Paul McCartney – Driving Rain (2001)

History: Paul once again employed a similar live performance feel of production for this album, with all the bandmates largely recording together over the course of two weeks. The exception was the track “Freedom,” which was recorded shortly after The Concert for New York City post 9/11. It was such a last minute addition to the album that it was not included on the official track list of the CD and had a sticker added letting people know it was included.

My own personal history and initial prediction: Scanning the track list the only one that looked vaguely familiar was “Back in the Sunshine Again” but I think my brain is just confusing it with “Back in the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood. Surprisingly I don’t even have a memory of Paul doing a song and concert for NYC post 9/11 either. I guess there were just so many benefits around that time that I can’t pinpoint one including him specifically. Regardless Paul has been doing a great job with his rock albums lately so I’m looking forward to hearing if this one is a continuation of that or not.

Review: So I will say that the moment “Freedom” started playing the song did come back to me immediately. Also looking into the concert further it’s possible I did watch it at the time and it just didn’t have a lasting effect on my memory. I have this sort of natural aversion to patriotism, so I’m not entirely shocked I pushed it out of my mind. I’m also not surprised to learn that Paul himself eventually turned away from the song a bit feeling like it had been highjacked by the wrong kind of people to justify war.

But if you look at the album as it would have been without the 9/11 attacks, I’d say it’s about one half really solid and one half just okay. There’s a lot of really fantastic blues songs here as well as some really great moody tracks. His son James co-wrote two of the songs, “Spinning on an Axis” and “Back in the Sunshine Again” and I have to say I really liked both, with their great sense of mood and feeling. In “She’s Given Up Talking” he combines it with his sense of storytelling, painting a picture of a girl who won’t say a word at school but won’t shut up at home. It reminded me of “Biker Like An Icon” in some ways. “Tiny Bubble” is also a great bit of fun, and “Rinse the Raindrops” is the rare jam session that actually holds my attention.

Unfortunately where the other half falters is the love songs. They’re not terrible, but my notes kept coming back to “it’s fine,” “it’s just okay,” and “it’s a bit simple.” I suppose it doesn’t help that I am one of those fans who didn’t like him being with Heather Mills from the start. I would never have harassed her or anything those nasty people on the internet love to do, but I had always seen his love with Linda being such a pure and sincere thing that it seemed wrong for him to be with someone else so soon. And I feel like his songs about her even prove that he was with her for the wrong reasons. In “Your Loving Flame” he specifically states that she can help him chase his blues away, aka he was in a deep state of grief and she came along at the right moment to comfort him, and he mistook that for love. Of course it’s also really easy to say that in hindsight. And to be fair, the song “Heather” is a nice one, being primarily an instrumental track until a little bit of lyrics he adds on at the end.

But even with the state of unbalance here, I have to tip the scales a bit mostly on the good side of things. Those wonderful moody pieces would have me coming back again, even if I might skip the love songs. Definitely worth checking out, as this is a pretty worthy follow up to Flaming Pie.

Next Time: George’s final album, Brainwashed.

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