Paul McCartney: McCartney II

McCartney’s first post-Wings solo album

A year before Wings officially disbanded in 1981, Paul McCartney followed the same path he’d trod as the Beatles fell apart in 1969: he retreated to the studio to record an album all by himself. Much like 1970’s McCartney, McCartney II was an outlet for ideas that might not have fit his band, and an opportunity for the artist to explore more contemporary sounds. The results weren’t as organic as the earlier solo album, often leaping ahead from Wings to contemporary synthesizer-influenced arrangements that, like many records from the 1980s, have aged poorly. Still, McCartney’s catchy hooks and memorable melodies were delivered with a crowd-pleasing smile. The album’s hit, “Coming Up,” scored on the UK charts and was in regular rotation on MTV, but it was a live version recorded by Wings that scored stateside. A second single, “Waterfall,” scored in the UK, but only grazed the bottom of the U.S. chart.

The experimental sides feel as if McCartney needed to prove he was more than a Top 40 hit-maker, but they aren’t particularly convincing. The repetitive, droning chorus of “Temporary Secretary” sounds like a cut-rate mash-up of Kraftwerk and Devo, the instrumentals “Front Parlour” and “Frozen Jap” sound like something scratched out on a toy Casio keyboard, and “Summer’s Day Song” is thin and unfinished. Better are the spare blues of “On the Way” and back-to-roots finish of “Nobody Knows,” trading production value for a peek behind the curtain of McCartney’s stage polish. The acoustic closer, “One of These Days,” though not one of McCartney’s greatest lyrics, does provide a moment of reconciliation with the life changes swirling about him.

Hear/Concord’s 2011 reissue offers a sharp remaster of the original album, along with an eight-track bonus disc. The new tracks include the 1979 live version of “Coming Up” which appeared as a B-side U.S. hit for the studio version. Oddly, the single’s other B-side, Wings’ “Lunchbox/Odd Sox,” is not included. Two more B-sides, “Check My Machine” and “Secret Friend,” are also included. McCartney’s non-album single “Wonderful Christmastime,” and four previously unreleased session tracks, including the orchestrated instrumental “Blue Sway,” fill out the bonuses. The all-cardboard four-panel slipcase and booklet include photos, lyrics and credits. This album has a few candid moments, but it’s not the burst of creativity found on McCartney, and represents something of a lull between Wings and McCartney’s forthcoming hit single collaborations. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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