Paul McCartney - New

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There’s 1977 for you, which is about the same year as Paul McCartney last had a (good) recording band.  Since 1980, he’s assembled players from here and there to make an album and occasionally tour, but his New CD is the first since Wings where’s he’s played with musicians for years before recording. 

It makes a difference.  The same supporting cast can be found on 2005’s Memory Almost Full, but that CD sounds like a collection of leftovers other than the toss-away single “Dance Tonight.” 

New, on the other hand, sounds like an album made by a band, with McCartney at the forefront.  At 71, he sounds as engaged, enthused and on point as he’s been in a long, long time.  Maybe using four different producers was a factor, but somewhere he seems to have found someone "new” who either has the balls to tell a legend “No” or counters underwhelming intentions with a “Have you considered this?”  McCartney needs that type of editing, and his post-Beatles career is replete with examples of either his musical excesses or, more frequently, lapses.

You won’t find deep meaning here.  Lennon wrote as much silliness as McCartney way back then, but McCartney has rarely intended to bare his soul.  This is just good, well constructed music.

The audience can find ample references to a new love, a remembrance of the past, quite a few moments of Beatles’ musical styling, and whatever else they fancy.  But, nowhere else will you find “Chichester” in a song lyric.  And why not?  Most everything works on this CD.  It’s not a hit and miss affair, and when can that last be said about a McCartney release?   No, this isn’t a great CD, it’s just consistently good.  And that’s been the weak point of so many of his albums.   Even McCartney’s fondness for oddities, such as the musical approach to “Appreciate” or titling a song “Alligator” that turns out to be an honest declaration for a need in a relationship, have the right helping hands to make them gems rather than filler.

It’s not all perfect.  The vocal treatments help temper the fragility of McCartney’s voice, especially when he reaches for higher notes.  For example, “Alligator” features a falsetto vocal break begs for a few word tweaks and a female voice, a la Kate Bush in Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”  Likewise, the jarring and redundant transition in “Road” detracts from that’s song’s jazzy mood.  But overall, this CD grows on you, warts and all.

And, finally, a regular version vs. a Deluxe Edition is ridiculous in the digital age, especially when the final two songs might be appropriate bookends to his recording career, if it comes to such.  “Get Me Out of Here” is a cheeky return to the blues, and “Scared” is one of those sparingly accompanied, emotional songs that shows just how well McCartney can write when he tries.

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Recommended: “Appreciate,” “Alligator,” “Queenie Eye”

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