Tuesday, June 05, 2007

First Listen – Memory Almost Full – Paul McCartney

I picked up Memory Almost Full, the new McCartney today – no surprise there – and I also downloaded the three extra tracks on itunes because I was too cheap to pay $13 extra for three tracks and a 22 minute commentary at Best Buy. Plus, the special edition came in a DVD case so it wouldn't fit on the shelf with my other CDs so I really wanted the regular case. But all that is unimportant because the album is very very good. Is it up to the high standards set by Chaos and Creation in the Backyard? Probably not but it's pretty close in spots. I had Chaos and Creation in heavy rotation for over a year so it will be truly remarkable if this album has that kind of staying power for me.

I came into this album having been mostly unspoiled. I had read a lot about it but I purposely didn't listen to it on the internet because I seldom like albums that I listen to that way and I really wanted to have the whole experience. I have however heard the two openers, "Dance Tonight" and "Ever Present Past." One thing that I noted about both of those songs is that with repeated listening I liked them more and more. So now I'm on my third time through the whole album and I'm finding more and more to like throughout – even as I'm writing this with the album on I find more to like. McCartney songs have a way of burrowing themselves into my brain and sticking with me for a long time. There seems to be more than a couple of those on Memory Almost Full.

The theme of many of the songs is that Paul is looking back and thinking about his life. "The End of the End" is probably the most obvious example of this but it pops up in many other places as well, particularly in the five-song medley that closes out the album. This is pretty clearly not an album a twenty-year-old would make.

"That Was Me," "Feet in the Clouds," and "End of the End" stand out for me, along with the incredibly catchy "Dance Tonight" and "Ever Present Past." I have a feeling that this will change as I get to know the album better and find more to like. Overall I'm pleased with Memory Almost Full and I'm really excited about hearing new things as I listen with my ipod and hear this album over and over. I think that there will be a lot here for me to find.

One of the things that I read before getting this album was that this was more Wings-like than any other recent McCartney album. I'm not so sure about that. On my first listen I played the "what other Paul album would this song feel at home on" game and while I was able to place a couple of them (and yes, "Only Mama Knows" would pretty easily fit on Wings' Venus and Mars) I wouldn't say that many more songs would nicely fit on Wings albums. I could see "Dance Tonight" on Flaming Pie or maybe on Ram, for example and while "Ever Present Past" has a bit of a McCartney II vibe to it, it really wouldn't fit on that album. "See Your Sunshine" could maybe go on Flowers in the Dirt. But this game was hard to play with many of the tracks. "Gratitude" doesn't sound much like anything that he's done before – although it's clearly a McCartney song. The voice is unmistakable. But that's pretty amazing. How can someone release so many albums and continue to be fresh and new? I'm very impressed.

EDIT 6/9/07: Thanks to Father Ron Hatton for pointing me to this excellent review. (Scroll down to the All Music Guide review.

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