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Paul McCartney - "Chaos and Creation In the Backyard"

Times Change, So Does McCartney

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Paul McCartney -

Paul McCartney, "Chaos and Creation In the Backyard", Capitol Records

Well, he finally did it. Paul McCartney's 20th post-Beatles solo album ventures where the artist hasn't gone for quite a while: outside his comfort zone.

One Man Band

McCartney himself seemed to acknowledge the absence of any particularly significant albums in recent years when he told the Associated Press, "I decided to lay it on the line for myself and challenge myself and say, 'You're going to make a good album here.'"

His first step out of the box was to hire Nigel Godrich, who is best known for his work with alternative rockers Beck and Radiohead, to produce the album. This was at the suggestion of George Martin, the producer of most of The Beatles' albums.

It was Godrich who booted McCartney's tour band from the recording studio in favor of having the artist play virtually every instrument himself. It was Godrich who butted heads with McCartney over the right tempo for Riding To Vanity Fair. Godrich won. It was Godrich who insisted that what McCartney considered a wrong note when he hit it during a rehearsal, stay in the album's first single, Fine Line. It did.

So What's New?

The enhanced Special Edition includes a DVD containining documentary and studio performance footage

McCartney also played most of the instruments on his first solo album, 1970's McCartney, but any similarity between the two albums ends with that statistical tidbit.

What's different about this album is that McCartney has finally broken out of an apparently self-constructed mold of fluffy, happy, dorky little love songs and given us something with feeling and substance. Yes, there is a gentleness about the album, but it is the kind that comes from the singer/songwriter having injected a bit of bare soul, with attendant vulnerability, into the music.

That his voice almost breaks as he strains for the high notes on Jenny Wren suggests that both artist and producer were intent on a project that came from the heart, not from a formula for radio airplay.

Eternal Collaboration

It is doubtful that McCartney, as proficient and prolific a songwriter as he is, will ever be able to match the product of his legendary collaboration with the late John Lennon. McCartney suggested as much when he told Time that he still hears Lennon's voice advising him as he writes. It was the Yin/Yang of Lennon's brooding cynicism and McCartney's optimistic innocence that resulted in music that you didn't hear so much as you felt, at a visceral level.

That's not to discount McCartney's solo songwriting ability, especially on the touching Friends To Go, which he dedicated to his late friend and former band-mate, George Harrison, and the almost-angry-sounding Riding To Vanity Fair.

What Makes Sir Paul Run?

Lord knows he doesn't need the money, the notoriety, or the validation of his superstardom. So what drives a still youthful looking 63-year-old to continue to crank out albums, and undertake a 37-city, three or four show-per-week tour? Ego? Maybe. But I'd like to think -- and this CD backs me up -- that it's the continuation of a quest for artistic self-fulfillment.

In their youthful view of When I'm 64 Lennon-McCartney asked, "Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?" Next year, when McCartney is 64, the Sunday drives described in the song will most likely be, instead, Sunday concert dates. Will we still need him? For those of us for whom McCartney represents a living link to all that was good about the Classic Rock era, the answer is a reassuring, "Yes!"

Video clip:
McCartney talks about writing Fine Line, courtesy Buzztone ...
Windows Media Version | RealONE Version

Tour Schedule:
Pollstar | Ticketmaster

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