Friday, September 19, 2014

Mix CD: "The Best of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years-1980-1993"

Paul McCartney, promo image for "Tug of War," 1982.

Poster for "Give My Regards to Broad Street" movie and album, 1984. Was a picture of Paul in "futuristic panda" garb really going to sell people on the movie?

Paul McCartney, mid-1980's. He's making his standard "I'm Paul McCartney and I'm cutely posing for a photo" face.

Promo for Paul's tour of Japan, 1990.
While there have been several greatest hits compilations covering Paul McCartney’s 1970’s work, there hasn’t been a compilation dedicated to the music he’s made since Wings broke up in 1980. The excellent 2-disc set “Wingspan,” from 2001, does cover some solo McCartney tracks, but it only covers the period from 1970-1984. With that in mind, I created my own 2-disc “The Best of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years,” covering Paul’s work since “McCartney II” was released in 1980. Paul has created a lot of great music since 1980, so it was a difficult task to narrow it down to two discs. I decided to leave off Paul’s duets with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, so there’s no “Ebony and Ivory,” “Say Say Say,” or “The Girl is Mine.” Sorry to disappoint anyone. 

Here are the songs I put on disc one of “The Best of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years,” which covers 1980 to 1993.

1. Waterfalls
2. Tug of War
3. Take It Away
4. Here Today
5. The Pound is Sinking
6. Pipes of Peace
7. The Other Me
8. No More Lonely Nights (playout version)
9. Spies Like Us
10. Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun
11. Press
12. My Brave Face
13. Distractions
14. This One
15. Off the Ground
16. Hope of Deliverance

Here are some comments about the songs:

“Waterfalls,” from “McCartney II,” 1980: A hauntingly beautiful song that features only Paul’s vocals and synthesizers. One of his most underrated songs, it was a hit in the UK, peaking at number 9, but in the US it stalled at 106. And yes, TLC stole the chorus for their 1995 hit “Waterfalls.” I didn’t choose “Coming Up” because I don’t really like the synthesized studio version on “McCartney II.” I much prefer the live version, but that was actually cut with Wings in 1979, which would break my rule of including only solo McCartney songs.

“Tug of War,” from “Tug of War,” 1982: “Tug of War” is one of Paul’s strongest solo albums, with terrific songs and production from George Martin. The song “Tug of War” starts off as an acoustic song, with strings eventually joining in as the arrangement builds. The song has an insistent melody, and George Martin’s arrangement works well. 

“Take It Away,” from “Tug of War,” 1982: “Tug of War” fades directly into “Take It Away,” a superbly catchy song with several different hooks and a groovy bass line. It’s a bit of a throwback to McCartney’s 70’s songs like “Band on the Run” and “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” that had many different sections. 

“Here Today,” from “Tug of War,” 1982: Paul’s moving song about John Lennon is simple, and one of his best. George Martin’s string arrangement is a perfect accompaniment. Paul’s been playing it regularly in concert since 2002. I don’t know how he gets through it every night without breaking down. The most moving lyric might be at the end when Paul sings, “And if I say I really loved you and was glad you came along/if you were here today/for you were in my song.”

“The Pound is Sinking,” from “Tug of War,” 1982: And we move from the serious and touching to the silly. This is a goofy song, as Macca sings about the various financial states of world currency, but it’s so damn catchy! Sample lyric: “The pound is sinking/the peso’s falling/the lira’s reeling/and feeling quite appalling.” At the very least, “The Pound is Sinking” is a useful primer on the old European currency that was replaced by the Euro. My favorite part is the bridge, as Paul sings in an upper-class accent, “Well I feel my dear/that it’s imminently clear/that you can’t see the trees for the forest/your father was an extraordinary man/but you don’t seem to have inherited many of his mannerisms.” I don’t know how that fits into the rest of the song, but it’s still awesome.

“Pipes of Peace,” from “Pipes of Peace,” 1983: A companion piece to “Tug of War.” In my opinion, “Pipes of Peace” is a weaker album than “Tug of War,” but this is still a great song, as Paul makes a plea for world peace. 

“The Other Me,” from “Pipes of Peace,” 1983: This song has a little bit of a different flavor, as it uses a drum machine. Paul sings as someone who has done his girl wrong, and he tries to smooth things out, saying that he wants to find “the other me,” the better version of himself: “I want to be/the kind of me that doesn’t let you down/as a rule.”

“No More Lonely Nights,” (playout version) from “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” 1984: Critics hated Macca’s self-indulgent 1984 film “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” but if you’re a Paul fan there’s a lot to like about it. The plot of the movie is so thin as to be non-existent, so you get to see a lot of Paul singing and playing some of his greatest songs. Paul only wrote a couple of new songs for the movie, but one of them was this great tune. There are actually two versions of “No More Lonely Nights,” a ballad version and the up-tempo “playout version.” I like them both, but I chose the “playout version” for this CD. 

“Spies Like Us,” single, 1985: This daft song, the theme song for the Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd movie of the same name, is Paul’s most recent Top Ten single in the US, peaking at number 7 in early 1986. Oddly enough, it’s something of a rarity, as it was never issued on a McCartney album or any of his greatest hits compilations. It is a bonus track on some editions of “Press to Play.” It’s not a great song, but it is catchy, and it shows Paul momentarily giving in to the mid-80’s huge drum sound. In terms of production values, it’s one of his most dated songs. I thought twice about including this song, but the fact that it was a hit led me to include it. 

“Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun,” from “Press to Play,” 1986: Paul’s 1986 album “Press to Play” was a commercial disappointment, peaking at just number 30 in the US. In the UK it fared better, peaking at number 8, but it slipped off the charts quickly. However, like every McCartney record, there are good things to be found on it. McCartney collaborated with 10cc guitarist Eric Stewart on most of the songs on “Press to Play.” “Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun” is a medley that starts off with a chorus chanting “good times coming/good times coming in,” then it turns into summery pop song about a “golden summer.” “Good Times Coming” then fades into the “Feel the Sun” section, which shares a similar summery vibe. 

“Press,” from “Press to Play,” 1986: “Press” was the lead single off of “Press to Play,” and it’s a catchy piece of mid-80’s pop. The lyrics are rather sexy, as Macca sings to his girlfriend, “When you want me to love you/just tell me to press/right there/that’s it, yeah.” Paul also sings, “Oklahoma was never like this.” What does that mean? Maybe it was a joke between him and Linda.

“My Brave Face,” from “Flowers in the Dirt,” 1989: “Flowers in the Dirt” was seen as a comeback album for Paul after the relative failure of “Press to Play,” and “Flowers” topped the charts in the UK. The album saw Paul co-writing some songs with Elvis Costello. It’s one of the few times in Paul’s solo career that he’s worked with a co-writer. (Another was the aforementioned Eric Stewart on “Press to Play.”) Paul and Elvis obviously hit it off, as they wrote about a dozen songs together that trickled out over the next few years, including Costello’s hit “Veronica.” There are obvious similarities between Costello and Paul’s most famous collaborator, John Lennon. Lennon and Costello have some of the most recognizable glasses in all of rock and roll. (Apologies to Elton John.) Like Lennon, Costello’s songs could be full of hatred and spite, with very personal lyrics. Lyrically, “My Brave Face” tells the tale of a newly single man who can’t always keep it together. It’s different terrain for McCartney, who doesn’t have that many songs about breakups. The part of the song that is the most Costello-like is the bridge leading into the chorus, as Paul quickly sings, “Ever since you went away I’ve had this sentimental inclination/not to change a single thing/as I pull the sheets back on the bed I want to go bury my head in your pillow.” In my head, I can hear Costello’s distinctive voice singing those words. It’s too bad that Elvis and Paul haven’t written together since that time, it would be interesting to hear what songs they would come up with now.  

“Distractions,” from “Flowers in the Dirt,” 1989: A nice, jazzy tune about life’s complications. “Distractions” has lovely strings, and it’s one of my favorite songs from “Flowers in the Dirt.” 

“This One,” from “Flowers in the Dirt,” 1989: A super catchy chorus anchors this song. It shares a lyrical theme of regret with “My Brave Face” and “Distractions,” as Paul tells his girlfriend that if he didn’t do something nice, “I was only waiting for a better moment that didn’t come/there never could be a better moment than this one.” Features a great vocal from Paul as he sings in his rock falsetto during parts of it. 

“Off the Ground,” from “Off the Ground,” 1993: McCartney launched a world tour in 1989 in support of “Flowers in the Dirt,” his first world tour since 1976. The success of his 1989-90 tour led him to record his follow up album with his touring band and embark on another tour in 1993. “Off the Ground,” the first song from the album, is a catchy pop tune, featuring a “la-la-la” chorus and handclaps. 

“Hope of Deliverance,” from “Off the Ground,” 1993: An uplifting song with a South American feel to it, this was the lead single from “Off the Ground.” It was successful in the UK, peaking at number 18, but flopped in the US, peaking at just 83. It was a number 1 in Spain, though. I love the part towards the end where Paul sings, “Hope of deliverance, hope de doobie doobie.” 

That’s it for volume 1. The post on volume 2, covering 1997 to 2013, will be coming soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article but it just goes to highlight how few great songs McCartney had after the 70's.