Paul McCartney: McCartney (Archive Collection)

The first album from the last Beatle to solo

McCartney’s first solo album, recorded as the Beatles were disintegrating, and released in the April 1970 slot originally slated for Let it Be, remains the least polished record in a legendary perfectionist’s career. Many of the songs, particularly the numerous instrumentals, are sketches and jams rather than finished productions, and even some of the lyrical tunes are fragments rather complete compositions. For a lesser artist this might be uninteresting, but for someone of McCartney’s stature, the album provides a candid picture of the isolation he suffered in his break with the Beatles. McCartney played all of the instruments, overdubbing on a Studer 4-track tape recorder he had installed in his home; the opening excerpt “The Lovely Linda” was the first piece he recorded, and provides a snapshot of the love that helped pull him through the darkness.

McCartney indulges his creative impulses, experimenting with verbal rhythms on the bluesy “That Would Be Something,” adding inventively sparse percussion, and creating an eerie menagerie of vibrating wine glasses. He digs deeply into the soul of his bass and rips up some twangy blues on guitar, momentarily invoking the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper” in the middle of “Momma Miss America.” The song “Teddy Boy” was rescued from the Get Back film, and the album’s most polished jewels, “Every Night” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” became popular album cuts on FM radio. The latter, among McCartney’s greatest songs, became a hit single in live form seven years later, but the original retains an intimacy that the Wings version didn’t capture.

Hear/Concord’s 2011 reissue offers a crisp remaster of the original album, along with a seven-track bonus disc. The new tracks include two original session pieces (“Suicide” and “Don’t Cry Baby”), a demo of “Women Kind,” a 1973 performance of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from an early Wings television special, and three live tracks from an oft-bootlegged 1979 Wings show in Glasgow. The all-cardboard four-panel slipcase and booklet neatly deconstruct the original gatefold album’s photo collage, beautifully reproducing Linda McCartney’s images in viewable sizes. The album and bonus tracks would just as easily have fit on a single CD, and the Q&A which accompanied the original press copies of the album would have been a real treat, but it’s easy to second guess, and what’s here is a treat. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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