Saturday, 7 January 2012

Paul McCartney - McCartney (1970) Part Eleven

Album 1 - Paul McCartney - McCartney (1970)
UK Amazon -
US Amazon -

1. The Lovely Linda
2. That Would Be Something
3. Valentine Day
4. Every Night
5. Hot As Sun / Glasses
6. Junk
7. Man We Was Lonely
8. Oo You
9. Momma Miss America
10. Teddy Boy
11. Singalong Junk
12. Maybe I'm Amazed
13. Kreen-Akrore

If I am being honest, this project isn't as easy as I thought it would be.  I never thought that it would be that easy, but I know now that it will be far more tricky than it probably should be.

Paul McCartney is probably the most accessible when it comes to getting hold of the music, evident in the fantastic Paul McCartney Chord Songbook that I keep advertising, but even that isn't a completist set, with some songs missing.  Even though I am technically going through the albums of their careers post-Beatles, I am still surprised that there aren't songbooks available that are more thorough for any of them.

Anyway, on with the blog then.

Here with Paul's first album I had to find alternative means to learn 'Valentine Day', 'Hot As Sun', 'Momma Miss America', and of course 'Kreen Akrore'.  Paul's album after this, Ram, features two more songs not included in the book.

So what we have then with the début album by Macca is, in all truth, a mixed bag.  It has some of his best material in Every Night, Junk, and Maybe I'm Amazed.  It has the sweet innocence of The Lovely Linda, which wouldn't have been the same if he had written and recorded more for the song as originally planned.  It has a song that is so very close to being his best with That Would Be Something, with just a Lennon bit missing (think about the middle eight in We Can Work It Out).  I know that is a controversial opinion, but it is just that - an opinion.  A fun song to play though, with a great groove.

Teddy Boy is one of those songs that he is so well known for from The Beatles' days - the story song.  It does a great job of that as well.  The music is lovely, the lyrics move it along, and it is one of his better story songs to be honest.

There are ideas that he "jammed" in the shape of 'Valentine Day', 'Oo You', 'Momma Miss America' (both parts), and the free form groove of Kreen Akrore.  Hot As Sun is a fantastic instrumental apparently from pre-Beatles times surprisingly.  I say surprisingly because I would have thought that they would have tried to record it themselves, especially as it was included in their set before even being signed.

Finally there is Man We Was Lonely, which is a really good country song.  It's unfortunate that a recording McCartney made with Johnny Cash in the late eighties of the song has never been issued, because that sounds like it would have been a good collaboration.

Anyway, the début album by Macca is a cross section of material, which I have obviously gone into great depth discussing.  Maybe I could have said more on some songs and the like, but still there is a lot for people to read and check out.

I like the set for the most part, and feel that it has a very lo-fi approach to it.  This is very much a sound that is in use today, which is in direct contrast to the glossy production sound that The Beatles became known for, and which today is very much the norm with almost all chart music having an almost overproduced sound to it.

There is so much variation in styles of music on the album as well, going through folk, reggae, rock, and other forms, which shows his obvious love for all forms of music.

In some ways it expands on the feel of the material that McCartney had on The White Album, which was very similar in feel and style.  There is also the fact that a couple of the songs featured on McCartney's début album were written at the same time as the material featured on that album (Junk and Teddy Boy specifically).

When it first came out it went immediately to number two, being held off by the best-selling album of the day, Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel.  To be honest, I don't think that anyone stood a chance of knocking that album off, especially since that is one of the best selling albums of all time, spending 42 weeks at number one.

The actual recording style utilised also shows his extreme creativity, with the fact that he was just laying tracks down so quickly, and just seemed to know what was required.  He had irritated Lennon in the latter days of The Beatles sometimes with his seemingly assuming the role of arranger almost ("Beatle Head" as he jokingly called him).  It was just Paul's mind working so quickly that he wanted to get his ideas out there.  It showed the widening divergent paths where they were all going and, in a way, proved that The Beatles would inevitably have to split anyway, because they were stifling each other essentially.

There had been problems for all involved to get a look in with their compositions and ideas, especially for George Harrison I might add.  They almost needed to go elsewhere for an outlet for their creativity.  It's almost a shame in a way because there are a lot of bands who would allow their members the freedom outside of the group, such as members of Queen, The Rolling Stones, and so many more.  If this had been available as an option in the sixties (soundtracks and the Unfinished stuff of Lennon with Yoko Ono not taken into account), then who knows what might have happened?  This is pure conjecture though.

What this album does show though is that McCartney did need to really knuckle down with his songwriting. There are traces of absolute brilliance, but also some material that could have used a little more time involved.  It does however stand out when held up against the releases of the other ex-Beatles from that period.  It is for the most part a very laid back set, with warts and all on show for all to see.

For many years it was an acclaimed album but, tellingly, a recent review in Q magazine of the album's reissue marked it with I think just three stars.  Lennon, when asked in a 1970 interview for Rolling Stone magazine in the US, said he thought that Paul had "missed an opportunity, and that he wouldn't make the same mistake again."  I do think that Lennon was very bitter at that time though.

I most definitely wouldn't dismiss the album though, because as I said to do so would mean missing some of Paul's best material from the post-Beatles years.  The other titles aren't quite as irritating as you may remember either.  You can take that from someone who used to avoid the album.

Links -
1. Paul McCartney Chord songbook at Amazon UK
2. Another blog about the McCartney album. (It was actually the rock band The Faces who recorded a cover version of Maybe I'm Amazed, who featured Rod Stewart as their lead singer, and not a solo recording by Rod Stewart).
3. A fantastic website that details Paul McCartney's recording sessions called Macca Central.