Art of McCartney – CD Review

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Fresh off the heels of Eric Clapton’s tribute to  J.J. Cale comes a tribute album to a music icon, Paul McCartney, “sung by the world’s greatest artists.”  There needs to be an asterisk pointing to a disclaimer noting “when they were relevant.”  junk

It’s not the songs, of course.  It’s not the musicianship.  And it’s not (all of) the artists.  It’s the uninspired and insipid concept and production.

On Clapton’s CD, the choice was made to make the the entirety sound like a JJ Cale album, which at worst might point people to the source material.  

It’s similar here in that the majority of songs are played by McCartney’s touring band in almost note for note mimicry.   And why not? They can play this stuff perfectly, and probably have played half or more of these songs in front of millions.   And if that makes it literally and figuratively easier for the world’s “best” to record mail in their vocals, all the easier, right?  

Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Steve Miller, Roger Daltrey (The Who), Heart, Jeff Lynne (ELO), Barry Gibb (Bee Gees), Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Dr. John, Alice Cooper, BB King, Sammy Hagar... KISS for goodness sakes. 

Now, do you want to hear those artists sing Sir Paul’s songs, or interpret them?  If you like Karaoke and are a big fan of one or more of these artists, then this CD is for you.

It struggles from the start, with one of McCartney’s triumphs, “Maybe I’m Amazed.”  Billy Joel doesn’t sound like Billy Joel anymore.  He can whistle fine, but despite his straining effort, his voice creaks from an old man’s bones.  Roger Daltrey attacks “Birthday” like he’s wanted to cover the song all of his life.   He should have just done it 25 years ago.  It makes me appreciate Dylan the more for reinventing his persona with a caustic charm over the last 20 years... but Dylan and pop song covers just don’t go together, friendship or not (“Things We Said Today”). 

Heart?  Well, the Wilson sisters cover “Band on the Run,” and turn a rocker into a ballad.  If I hadn’t seen the credits, I wouldn’t have known who was singing.  C’mon folks, Gretchen Wilson could have done wonders.    Harry Connick, Jr.?  And “My Love?”  Meh. How about Michael Bublé?  Smokey Robinson’s cover of “So Bad?”  This performance would have him booted in the first round from any reality show (and for choice of songs).   

And those are just some of the less than satisfactory examples.  A producer who carried his own weight would have told Barry Gibb that he was uninspired and pointed out to Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) that “Mary” has two syllables, and “words” has one, not two.  And so on.  Hit the del button and move on.   

That’s not to say that there are not a few decent moments.  Brian Wilson at least manages to work in an interesting arrangement of (a great deep cut track) “Wanderlust.”  “Bluebird,” one of McCartney’s breeziest guilty pleasures, benefits from Corrine Bailey Rice’s jazzy approach, but how much better would it have been with her own band?  Otherwise, hmm.  B.B. King enjoyably covers one of Sir Paul’s few blues tunes, “On the Way,” an overlooked gem from McCartney II.  

Indictment:  There is not a single song here that sounds better than McCartney’s original version.   Where any of these songs made it to my playlist, I would not swap out the original for one of these covers.  Steve Miller, Paul Rodgers, Jeff Lynne, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard... good job, but you had one hand tied behind your back. 

For laughs, Willie Nelson, whose voice is ageless compared to his peers, chose the Beatles’ classic, “Yesterday.”    As the song goes, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.  Now it looks like they’re here to stay.”   I imagine this dreck will have a far briefer season than than his tax woes.

Recommended Songs:  None, as recorded here.

1 of 5 STARS

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