From getting the plug pulled, to reportedly plugging in with celebrated producer Mark Ronson, it’s been a busy week for Paul McCartney.
Ronson, of course, is best known as the Grammy-winning producer for Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. He’s also worked with Kaiser Chiefs, Duran Duran and, most recently, with Rufus Wainwright. McCartney, meanwhile, is coming off his 15th solo album, a look back at the pop and jazz songs of his father’s era called Kisses on the Bottom.
Even before that, McCartney had been very active in recording, finishing a classical album and and reissuing many of his classic 1970s solo albums, but the former Beatle hasn’t issued a new project of pop music under his own name since 2007’s Memory Almost Full. The collaborative Fireman project followed a year later.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: In our review of the new ‘Ram’ reissue, Nick DeRiso’s criticism of the sniping between Paul McCartney and John Lennon sparked an interesting debate.]
Meanwhile, the fallout continues after McCartney joined Bruce Springsteen onstage during the closing moments of his appearance at London’s Hard Rock Calling festival. They closed out what was already a more than three-hour set with “I Saw Her Standing There” and a titanic reading of “Twist and Shout,” eventually running past a strictly enforced curfew. In a controversial move, officials at Hype Park ended up turning off the power on stage, even as the pair of legends spoke.
“The cops got nothing more important to do?,” E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt later raged on Twitter. “How about they go catch some criminals instead of fucking with 80,000 people having a good time?”
As for his reported interest in Ronson as a recording partner, the choice seems to signal a move toward more modern songcraft — something also bolstered by McCartney’s mention (also via Twitter) that he’s composing music for the company that produces Halo, the popular video game.
Ronson is reportedly meeting with McCartney this week, to feel things out.
“Paul respects Mark’s knowledge and is wanting to produce a classic album with a young hip edge,” a source tells The Sunday Mirror, via NME. “And obviously Mark is over the moon to be working with a Beatle.”
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Paul McCartney and Wings. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
PAUL McCARTNEY – KISSES ON THE BOTTOM (2012): This is not just a love letter to a lost era of songmaking, but one of the most evocative, deeply ardent records that McCartney has ever issued. Working in a higher vocal range that remains largely untouched by age, or his rugged third-act touring schedule, the ex-Beatle stirs up a spectacular range of emotions: The hushed, crepuscular melancholy of Peter van Steeden’s “Home (When Shadows Fall)” is matched only by the stirring resolve found on Haywood Henry’s “Get Yourself Another Fool” from this now thrice-married soon-to-be-70-year-old. McCartney’s trembling rapture throughout Irving Berlin’s “Always” finds a balancing moment in his impish hat-tipping joy during Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-Cent-Thcu-Ate The Positive.”
PAUL McCARTNEY – McCARTNEY (1970)/McCARTNEY II (1980; 2011 reissues): Taken together, these albums show a willingness to strip down what had become a varnished sound. After all, Paul was coming off huge productions in the form of 1969’s Abbey Road with the Beatles and 1979’s Back to the Egg with Wings. But there is a broad disparity, more pronounced than ever, in how these recordings have aged. McCartney comes off as more organic, a simpler expression — like someone trying to work out his own sound. McCartney II was, truth be told, fatally hobbled from the first by Paul’s own poor mechanics with the synthesizers he chose to experiment with throughout.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – BACK TO THE EGG (1979): It’s time to go back and reevaluate Paul McCartney and Wings’ unjustly ignored Back to the Egg. Released in May 1979, the album showcased a rebuilt Wings lineup, with lead guitarist Laurence Juber working in sharp counterpoint to Denny Laine. Also on board was co-producer Chris Thomas, a former assistant to George Martin for the Beatles’ White Album who brought an edgier style to much of the project — in keeping with his concurrent work with the Sex Pistols and the Pretenders. McCartney’s stated goal, back then, was to make a raw-boned rock record. And he largely succeeded, putting a bright charge into his sound after the soft-rock fluff of 1978’s London Town.
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – BAND ON THE RUN (1973; 2010 reissue): A terrific reissue that reveals this anew as the most personal of McCartney recordings — though, even now, the album’s unifying theme of escape is more subtle (and thus more commercial) than the blunt confessional style of his former partner John Lennon. McCartney, instead, uses broader storytelling brushstrokes — skillfully weaving his own desire to break free of the Beatles with the age-old myths of ne’er-do-wells, hitchhikers and outsiders. No McCartney effort yet has taken so many chances, nor so successfully blended his interests in the melodic, the orchestral, the rocking and the episodic. In keeping, of the Beatles solo recordings, Band on the Run always sounded the most to me like something the old band might have put together.