Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt (1989)

History: Paul took the failure of Press to Play to heart, trying out different producers to get a better feel for his own sound and also assembling a new band that he planned to tour with. He chose to collaborate with Elvis Costello at this time as well, a songwriter not too different from his old partner.

My own personal history and prediction: The only song title that rings any bells for me is “Put It There,” though I don’t remember much about it past the title. I do see that this is the first album where he starts writing songs with Elvis Costello though, and that excites me, since I have a lot of fond memories of their other collaborations. So I’m looking forward to this one.

Review: The moment “My Brave Face” started playing, I started to wonder if I was wrong, if maybe I had listened to this album before. At this point I can say I don’t think I have, but I definitely also knew that one and had heard “This One” before as well. I guess it makes sense as at this point singles that were released are ones that I probably heard on the radio at least, even if I don’t have strong memories of them anymore.

The album as a whole does give me feelings similar to Off the Ground, which makes sense since that will be his next release. It’s also a lot stronger than Press to Play for certain. It feels like he finally found a band he can truly work and gel with, and he’s doing songs that while still experimental in places also sound more like his style rather than him trying out new genres to see what might fit.

“My Brave Face” is probably the strongest of the whole album, though with it being the very first track that doesn’t mean I was disappointed for the rest of it. That one definitely has more touches of Beatles sound, and also a bit like some of Costello’s solo work as well on the vocals. The rest of the album moves between genres, from some easy listening style jazz to gospel influenced tunes to even a little electronic synth sound. “Put It There” also has a 60s folk sound, or maybe I’m just thinking that because of how much the themes of it remind me of songs from that era.

There’s also a lot of lyrics that touch on heartbreak and difficulties in relationships, as well as one sappy sweet song of marriage. Most of them are pretty good, though I have to say I was pretty disappointed by “You Want Her Too.” This is the second time Paul has done a duet with another singer talking about how they both want the same woman, and it’s just a really strange choice. Maybe it’s just that they are too obviously fiction and so there’s no authentic emotions to them? I really hope this is the last one I hear from him. “Motor of Love” was also a bit of a head scratcher for me lyrically, as nearly all of it is really well done, but “turn on your motor of love” when you’re addressing God? Unless there’s a story there I’m missing it seems like there has to be a better way to express that.

Overall the album is about 50/50 for me, with songs I really enjoyed and others I found a bit boring or just didn’t connect with at all. But I’m glad that he at least feels like he’s a little more passionate about it all again.

Singles released around this time:

“Ferry Cross the Mercy” – In the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster, a group of Liverpool musicians including Paul recorded this song as a charity single to aid the victims. I’m familiar with the original version at least somewhat, and this is a decent cover of it. It was also a nice gesture given the tragedy of what occurred.

Next Time: We’re catching up with the Traveling Wilburys again for vol. 3, and no, we didn’t skip anything.


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