Friday, June 24, 2011

Memorable McCartney Solo Songs

Earlier this week I stumbled across this article about Paul McCartney’s 12 Most Memorable Solo Songs and thought the list was interesting. There were a number of things on the list that I would not have included. The deal is to pick

McCartney’s best recordings without the Beatles or Wings or the Fireman. Granted, this is a bit artificial since Paul’s input on the Wings stuff is so strong that it could be thought of as solo work but, whatever … this puts the emphasis on his work credited to just “McCartney.” So that means his first two albums (McCartney and Ram) and then everything from McCartney II on except the Fireman stuff.

I thought the list on the aforementioned website was quirky and that my list would be different so I could not resist the challenge. The hard part for me is to keep it to just twelve. I will also admit that the popularity of a song tended to work against its inclusion in the list. No good reason for this except that familiarity breeds contempt. So hits tended to not get on here with a few exceptions that I just could not resist. So here are my admittedly quirky picks presented in no particular order, along with my list of honorable mentions.

  • Maybe I'm Amazed (McCartney) – perhaps is best ever solo song is from his first solo album. The album itself is quirky and uneven but it has a couple of fabulous songs on it – three of them made my list!
  • Pipes of Peace (Pipes of Peace) – McCartney is not only a very good writer but the man knows how to make records. The arrangement of this song is just spectacular.
  • Every Night (McCartney) – the second song on my from the first solo album is another prime example of a great tune and a fine recording.
  • Tug of War (Tug of War) – This was McCartney’s return to making a fully produced album with George Martin after Wings ended and his McCartney II experiment. At the time Rolling Stone called it his masterpiece. It’s one of his great albums and the title song is just great.
  • Through Our Love (Pipes of Peace) – I am a sucker for the big ballads that McCartney often puts at the end of his albums. This is one of my favorites.
  • Junk (McCartney) – another wonderful song from his first solo album – this one comes in two flavors, with or without vocals.
  • Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Ram) – A song made up of lots of snippets that somehow hangs together and works. A big hit besides.
  • Waterfalls (McCartney II) – This is a wonderful song which needs a better recording. McCartney even mentions that in the book that comes with the new deluxe edition of the remastered version of the album. But even without a nicely orchestrated version this song is very good.
  • Wanderlust (Tug of War) – This is a pretty obscure song which features one of McCartney’s favorite gimmicks – countermelodies that are introduced separately and then combined near the end of the song. (See “With a Little Luck” for another example.)
  • Beautiful Night (Flaming Pie) – another great piano ballad. This one sat in his archive for a while until he rerecorded it for Flaming Pie. The earlier version (available as the b-side of one of the Flaming Pie singles) is not nearly as good – apparently he knew there was a good song in there and that the first recording didn’t quite get there.
  • Back Seat of My Car (Ram) – an early version of the big piano ballad – this one from Ram.
  • Once Upon a Long Ago (All the Best) – this one was a single in the UK and we in the US only got it when All the Best came out but it’s a great song and worth finding if you don’t have it.

The Honorable mentions

  • Too Many People (Ram)
  • Only Love Remains (Press to Play)
  • Motor of Love (Flowers in the Dirt)
  • Coming Up (McCartney II – although I prefer the live version that is on the US release of All the Best)
  • C'mon People (Off the Ground)
  • The Song We Were Singing (Flaming Pie)
  • Calico Skies (Flaming Pie)
  • Your Loving Flame (Driving Rain)
  • English Tea (Chaos and Creation in the Backyard)
  • Average Person (Pipes of Peace)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Country Music

This spring I’ve flirted with listening to country music. This is something that is a bit of a surprise to me since I’ve been a pretty serious non-country music guy for a while. The vocal style got to me and I had a prejudice against the music that made me resist it. But I had a long appreciation for 70’s country rock (early Eagles, Poco, Flying Burrito Brothers) and I’ve reacquainted myself with Poco lately so I was in a mood to appreciate it. I actually owned a couple of actual authentic country recordings – one Dixie Chicks album (Home), one Little Big Town album and a couple of Allison Krauss albums. But I considered them anomalies – ones that, for some reason I could enjoy despite my dislike for the genre as a whole.

But then last spring I stopped in Nashville for a couple of hours on a spring break trip and had a great time. I enjoyed touring the Ryman Auditorium, visited Gruhn Guitars and walked up and down Broadway where I heard six or seven bands each of which impressed me. I’d go there again in a minute.

So that left me thinking about why I don’t listen to this stuff – the players are great and there are some cool songs there. Meredith had sent me the latest Carrie Underwood album (Play On) so I listened to that and I realized that she is a wonderful singer – really good. So I decided to dig in a little bit more. Our local library is part of the “Freegal” system allowing me to download songs legally from the Sony catalog so I did some research and discovered a couple of albums that were highly reviewed. I then started listening to country music.

I started with Revolution by Miranda Lambert, the album of the year for many in the country genre. I also got albums by Sara Evans (Stronger), Allison Krauss (Paper Airplane), Taylor Swift (Speak Now), Brad Paisley (This is Country Music), Court Yard Hounds and Carrie Underwood (Carnival Ride.) Here is what I learned.

1. I still have some issues with some of the vocal styles. The ones I like best are the ones that are least “twangy.” I am a huge fan, though, of Carrie Underwood’s singing. She appeared alongside Steven Tyler at they ACM Awards and and sang “Undo it” and “Walk This Way” and they brought down the house. Watch it here .

2. There are amazing musicians who play on these albums. And Brad Paisley is a great guitar player.

3. The themes in country music still surprise me – lots of good ole’ boy talk with drinkin’ and hard livin’ right next to sappy songs about home and Jesus.

4. Novelty songs appear more often on country albums than they do on rock albums; “Camouflage” by Brad Paisley, “White Trash Wedding” by the Dixie Chicks, “Only Prettier” by Miranda Lambert to name three off the top of my head.

5. There are some really good writers in Nashville.

6. Sometimes country music is basically pop music with fiddles. That’s OK with me.

So my time of country listening might be diminishing as I get back to the stuff I listen to most of the time (I still listen to the Beatles and U2 a lot) but I’m a lot more open minded now and I’ve enjoyed listening to this stuff a lot more than I expected.