You, me, the music, and me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

WINGS Back to the Egg

Columbia FC 36057 (1979)

There's an old joke about the little girl who innocently asks her father, "Daddy, was Paul McCartney in a band before Wings?" McCartney laughed about it in interviews, saying that now he was getting fans who were too young to remember Wings. Of course, the joke now would be about kids who are too young to remember Paul McCartney, period, but that would be unnecessarily cruel. Give 'im a break! He's got a new album out! With the guy who produced Radiohead! And people seem to like it! (No, I haven't heard it!)

As much as you can feel sorry for a multi-zillionaire, sometimes I feel a little sorry for Sir Paul McCartney; the guy often got short shrift in people's estimation of his contribution to the Beatles' songwriting oeuvre. Personally, I always got the feeling that John was, admittedly, the "substance" guy, but Paul was the "music" guy. This became even more apparent after the breakup of their little band; John's albums featured the work of an artist willing to plumb the depths of his soul and confront his own shortcomings, yet it often lacked the melodic sweetening of his Beatlemusik, while Paul's work was, well, pretty, and certainly catchy, but not always... ahem... deep.

Neither is Back to the Egg, but it's fun in a catchy, non-deep, silly-love-song sort of way. Best of all, it contains two tracks by the wonderful ridiculousness that was Rockestra, Paul's big-band-symphony thingie featuring five guitarists (including Pete Townshend and David Gilmour), three drummers (!), four bassists (!!!), and lotsa horns and keyboards. I guess it was Paul's attempt to bring a symphonic, "wall-of-sound" grandeur to rock 'n' roll, and it doesn't sound half-bad, though I wouldn't want to hear a whole album of it. It reminded me of a TV broadcast of some awards show I saw when I was about nine years old where they had a huge group of musicians on stage jamming with a video screen of Bill Haley and the Comets playing "Rock Around the Clock" and it sounded like an unholy mess, yet strangely exhilirating.

Anyway, if you haven't sampled any of McCartney's work between his stint with the Beatles and the time he fell in with that Jackson kid, Back to the Egg is a pretty good place to start. It's got a handful of good rockers ("Getting Closer", "Spin It On", "To You", "Again and Again and Again") and the love ballads aren't as cloyingly sweet as some of those found on his other albums (though "Baby's Request" comes dangerously close). "After the Ball/Million Miles" is downright pretty without being sickeningly so, and features some imaginative instrumental arranging. I still think McCartney has one of the best rock singing voices ever (able to leap from a sweet croon to a raspy yelp in a single breath) and he's in fine form here.

McCartney may never put out anything to rival his work with the Beatles, but, then again, very few artists probably will. Get past the comparisons to past glories and there are gems aplenty on Back to the Egg and McCartney's other albums, with Wings and without.


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