guitar, picks up intensity with the additions of pounding of toms and vocal percussion. It would not be surprising in the least if this was unused material taken from the White Album because of the similar arrangements and the bass working on its own with no drumming conformity.
A mid-tempo blues rock instrumental that gives the impression of going somewhere in its opening chords. However, it just ended being a jam session to highlight some guitar licks the McCartney had lying around. Much like "The Lovely Linda", the track is much too short to be considered anything but lightweight. The sole intention of the track seems to be McCartney trying to declare to the listener - "See, I can play guitar too."
McCartney has the listener wait until the fourth track before actually presenting something with some meat to it. Another fun acoustic number with the signature high sliding bass tones. Complete with high falsetto "oohs" on the chorus, "Every Night" delights, and encourages singalongs upon its first and subsequent listens. McCartney thought enough of the song to reprise it in later performances such as "Concert For Kampuchea" in 1979.
Hot As Sun/Glasses
Another instrumental, this one a flavored tropical calypso number is graced by McCartney. Like many of the previous tracks, this seems to have been presented as an unfinished idea and leads bizarrely into an eerie wine glass performance called "Glasses. Just when we thought a horror moment would manifest itself, another clip featuring a McCartney vocal/piano ditty is thrown in and as quick as it appears, it fades even faster. This portion of the track had a working title "Suicide" which never was officially released. It was if McCartney's confidence here was wavering and he felt that plastering little ideas together would result in something sticking.
A leftover tune from the Beatles' time in India, this reflective acoustic piece is quite limited to its own lyrical content. The track transmits an incredible sadness but is shackled by lyrics of inanimate objects that are labeled junk. Like many of McCartney's previous music before and since, "Junk" has great musical potential with its serene feel and forlorn loneliness but falters due to the lyrics not being able to reach the same expressive heights.
Man, We Was Lonely
Another slightly country-tinged acoustic number which follows "Junk", "Man, We Was Lonely" employs a guitar-solo echo that would be used years later on such numbers like Band On The Run. The opening riffs do convey a dreamy loneliness which suddenly and unexpectedly turn into a rodeo-feel chorus. The closing comes in just as it started - double-noted arpeggios with the typical accompanying rising McCartney bass. Some of the vocal exchange between the McCartney lead vocal and Linda McCartney's response seems to be unsure at first needing some modern-day auto-tuning.
McCartney opens the second side of his solo album with a country rock barn-burner that would have had the Duke Boys from "Dukes Of Hazzard" line-dancing in the street. Judging from the abrupt ending, McCartney seems unsure of how to finalize the song, opting to paste in and fade out a guitar chord complete with his usual high "ooos".
Momma Miss America
Yet another instrumental, McCartney endeavors to add more drive, adding piano, bass, and a tremolo guitar which does provide some excitement. You can hear hear him faintly whoop in the background. However, consistently with this album, the idea is over and another completely different instrumental takes root. During this second part, the bass is inexplicably sharp in certain notes. Perhaps a few of his strings were off before he noticed? This track does show off McCartney's guitar prowess. The drums, bass and piano work well and bring the track to a close albeit the bass still being slightly out of tune.
McCartney puts in another old Beatle song that was written during the White Album era. It was not uncommon for the four Beatles to put their rejected material into their solo albums and here is another example. It is possible that this is a reference to John Lennon although on the Beatle version, Lennon mercilessly mocked it by adding some hoe-down singing in the background. It is bizarre that the music which is soft and sympathetic references "Teddy Boys" which were anything but. Linda's background serves to soften the narrative even further making the subject matter and its musical accompaniment blatantly incongruous.
Not content with just one version, McCartney decides to add a second version a la instrumental. The track has a sleepiness to it that makes it borderline elevator music. The cymbal work at certain phrases of the track brings out a hiss similar to that of an underwater pool sound. Unfortunately, the track does not exude the same sadness of the other version partly because of the extra guitar soloing throughout the song and partly because McCartney's sorrowful vocals are missing.
Maybe I'm Amazed
A timeless classic, McCartney curiously buries this song as the second last track in the album. Everything works wonderfully here. A chromatic rising piano, arpeggio-rock guitars, a sixties rock organ, blistering guitar solos and of course great rock singing. McCartney surrounds himself with beautiful layers of melody here. The fade out is even confident. It is inconceivable that McCartney did not consider to release this as a single. Ultimately, the song was released as a single but through another version from the album "Wings Over America" with a slightly inferior McCartney vocal.
As if to demonstrate his versatility in musical composition, McCartney follows up his superb "Maybe, I'm Amazed" with yet another instrumental featuring him on bongos, drums and other percussion. The track rocks back and forth at different tempos from an almost Buddhist-like drone to accelerating tempos complete with heavy breathing and monkey-flailing noises.
For many Beatle fans who were aware of McCartney's genius, this album was anticipated but met with a disappointment in terms of its lack of polished quality. Many others defend it precisely because of its modest raw charm.
Much of the album has a quiet acoustic feel to it. Its lack of lyrical depth is due to the fact that McCartney was still feeling the insecurity of the break-up of the Beatles. With no band to fall back on, he did what he was capable of - played all of the tracks himself which is why the music overshadows the lyrics. There are a few great tracks to listen to here but it is a shame that given McCartney's talent for songwriting, there could have been a whole lot more if only he had been more patient.