One Man Band
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?
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.
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?
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!"