Paul McCartney – McCartney III (2020)
It’s absolutely remarkable to me that a man of McCartney’s age is still doing what he’s doing at 78. The man is a melody machine. I mean, how can one guy have so many incredible, magnetic, dopamine soaked, feel-good bangers in ONE BRAIN?!
Paul McCartney is not only the most successful commercial songwriter in contemporary music history, but he is also one of the richest, has record breaking stats falling out of his jacket pockets….and most importantly….he was a BEATLE! He could have retired in 1970 when Liverpool’s famed fab-four split, and lived more than just a comfortable life. Instead, fifty years later, after already showcasing a body of solo and Wings work that the world will never see the likes of again, he’s been back in the studio completing his trilogy of indie inspiring, self penned, produced and engineered masterpieces in what only Macca could coin ‘rock-down’.
McCartney III proves one thing for sure – the man is still in love with his one true love….music. This album is far from going through the motions. It isn’t in the least bit stagnant, over-chiselled, sappy or contrived. Yet again, the genius that is (staggeringly…) heading for 80, has pulled out an absolute gem from yet another wardrobe door in his Narnia of imaginations. I’m not gushing over this record because it’s McCartney. I’m gushing over it because it’s bloody great.
As a writer myself, it always amazes me to see someone as prolific as Macca. Consider his discography: 23 studio albums credited to The Beatles, a further 26 studio albums credited to Paul McCartney, either solo or with Wings, 7 classical albums, 5 electronica albums (as The Fireman), and countless live albums, compilations, EP’s and box sets. I know his career has spanned almost 60 years, but the man has literally never stopped. That can only be down to his burning desire to create, and the need to fulfil that incredible gift that he has been given to craft a melody and pin it down with words the world over can relate to.
McCartney III opens with what is already an iconic riff – an almost eerie descent into Long Tailed Winter Bird, an all out attack on the musical senses, and the signature theme for this surprise release. It left me thinking shit, there’s so much more left in his tank! The album really takes off with Find My Way – a classic McCartney hook, and though the power of that crème-de-le-crème vocal has faded, he’s found ways to still work it. The very best in every walk of life adapt rather than disappear.
Lavatory Lil could have been on the classic B-side of Abbey Road, Slidin’ shows that Macca has been listening to the Foos (and that he’s no slouch on lead guitar), and Deep Down is the most contemporary McCartney track I’ve heard this side of the millenium. Fascinating to hear an old man singing about throwing parties every night. I’m sure Macca is no stranger to a party, even now. His eternal youth shines through this record.
The true highlight for me though is the mesmerising, 8-plus minute Deep Deep Feeling. For me, it generates a similar intensity that I Want You (She’s So Heavy) does, also on The Beatles’ seminal album, Abbey Road. The song swirls into a deep vortex of beautiful loops, and probably Macca’s most innovative vocal in years. Also….what a drummer he is!
The other highlight is the final track, Winter Bird / When Winter Comes. An outtake from the 1997 Flaming Pie sessions, McCartney has finally put the finishing touches to what is a beautifully raw, singer-songwriter masterpiece – the likes of which James Taylor, Stephen Stills, John Martyn or John Prine would be proud of.
Paul McCartney’s importance in the realms of contemporary popular music doesn’t need to be chanted from the rooftops. The man is the Beethoven of our times. Yes, he’s made better albums. Not many, but he has. I’m actually a fan of much of McCartney’s 21st century output, but I think this album probably snatches top spot of that batch from the 2006 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, which was also outstanding.
It leaves me excited for what else may come from the master tunesmith. It’s so refreshing to see the likes of Macca, Dylan, the Stones et al in the studio producing music that stands up. With his 80th birthday looming, we may be in for yet another original surprise from Paul….and if so, all hail the old guard!
Top track trio:
Find My Way
Deep Deep Feeling
Winter Bird / When Winter Comes