|Album cover of Pure McCartney, 2016.|
Paul McCartney’s most recent release is the compilation Pure McCartney. It’s available in a 2-CD version with 39 songs, or a 4-CD version with 67 songs. I’ll be reviewing the 4 disc version. Some of the reviews of Pure McCartney have asked the question, what’s the point of a compilation album in the age of Spotify, when fans can simply make their own “Best of Paul McCartney” playlists. I would argue since Pure McCartney is only the fourth Paul McCartney compilation to ever be issued, and the first one that features any material recorded after 1984, that it’s an overdue look at one of the greatest songwriters of our time. Back in 2014, I even made my own 2-CD compilation of McCartney’s best solo work since 1980, as I felt it has been unfairly overlooked. (You can find the track listing for Disc One here, and Disc Two here.)
Pure McCartney offers no previously unreleased tracks, and the closest thing to any rarities are the US CD debuts of “We All Stand Together,” the 1984 theme song to the animated film Rupert and the Frog Song, and the 2014 single “Hope for the Future,” a song written for the video game “Destiny.” Pure McCartney covers McCartney’s entire solo career, and it’s a measure of the amazing career he’s had than even at 4 discs and 67 songs it can sometimes seem like it’s just skimming the surface.
It’s inevitable that compilations will leave people unsatisfied, as everyone has their favorite songs that have been left off. Overall, I think the track selection of Pure McCartney is good, but I think the bigger problem is with the programming of the four discs. It seems very obvious that the plan was “slow song, fast song, slow song, fast song,” which sets up some interesting juxtapositions, but there’s nothing wrong with having a suite of songs that are similar in style. I wouldn’t mind hearing a block of “Hi, Hi, Hi,” followed by “Jet,” and “Junior’s Farm.” The non-chronological selection means that “Band on the Run” nestles up to “Appreciate,” from McCartney’s most recent solo album, 2013’s New. When you hear newer McCartney songs next to older ones, it becomes obvious to me how strong his songs are, no matter what era they’re from.
There are some odd gaps on Pure McCartney. Why are there no songs from Flowers in the Dirt, Run Devil Run, or Driving Rain? There’s also only one song from Off the Ground. And then there are 8 songs from Flaming Pie. That’s more than half the album! That’s also the most songs that appear on Pure McCartney from any one album. I think some songs from Flowers in the Dirt like “My Brave Face,” which was co-written with Elvis Costello, and “This One” would have been nice additions to Pure McCartney. I also have a soft spot for “Off the Ground,” “Hope of Deliverance,” “Lonely Road,” and “Driving Rain,” none of which made the cut for Pure McCartney.
Despite quibbles about the songs not included, what is most striking about listening to Pure McCartney is the sheer talent of Paul McCartney. He’s produced an amazing body of work over his career, and his skills as a composer, singer, and musician are extraordinary. It speaks to McCartney’s genius and musicianship that his post-Beatles career has not merely seemed like a coda, but has produced many great songs, like those found on Pure McCartney.