Monday, November 08, 2010

Paul Goes It Alone

April 28, 1970

Lantern Special Writer

Beatle music is with us again, only this time it's music from the heads of individual members Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

Ringo's record, Sentimental Journey, is full of wry, amusing interpretations of old pop tunes, any one of which may have qualified as "our song" for your aging parents (bless 'em). It would be a nice piece of camp if it weren't for one thing -- Ringo's serious.

So serious, in fact, that Elmer Bernstein and Quincy Jones were persuaded to join Beatle producer George Martin and chum Paul McCartney as musical arrangers for the album. Who knows? Like the Columbus movie projectionist said last week, we just put it in here and it comes out there.

A Musical Notebook

Instead of a glimpse of the past, Paul McCartney has given us a kind of diary, an up-to-date shorthand notebook of his musical musings (McCartney, Apple STAO 3363).

The album opens with a short, candid take of Paul singing quite informally about his wife, "The Lovely Linda." He fights back the giggles for about a minute, then the song dissolves into an exchange of twittering, laughter between Linda and Paul.

The seven cuts which follow "Linda" on side one continue the light and casual mood set by the opening number. They are not really songs, but constructions of charming phrases and pretty, captivating half-melodies defined in transit.

Side two features six selections, one or two of which are substantial songs. "Maybe I'm Amazed" is a perfectly disciplined contemporary song. Although Paul plays all the instruments (through the mechanical magic of the recording studio), the final take sounds as if it were the Fab Four themselves.

Which brings us around to the musical abilities of McCartney. He is simply a marvelous drummer, a wizard electric bassist, an evocative pianist and not a bad guitarist. The most obvious McCartney genius is his acute sense of timing. It is said that Paul has regularly directed Ringo's drumming, an observation easily upheld by his outstanding percussion work here.

It is his timing that carries him through as a guitarist. The rightest, tightest guitar phrase or strum seems always to be there when it's needed. Only occasionally is it evident that McCartney was produced by a one man band.

An Impressive Voice

Perhaps Paul's most impressive musical instrument is his own voice. In an early book about the Beatles, the late Brian Epstein (their manager) said that Paul had the only natural voice in the group. The full range of McCartney's vocal expression is displayed among these 14 tracks; from the bluesy "Oo You" to the folk sound of "Every Night" or the humor-esque "That Would Be Something," McCartney never fails to impress and satisfy.

One regrettable aspect of the appearance of a solo album by Paul (or Ringo) is the indication that the Beatles may never again record as a group. Though Paul's solo trip is a fine album, one wonders how much better it could have been if John were present to add a spot of freaky, raw-edged tension, or if George had contributed a bit of his musical eclecticism.

No comments: