Monday, May 28, 2007

Review: Paul McCartney - McCartney

Label: Capitol

Released: April 20, 1970

For his first proper solo effort, Paul McCartney chooses to curtail the elaborate arrangements he had indulged in with the Beatles in favor of a more grounded album full of country, folk, blues, boogie and soul. To expect a solo album to meet the standard set by the Beatles (and particularly their finale, Abbey Road) would be unfair, but certainly anything McCartney touched should meet a higher standard than something released by just about anyone else. So, Paul's first non-Beatle release likely left the rock critics of 1970 in the difficult position of determining just where that line would be. Lucky for us today, Paul's solo career has proven so inconsistent over the last 37 years that the line is now in the realm of mere mortals and therefore easier to ascertain. So, it is with the caveat that I benefit from hindsight that I am undertaking this review.

Probably due to all the infighting among his band mates, McCartney decided to record his debut almost entirely on his own (with only a bit of background vocals from his wife Linda). The result is consistency in both feel and quality without the album getting stagnant. It starts off with the very short and sweet folk of "The Lovely Linda." While it may seem like a bit of light fare, it actually sets a good tone for the album by being simple not deep and heavy. "That Would Be Something" is country-tinged boogie
with a mellow groove that McCartney accents with some subtle rhythmic vocal parts. As much as I enjoy the track, it isn't so strong that it needs to set it apart from the rest of the album, but the instrumental "Valentine Day" does just that. Other than coming up too soon, it's a nice, raw, medium-paced blues song that very much fits the album as a whole. "Every Night" has a great hook and hints at McCartney's later slicker ballads without giving in to some those roads he would unfortunately travel a few years later. "Hot as Sun/Glasses" couples a fun, light-hearted tune with an experimental track. While neither would stand on their own, both combine for an interesting interlude. The first of McCartney's Beatle leftovers to appear is "Junk." It's low-key and has a certain continental sense to it, much like "Michelle." The pace picks up with "Man We Was Lonely," an excellent country rock song with a hook worthy of a single. McCartney shows he can sing (and play) the blues on "Oo You." It may not be the strongest track, but it's a fine rocker on this generally laid back record. "Momma Miss America" starts off sounding like some of McCartney's later rock songs and then continues in a similar vein to "Oo You." It's a better song over the second half, but still one of the album's weakest moments. "Teddy Boy" is another Beatles cast-off that McCartney includes here. It's catchy, but remains raw and simple. It's also quite a testament to the Beatles that their throwaways were this good. "Singalong Junk" is an odd inclusion since it's simply an instrumental track of "Junk" that runs a little longer. It isn't bad, but seems a bit pointless even though I get idea of the "singalong." "Maybe I'm Amazed" may be a ballad, but not in the sense we typically think of ballads, because it rocks. It really is the album's best track, with McCartney at his best as both a writer and a performer. He actually has some edge on this one, which is something that is too often absent from his solo work. Because perfect pop songs are McCartney's forte, the experimental nature of "Kreen-Akrore" might put off some people. However, it's got some strong moments and actually draws the album to a close that likely left the listener of 1970 wondering where he would go next. Unfortunately, that promise would later be left unfulfilled as McCartney kept to the middle road and "filled the world with silly love songs" for years.

Paul McCartney had to be as unsure of where he would go as a solo artist as the world was when the Beatles called it a day. However, the McCartney album finds him with fine songs and a cohesiveness that makes his solo debut shine. Sadly, the organic, rootsy sounds would give way to pure pop-crafting that was technically great yet almost entirely soulless (with some obvious exceptions).

Rating: 7/10

Addendum: I wrote this review in response to Bill's review over at Rock of Ages. Check his review out too to get a slightly different angle.

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Blogger rock_of_ages said...

As another Beatles fan I was always going to be interested in your opinion on this one Bob when I wrote my review last week. Thanks for digging out the album and actually reviewing it yourself. It's interesting to read a different view on it and I think other than one or two points we're basically in agreement about it although maybe my toleration level of the experimental stuff it lower?

Like you say, McCartney kept to the middle road after the early part of his solo career and unfortunately I find most of his albums hit and miss affairs. So often he's produced something very much to my tastes then followed it by including some sugary, chart chasing moments on the same album.

For all I dislike parts of this album I listen to it more than a lot of his solo output because Every Night and especially Maybe I'm Amazed can't be ignored.

And thanks for taking the time to both visit and add your thoughts to the reviews of my site.


12:34 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I think you're right that we aren't that far apart in our opinion on this one and maybe it does boil down to our tolerance of experimentation. It's always cool to have two reviews of the same record to compare. I'm in particular agree ment with you abut "Maybe I'm Amazed." It's one of his best songs, period.

You're definitley right about McCartney and his inconsistency. It was especially true after Band on the Run until about 10 years ago. He's been pretty consistently good since.

12:36 AM  

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