My Record Collection 149

Kate and Anna McGarrigle  – just the one album from these Canadian sisters; Dancer With Bruised Knees (1977).  This was their second album and their breakthrough record; it received rave reviews and I, like many others, bought it.  And I sort-of liked it – a mix of Cajun and Bluegrass and more modern folky songs – the girls singing high harmonies with banjo and piano and fiddle accompaniment.  On reflection I don’t really like it that much, interesting – but not much else.  Kate married Loudon Wainwright (see W) and begat Rufus and Martha (see W also), all singer songwriters.  She divorced him before this album however. 

McGuiness Flint – a band from the early Seventies which spawned Gallagher and Lyle(see G), one of my fave artists.  The title being the surname of the other two members of the band.  A great little group who broke on the scene in 1970 with their self-titled album.   And what a brilliant debut it was, every song was fabulous – in fact, some of Gallagher and Lyle’s best compositions – the hit single ‘When I’m Dead And Gone’ of course, but also (hard to choose) ‘Heritage’ and ‘International’.  But instant fame also spelled disaster; the band were forced to tour to promote the record, and Gallagher and Lyle wanted to write the songs for their next album, which the record company were demanding.  They did record and release Happy Birthday Ruby Baby a few months later in early ’71.  And despite poor sales it is actually a better album.  I could only find the songs on CD on a much later release The Capitol Years, which was their first 2 records on one CD. By the records release however Gallagher and Lyle had decided to leave and start up as a duo….(the rest is History – see G).  The songs on Roll on are just lovely, lyrical and sometimes rocking and a great production too.  My favourites are ‘Conversation’, ‘Klondike’ and ‘Sparrow’.  A great pity as I am sure with the later Gallagher and Lyle songs the band could have been massive.  As it was the remaining three members limped on and released a handful of albums to diminishing sales and disbanded a few years later.  Oh well.  I have also just seen a 2013 release of McGuinness Flint In Sessions at the BBC.  I have downloaded it as the actual CD is unavailable….to be continued

Malcom McLaren – a strange one.   He, almost singlehandedly, kick-started the punk genre – first in his shop SEX with Vivienne Westwood, and then as manager of The Sex Pistols.  He seemed to be a bit of a visionary and saw before anyone else what was coming next.  In 1983 he released his first album Duck Rock.  He speaks over a background created from Central and south American and South African beats, orchestrated by the team who became The Art Of Noise (see A); Trevor Horn and Ann Dudley mostly, and field recordings of a New York Hip Hop Radio DJ.  The album Duck Rock is great, full of rhythm and great beats.   Best tracks are the two hit singes ‘Buffalo Gals’ and ‘Double Dutch’ – but I also like ‘Jive My Baby’ – and the whole album really.   Malcolm was always a restless soul, constantly looking for the next new thing, sometimes he hit the spot and sometimes he failed – but with his next album Fans, in my mind he made a mini masterpiece. It was a mix of Opera (mostly Madame Butterfly) and hip-hop.  At this point in time (1984) hip hop was almost unheard of, a real underground scene from America.  Of course, the album was years ahead of its time; the Opera buffs were horrified and the rock crowd bemused at best.  But I loved it.  Best track are hard to choose, but I love ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Lauretta’ and ‘Carmen’.  A great listen.  In fact, I used to be used to be obsessed by the 12” version of Butterfly, which I played at high volume.  One day my then girlfriend Louise, ripped it off the player and threw it across the room….hahaha.  My next of his was a less successful attempt at mixing Waltz and Disco; 1989’s Waltz Darling.  He chose Bootsy Collins for the disco stuff, which seems a bit disjointed when the classical comes in.   Still an enjoyable listen, best are ‘Deep in Vogue’ and ‘Something’s Jumping In my Shirt’.   My final McLaren album is the sumptuous Paris (1997).  Soaked in jazz, this album oozes the Paris of the Fifties and Sixties; you can almost smell the Gaulois cigarettes.  He namechecks Miles Davis and Satie, and remarkably he persuaded Catherine Deneuve and Francois Hardy to sing on this homage to his favourite city.  I could do without his own spoken vocals but a beautiful album nevertheless.  Best are ‘Paris Paris’ and ‘Revenge Of The Flowers’.  But the album simply rolls along beautifully, immersing one in an insane vision of a Paris that maybe only exists in our imagination.  I love it.   Malcolm died too young a few years ago of cancer.  

Malcolm McLaren | Discography & Songs | Discogs

My Record Collection 148

Paul McCartney 1990 onwards.   Paul then went on the first of many huge world tours since Wings, featuring a mix of solo, Wings and Beatles songs.  He now had a tight backing band and decided to record his next album with the band in very few takes ‘live in the studio’ – just as The Beatles had done on their first few albums.  The songs were rehearsed and then into the studio and recorded, several as a single take. The resulting album Off The Ground (1993) has a rawer, more natural and cohesive sound.    But I think the songs themselves are just a bit weak really, or maybe the whole set is just a tad boring being the same band all the way through.  Saying that ‘Hope Of Deliverance’ and ‘Mistress and Maid’ are not too bad.  Much better was Paul’s 1997 offering Flaming Pie.  A much more considered album; Paul now taking a few years between releases meant the songs were much better too.  My favourites off this very good album are ‘The Song We Were Singing’, ‘Young Boy’, ‘Calico Skies’ and ‘Beautiful Night’ – but it could have been several others.  Paul now seems far more relaxed and not chasing hits anymore.  In fact, he was releasing other stuff too; some experimental stuff under the Fireman pseudonym, and some classical stuff (with the help of a few others), the only one I have is 1999’s Working Classical – which is mostly shortish pieces, many of them arrangements of well-known McCartney songs.   Not really mon tasse du the, but pleasant enough; I still found myself humming along to a couple of songs Paul had recorded and now arranged as instrumentals.  In 1999 Paul released his second covers album; again, a group of friends and quick takes of old Fifties numbers and three self-penned songs.  The title Run Devil Run was from a sign in a Southern drugstore advertising some medication – but works well with these songs.   Quite a good album really; it sounds as if Paul is really having a great time.  I like the new song ‘Run Devil Run’ which sounds like something the Beatles might have knocked up in rehearsals.    I also like ‘Movie Magg’ and ‘Cocotte’.  A nice album but hardly essential.  Which cannot be said for Driving Rain (2001), Which Is Paul Back on (almost) his best form again.  And yet it sold poorly and is still one of his poorest albums in terms of sales.  Recorded quickly it feels as if some of the songs needed a bit more work, and some are really quite rocky and one struggles to find the melodies for which Paul was renowned.  Saying that it is still a strong album – best are ‘From A Lover To A Friend’, ‘Riding Into Jaipur’ and ‘Rinse The Raindrops’ (a long track but quite experimental).  Paul seemed to be endlessly touring in this new century and I saw him twice – he still found time to write and record new stuff however, in 2005 he released Chaos and Creation in The Backyard’    A quite different album than Driving Rain – much gentler and more lyrical – almost like something he might have presented 40 years earlier for the Beatles to have considered recording.  Most of the instruments are Paul with very little full band arrangements, which has allowed his voice to dominate the songs; no bad thing at all.  So, an excellent album, if somewhat older in style – I like the single ‘Jenny Wren’ and ‘Fine Line’, but, if anything, there are too many songs at 13 to really appreciate them (mind you the early Beatles albums had 14 songs) some are just too long really – a fault of technology as CDs could now be 70 or more minutes long.  I also like ‘Riding To Vanity Fair’ and ‘A Certain Softness’.  Next came a slight departure Memory Almost Full (2007) – what a great title.  Paul released this on Starbucks and it was sold mainly in their stores.  It actually sold pretty well and is quite a good album.  Similar in style to Chaos and a bit whimsical at times, as Paul looks back on a full life.  Best songs are ‘Mr. Bellamy’, ‘Vintage Clothes’ and ‘The End of the End’.  5 years later (and the time seemed to be slipping between releases) was a covers album of soft late-night Jazz numbers.  Kisses On The Bottom, was  Paul’s third covers album and probably the best.  His voice really suits the laid-back jazzy arrangements and is a delight to listen to, though nothing really stands out as brilliant.  In 2013 (0nly a year later) Paul released NEW, another attempt to be relevant I suspect.  I wasn’t that fond of it at first, but it has begun to grow on me.  4 new producers were involved and a couple of the tracks improvised in the studio.  Basically, McCartney cannot produce rubbish, but his past standards, even solo, are so high that it must get harder with each new record to keep excelling.  Not a bd record, but still nothing really jumps out at me and makes me go Wow.  Best are ‘On My Way To Work’, ‘Looking At Her’ and the hidden track –   Much better in my humble opinion was Egypt Station (2018); the whole album just seems to flow.   Mr. McCartney seems to be improving with age; maybe he isn’t so desperately trying to be relevant and popular, and simply enjoying making good music.  One or two tracks are a bit experimental and one or two a tad sentimental (as always) but overall an excellent listen.  Best are ‘People Want Peace’. ‘Hand In Hand’ and ‘Fuh You’.  Then, to everyone’s surprise, during lcokdown itself Paul has pulled another amazing bunny from his hat with McCartney 3.  Self-written, sung and played and produced, it is simply brilliant – up there with the best he has ever achieved.  Every song seems relevant and works as part of the whole.  A very rhythmic record really but the playing is great, as is the voice and production.  An immaculate conception – best tracks being – ‘Pretty Boys’, ‘Deep Deep feeling’ and ‘When Winter Comes’. 

And so far that is it, though we know barring some unforeseen disaster there will surely be more.

My Record Collection 147

Paul McCartney – 70’s and 80’s – Well, they don’t come much bigger than this ex-Beatle.  People talk about John Lennon, but really after the fab four split, we saw that John, apart from his first two brilliant albums, struggled to make a solo career.  True, he was murdered just as he was making a long-awaited comeback – and George was flagging a bit too.  But it was Paul who kept going and writing and making albums – some better than others.   In fact his first solo record, like George and John too, was made while still a Beatle.  Simply entitled McCartney (1970) it was a completely home-made affair; and has a simplistic charm and naivety that has only improved with age.   Some of the tracks seem little more than demos, some had already been suggested as Beatles tracks and some were written in the studio by Paul.   A bit of a curates egg really; some poor bits and bobs, a couple of mediocre ones and a handful of great songs not so brilliantly produced.  Best are ‘That Would Be Something’, ‘Every Night’ and the truly great ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ – the last of which; the only track capable of being on a Beatles album (with a little help from his friends) – this song was improved vastly by Rod and The Faces, but that’s another story.  The album sold fairly well, but I think a lot of fans were disappointed by the half-finished feel of the thing.  Much better was the following year’s effort Ram.  This time Paul enlisted a few good musicians and though self-produced, it was done very professionally.  It seems that Paul’s Beatles breakup induced depression had lifted and the album is generally very upbeat.  Though Paul and John were still sniping at each other in their lyrics, mostly the record’s words are nonsense – though incredibly infectious nonsense at that.  A huge hit all over the world, this was Paul’s biggest selling album – and for good reason.  It remains the best Beatles album not recorded by The Beatles at all.  From opener ‘Too Many People’ to closer ‘Back Seat Of My Car’ it barely puts a foot wrong; my only criticism is that it is credited to Paul and Linda where his wifes input (apart from zany lyrics) was minimal – but he was obviously responding to John and Yoko making albums together (where the same criticism applies).  Favourite songs are the medley ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ – a sort of Yellow Submarine follow-up, Rocker ‘Monkmerry Moon Delight’ and ‘Heart Of The Country’.  This is almost my fave Paul album.

After this Paul decided to recruit his own band – Wings ( see W ) and had a string of albums of again mixed quality.

But by the end of the 70s that race had been run – and he seemed to run out of both band members and ideas,  So Paul decided to go solo again (though in truth almost all of Wings output was Paul, writing, singing and playing).  McCartney 2 came out in 1980.   It bears a resemblance to his first album in that all the instruments and production were by Paul – but a decade on and with much use of synthesisers and studio wizardry and experimental ideas it is a very different record.  I must admit I didn’t like it much at first – but it has begun to grow on me over the years.  But like it’s namesake it is a mixed bag; a couple of the tracks seem pointless fillers and there are a couple of gems – ‘Coming Up’ and ‘One Of These Days’.  And although I think I was quite disappointed by this album back in the early Eighties, Paul is one of the very dew artists I have bought almost everything of as soon as it was released.  Paul disbanded the practically redundant Wings in 1981 and has since pursued a solo career, though he has a regular live band.  The Eighties were a strange decade; new digital recording techniques and synthesisers meant that music was changing again (though not for the better) and most established artists from the Sixties and Seventies struggled; attempting to sound ‘Modern’ and ‘Relevant’.  Paul however soon established himself as a hitmaker on his own and had a string of successful singles and pretty good albums.  Next up was 1982’s Tug Of War.   Produced by long term Beatles team mate George Martin, this was a return to the form he had achieved with both The Beatles and Wings.  Three hit singles including the insipid but catchy ‘Ebony and Ivory’ with Stevie Wonder and the whole album is very accomplished.  Fave tracks of mine are ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Ballroom Dancing’ and best of all the tribute to John who had been shot the year before, the lovely ‘Here Today’.   Apparently a few songs recorded at these sessions were held over for next year’s Pipes Of Peace.   And somehow it wasn’t quite as good.  The title track was a huge hit and is very good, but not that much else hits the mark for me.  Again it sounds as if Paul was trying too hard to be modern.  Now, a confession – I have never really liked Michael Jackson despite his great voice and dancing – and Paul collaborated on two tracks with Michael.  The big hit was ‘Say Say Say’, and yes it’s okay.  The only other tracks I really like are closer ‘Through Our Love’ and ‘The Other Me’.  

Paul spent mst of the next year 1983 writing and filming Give My Regards To Broad Street.   As usual, and especially since John’s death, the film was panned by the critics, as everything Paul did was – as if he was somehow the lucky one and John, the real Beatle, had been denied the success that Paul was enjoying.  But I loved both the film and the soundtrack album which contained many of Paul’s recent songs and was a fictionalised look at the current life of McCartney, with a daft but almost believable script.  Great acting too from Paul and Ringo and Tracy Ulmann.  Anyway – the songs; live versions of earlier Beatles songs which add little, except an extended orchestral version of Eleanor Rigby which is brilliant.  The few new songs are pretty good, especially ‘Not Such A Bad Boy’ (written with Eric Stewart of 10CC {see T}) and the incredible ‘No More Lonely Nights’ which in a way the whole film is built around – this song one of Paul’s very best is infectious and one of my favourites too.   A year later and Paul got a few players together and recorded about 20 old Rock and Roll standards, 10 of which he released on an album called Choba B CCCP which is Russian for back in the USSR.  The sleeve was in Russian too, and Paul made arrangements for the record to be released in Russia too under the Melodiya label.   Well, it is quite good in its own sweet way; in fact I prefer it to John’s earlier Rock and Roll album (see L), there is a joyfulness in it, a sense of abandonment.  But no tracks really stand out for me.  Much better was his 1989 release Flowers In The Dirt.  In fact, this may be just about his best album to date, certainly a contender anyway.  Paul used three different producers including himself but not George Martin and co-wrote a few songs with Elvis Costello, who also sings on one song with Paul.  However Paul is notoriously hard to work with, on anything like an equal basis anyway, and has discarded partners along the way.  Costello would go the same way too – but he did add a much needed edge to Pauls, at times, syrupy sound, and predilection for pop over rock.  Anyway, the album is really good; a touch too long if anything (CD technology meant the old format of maximum 20 minutes a side was swept away and length and number of songs grew) but hardly a poor song in there at all.  Best for me were lead off single ‘My Brave Face’, ‘Distractions’, ‘Put It There’ and ‘Motor Of Love’. 

English songwriter and pop star Paul McCartney on his farm near Rye, Sussex.