Sunday, June 12, 2011

On my turntable: McCartney & McCartney II (2011 reissues)

McCartney and McCartney II (2011 reissues)
The latest re-issues in the ambitious Paul McCartney Archive Collection. Last year the Archive's first release, Band On The Run gave us a taste of what we might expect of the series, and these releases definitely maintain the standard.

Each LP is packaged in a sturdy gatefold sleeve with sharp reproductions of the original artwork, including a 2nd LP of outtakes/demos/live/unreleased and/or b-side material. The LPs are audiophile quality, 180 gram pressings, and each package comes with a free mp3 download of all tracks. Hard to go wrong with all that.

One thing that strikes me while listening to these albums, especially Mac II, is that Paul sure liked his weed. Seriously. This is music made by a dude that was pretty much high 24/7.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing - it's just an observation. Each of these albums was basically a musical exercise for McCartney, a way for him to cleanse his palate and shake things off before moving on to the next phase of his career.  Thus, neither album comes off as a serious venture with any sort of lofty ambition behind it.  Still, each album does have its charming moments.

McCartney, released in 1970 just in time to cash in on the publicity surrounding The Beatles' official breakup, is all Paul (all instruments, voices, production, everything), with a little help from Linda on harmonies and photos. The album's strengths are in Paul's knack for melody. Proof: "Every Night", "Junk", "Teddy Boy", and the standout track "Maybe I'm Amazed" (which was later a hit single from the live Wings Over America triple LP). Sonically this LP is a slight improvement over the original. There are spots where I might notice a brightness to an acoustic guitar that I hadn't heard before, for example. I recall "Man We Was Lonely" sounding a bit harsh on previous pressings, especially when Paul & Linda sing "ho-o-o-o-o-o-ome", but it's nice and smooth on this release.  Overall, downright gorgeous.

McCartney II is an album that deserves to be revisited.  It has its clunkers that will always stink no matter how pretty the sound is ("Bogey Music" being the best example), but at least half of the tracks are fun to listen to, even if they are lightweight. "Coming Up" (the studio version, not the live Wings version that hit #1 on the singles chart) sounds better here than I've ever heard. The whole record sounds slightly better than it used to, which isn't saying a whole lot since the original was pretty flat (probably due to the primitive manner in which Paul recorded the album).  On Mac II we see Paul experimenting quite a bit with electronic sounds, likely in response to the New Wave movement that was happening at the time. Highlights include "Temporary Secretary", the bluesy "On the Way", "Waterfalls" (a failure as a single, but a lovely song), and the album's closing track "One of These Days" (which is another song where I notice quite an improvement in the sound). 

Paul McCartney is one of very few artists that will be remembered for his full body of work rather than just one or two albums or songs, or simply for being a Beatle. Because of this, each of his albums contributes in some way to his enormous musical legacy.  I look forward to what's coming up next in the Archive series!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the track "Frozen Jap" from MC II was deleted from Mc Cartney's MPL song publishing catalog. Never sure if the song was a deliberate slap at you know who. Burying the hatchet par se.