Paul McCartney – McCartney II (remaster) (CD review)

Paul McCartney – McCartney II (Archive Collection) (Hear Music) CD review

Ten years later, Paul McCartney found himself in a similar situation – without a band.  During a break in touring with Wings, he retreated to his farm in Scotland to do some recording in 1979.  He then hit the road with the band for an ill-fated trip to Japan, where he was once again busted for pot, jailed and deported.  After returning home, he decided to dissolve Wings and issue these home tapes.  Just like the first McCartney LP, Paul plays all the instruments.  But, this time around, he found himself experimenting with the synthesizer technology of the day.

As a result, the album sounds somewhat dated, especially on keyboard-heavy numbers like “Temporary Secretary.”  As in his debut album, McCartney II is made up mostly of unpolished tracks with a handful of fully-realized songs sprinkled in.  The sax-led “Coming Up” which opens the disc, has an almost ska feel to the guitar work.  The very slow “Waterfalls” was also released as a single, but the understated “One of These Days,” with guitar that recalls the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” is the better of the two ballads. “On the Way” showcases some fine blues guitar work, while “Nobody Knows” is similar in its juiced-up delivery and raw percussion to some of the punkish tracks on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.  There are also a couple of instrumentals, but they sound more like experiments than actual songs.  Oddly, just as it had to take a live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” for the song to become a hit, the same goes for “Coming Up,” which only hit number one in the US after having a live rendition included on the original single.

The bonus disc actually adds to the overall quality of the album by including the live, hit version of “Coming Up,” as well as the holiday number “Wonderful Christmastime.”  Also of note is “Check My Machine,” which is just that, McCartney testing out his equipment with rather strange results, featuring snippets of cartoons and a vocal sounding like Alvin & the Chipmunks.  The best unreleased track is the ethereal “Blue Sway” featuring strings, sax, and an echoed McCartney vocal.  Perhaps it’s the use of synths or maybe it’s because Paul was in a different time in his life, but McCartney II lacks much of the warmth and charm that made his first solo record such a treat.  Still, there are some decent songs here, and if you add in the bonus CD, there is certainly enough to recommend.  –Tony Peters