History: EMI asked Paul to delay release of his next album after Off the Ground so as to not essentially compete with himself while the Beatles Anthology discs were released. As such Paul took his time putting this album together, working with Jeff Lynne, Ringo, George Martin and Steve Miller of Steve Miller Band on a variety of tracks. His son James also contributes guitar on the album.
My own personal history and initial prediction: I remember this album being released, but none of the track names ring any bells for me. By 1997 I was pretty heavy into louder music like Tool and Nine Inch Nails, which is probably why I didn’t even really think to stop and check this one out. I am curious to see if working with his former bandmates on the Anthology singles had any influence at all or if this will be pretty close to Off the Ground or not.
Review: I don’t know if it’s because we’ve reached a point where technology has improved recording quality a bit, or if Paul working with Jeff Lynne and Steve Miller was such a winning combination, but the production of this album is just incredible. There’s a pretty strong central feel running through the whole thing, and it sounds better quality wise than a lot of albums have sounded before now. The songs largely switch from folk to blues, and it just all fits Paul really really well. The only thing I might have negative to say is that it’s almost too homogenous, with a lot of the songs starting to sound the same after a while.
But it’s really a minor complaint, because overall I really enjoyed listening to this one. Paul working with Jeff Lynne doesn’t sound the same as Jeff working with George, or even the Beatles singles from the Anthology. The guitar sound on this album overall is just great. Whether we’re talking about something slow like “Some Days” or “Calico Skies” or something more upbeat like “Flaming Pie” I just found myself really enjoying this one. His duet with Steve Miller, “Used to Be Bad” is also a really fun song and one that manages to fit both of their styles really well.
The album is also notable for this being both a first in terms of a song getting a McCartney/Starkey credit for “Really Love You” and for Ringo sharing vocals with him on “Beautiful Night.” “Beautiful Night” was the one of the two I really enjoyed, and I wish we’d get to hear the two of them sing together more often. It’s brief but it’s still lovely to hear. It also features George Martin’s production to help make it even better. I listened to this album first in the same week that I listened to the Anthology singles, and that gave me even more time to return to it. This is definitely one I’ll be listening to a lot in the future.
Next Time: Paul releases his second attempt at classical music, Standing Stone.