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Review -- Paul McCartney -- Memory Almost Full

A homespun follow-up to the Grammy-winning "Chaos and Creation"

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Paul McCartney,

Paul McCartney, "Memory Almost Full"

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The ex-Beatle's groundbreaking (heartbreaking?) partnership with Starbucks and their new Hear Music label results in some mostly ungroundbreaking music, largely avoiding even the elder-statesmen ruminations of 2006's Grammy-winning Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. It sounds great -- and Sir Paul's post Flaming Pie winning streak continues -- but it plays things too safe, especially for a billionaire whose last surprising move occurred sometime around the Carter Presidency.

About this CD

  • Recording: October 2003 -- February 2007, Hog Hill Mill Studios (Sussex), Abbey Road Studios (London), Henson Recording Studios (Los Angeles), AIR Studios (London), RAK Studios (London).
  • Release date: June 4, 2007
  • Label: Hear Music
  • Catalog number: 30348
  • Engineered by Geoff Emerick, David Kahne, Steve Orchard, Paul Hicks, Adam Noble
  • Mastered by Bob Ludwig
  • Produced by David Kahne
  • Musicians: Paul McCartney, Rusty Anderson (guitar), Brian Ray (bass), Paul "Wix" Wickens (keyboards)

Pros

  • The wistful nature of this project and its rock tropes mark this as one of the better Wings albums never made by the band.
  • McCartney's still generally consistant, as he has been since the late Nineties.
  • While it starts safe, by the end of Memory Almost Full Paul comes close to challenging himself again.

Cons

  • There's little here that will surprise old fans, although hardcore McCartneyphiles will thrill that he can still sound so vital.
  • Like many Paul solo albums, this could have benefited from an outside hand or two, the kind of service Nigel Godrich provided on Chaos and Creation.

My review

The frighteningly long shadow cast by his old band -- no, not Wings -- used to be Paul McCartney's cross to bear, the yardstick by which his occasional genius would be forever measured. After approximately two decades of ever more comfortable, ever less challenging post-Wings solo efforts, however, mere relevancy has become his new bete noire: he'll fill stadiums as long as he can still sing "Hey Jude," but that doesn't make him a creative force to be reckoned with.

Ever since 1998's Flaming Pie, however, Sir Paul has been riding a wave of newfound re-respectability, reigning in his more stubborn impulses and consistently threatening to play the elder pop statesman card, the same way he used to threaten us, happily, with shots of the old Fab Four magic. All of this helps to explain why he starts his 21st solo album -- and not coincidentally, his first for the Starbucks' Hear Music label -- with a few negligible songs designed to be as inoffensive as his interviews. "Dance Tonight" and "Ever Present Past" (the two lead singles, depending on which side of the sink you live on) blur the line between ingratiating and grating the way his worst post-Beatle moments could, but get past the lightweight stuff and you find Paulie suprisingly frisky, playing around with things like feedback, medleys, and intriguing little lyrical tea leaves like "I should stop loving you / Think what you put me through / But I don't want to lock my heart away" and "And though I'd love to be the guy / That gets to walk off with the girl / I'll go along with all she needs / And it will be my pleasure."

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