Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions [1969-2013], by Luca Perasi: Books

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The digital age giveth, in terms of portability, ala carte curating and stunning affordability. But it also taketh away — at least for those who coveted the breezy knowledgeabity that liner notes once provided. Connections could be made, across a career like Paul McCartney’s, if you paid attention.

For instance, even if you never knew the details of Geoff Britton’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mid-1970s tenure in Wings, the archealogical details could be found on the inner sleeve of Venus and Mars — which showed Britton drumming away on a trio of songs, including the crunchy “Letting Go,” while Joe English handled the rest. Similarly, the genesis of Tug of War and Pipes of Peace in the Wings era was illustrated by Denny Laine’s presence — years after the group’s demise — on songs like “Wanderlust” and “Average Person.”

How often did David Gilmour work with McCartney over the years, beginning with 1979’s “Rockestra Theme”? Elvis Costello? Former members of the Pretenders? Former members of the Beatles? His current band? The albums would tell you.

Not anymore. With the rise of digital downloads and streaming, we’ve never had more access to music — and less access to the nuts and bolts of how it was made. Perhaps sessions details, the dates and times and places and producers and sidemen, don’t have the currency they once had. Maybe that’s a sad byproduct of the DiY ProTools age.

But McCartney, the subject of Luca Perasi’s thorough and essential song-by-song guide, appropriately titled Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions [1969-2013] (L.I.L.Y. Publishing), isn’t of that age — even if he’s still making music in it. Perasi’s book takes all of that in, from 1970’s McCartney to 2013’s New, offering an exhaustive, detailed and largely opinion-free deep dive that retraces every step — with all of the specificity the ravenous album-era fan requires.

There are a few caveats for the completists: Perasi’s ground rules were that only songs written by Paul McCartney and featured under his name, Wings or the Fireman were included. Solo co-writes with Denny Laine, Eric Stewart and Elvis Costello made the cut, but not earlier collaborations with John Lennon. (That leaves out the bulk, say, of Give My Regards to Broadstreet. But, really, that’s not such a bad thing.) The translation from Perasi’s native Italian to English is occasionally imperfect. And lastly, not every single sideman could be tracked down, unfortunately.

More notable, though, is what’s there, even beyond the meticulously constructed chronology. As Perasi sorts through what becomes nearly 400 individual tracks, he brings in a series of voices from Paul McCartney’s solo career to provide every-day insight into his musical life and times — and that elevates the project past facts and dates.

Included are former Wings members Denny Seiwell and Laurence Juber; longtime engineer Tony Clark (who writes the forward for Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions [1969-2013]); as well as intriguing, lesser-known voices like Bill Wolfer, who performed on McCartney’s last No. 1 U.S. single, “Say Say Say”; and Brent Fischer, son of the late orchestrator Clare Fischer, whose work appeared on “Distractions” from Flowers in the Dirt.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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