McCartney III / Paul McCartney - A rare gift for lockdown
Forty years and ten days after the death of his co-creator and friend from way back, John, comes an extraordinary burst of new material from Paul, of course I refer to Lennon & McCartney : the most revered songwriting duo popular music has ever seen. McCartney III comes like a dose of smelling salts administered to the battle-weary fighter rousing senses and keeping him from falling to the canvass. In this case we/the audience are the fighter, and this brave new collection of songs is the much welcomed balm to sooth another gruelling round of lockdown.
Eschewing the trite and exhausted narrative from many an artist during lockdown about how they have ‘reinvented, reimagined, recovered and re-anything-else-we-hadn’t-thought-they-were-capable-of’, McCartney’s motives were simple, genuine and unpretentious. ‘It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing’. Easy when you know how right?
The album has a quirky non-formulaic running order, but then that sums up lockdown: unexpected and untimely. The opener, Long Tailed Winter Bird, sounds like a riff that wasn’t a song but was too good and too infectious to leave off the album. Find My Way sounds more Wings-like as it gives way to Pretty Boys: with its eloquent arpeggio 12-string Guitar left tastefully sparse as he sings ‘meet the pretty boys / a line of bicycles for hire / objects of desire’.
Lavatory Lil catches McCartney in playful mood and demonstrates his imagination is still razor sharp ‘you think that she’s a winner / when she’s cooking you ya’ dinner / but she’s really moving in for the kill’. It’s witty and on a few more listens it does beg the question: is this song based on fiction or fact?
Less than an hour’s drive from where I write this, the album was played, recorded and self-produced at McCartney’s Farm/Studio in East Sussex and is clearly a space he excels in. The mood changes and deep seems to be the theme: Deep Deep Feeling is an eight minute melancholic and ambient piece with trademark McCartney backing vocals, but the standout song on the album is the penultimate track Deep Down : it boasts an infectious riff employing a Wurlitzer-style organ sound. McCartney was always labelled as the squarer, clean living, uncool Beatle however its paid rewards on this track: at 78 his voice can still reach the peaks in that raucous ‘get back’ style motif.
There’s time to fit in a throwback to the fab-four with Seize The Day employing that staccato Drum & Piano 4/4 thud that George Martin created (Gallagher Brothers take note, this is how you do a Beatles tribute song) and concludes with the tender, folky When Winter Comes. According to another album review it was thought this was Paul McCartney accepting mortality, I didn’t see it that way. It feels more like a letter to lovely Linda keeping her updated on what needs attending to on the farm, you make up your own mind. ‘I had no idea this would end up as an album’ he recently said but music fans should be delighted that it did. Based on this, we can hope there are still a few more roles of the dice to come from this enduring artist yet. Nice one ‘our kid’.
Stuart Large is a music writer follow him on twitter @boyaboutsound