Paul McCartney – McCartney (Hear Music) CD review –
After the breakup of the Beatles, each member chose a very different path for their first solo album: George, who was only allowed one song per record while in the band, had tons of great tracks saved up for All Things Must Pass, while Ringo got all nostalgic for pre-rock n’ roll on Sentimental Journey, and John chose to exercise his childhood demons with the cathartic Plastic Ono Band. Paul’s debut, McCartney, is just as raw, but in a completely different way
— understated, unpolished, and unfinished – essentially the polar opposite of the pristine Abbey Road, the Beatles’ swan song. McCartney was, and always has been a perfectionist, yet, for this album, he chose to leave things rough around the edges. His debut solo album stands as a bridge between his colossal former band, and the monumental success he would achieve through Wings and beyond; sort of the musical equivalent of taking a breather. Paul had purchased some recording equipment and much of the record was recorded at home, with him singing and playing all the instruments, save for the occasional backing vocal from wife Linda. And, almost half of the album’s length is taken up by instrumentals, adding to the unfinished feel.
McCartney opens with an abrupt start of a tape, as if in mid-session -“The Lovely Linda” clocks in at a mere 42 seconds, and is just a fragment. Then comes “That Would Be Something,” which features acoustic guitar, bass and simple percussion and only two lines of repeated lyrics. Next is “Valentine Day,” an instrumental with some fine, distorted guitar playing from Paul. It’s not until track four where we get a fully realized song – the jangly acoustic “Every Night.” “Momma Miss America” is actually two different instrumentals – the first part has a groove that Paul would reuse with much better effect on “1985,” and the second part sounds a lot like the same backing track for “Come and Get It,” the song he wrote (and played on) for Badfinger. The gentle “Junk” is featured in two versions – one with vocals, and one without, but featuring better instrumentation (piano and Mellotron). “Teddy Boy” has a pre-rock, Tin Pan Alley feel – it’s as if Paul wasn’t sure this rock n’ roll thing was going to last and wanted to make sure he still had a career if the genre went belly up. Of course, the most famous song on the album is “Maybe I’m Amazed,” one of several songs he would write for Linda. “Kreen-Akrore” serves as a coda to “Maybe,” with similar instrumentation, heavy percussion (there’s even a drum solo), wordless chanting and heavy breathing.
This new Archive Collection edition comes with a second CD containing seven bonus tracks. Of note is an additional version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” recorded with Wings two years later. It’s amazing how far the song had grown – there’s more inflection in Paul’s delivery and it’s longer with more soloing. This is the blueprint for what would become the hit version from the live Wings Over America in 1976. “Suicide” is an unused song with Paul on piano. There’s a live version of “Hot as Sun” which turns into a mariachi band thing at the end. He also thanks Duane Eddy! The bonus CD ends with the goofy demo of “Woman Kind” which encourages the ladies to burn your bras. The album’s packaging is also very nice, featuring some fantastic photos taken by Linda, as well as all the lyrics.
Upon its original release, McCartney confused many people – it didn’t contain any hit singles and probably sounded like a mere whimper compared to Lennon’s first album. Yet, with the ability to look back, Paul McCartney’s solo debut helped usher in the era of “do it yourself” musicians – those playing multiple instruments and recording at home. Because of its lo-fi aesthetic, it’s actually proved to be one of Paul’s most durable releases. –Tony Peters