Pure McCartney

Review: Paul McCartney – “Pure McCartney”

Paul McCartney is, of course, unimpeachable. The Godhead of British pop music, one would imagine that an overview of his entire post-Beatles output since 1970 would be almost impossible to squeeze into a double CD, and even a four CD set would barely scratch the surface of McCartney’s body of work.

This, it turns out, is indeed the case. Compiled by Paul “with nothing else in mind other than having something fun to listen to,” there are inevitable omissions in a set that covers 44 years’ worth of music. The telling thing, though, is the ’80s-shaped hole in the middle; there’s plenty of Wings-era material and a fair selection of 21st Century tracks, but noticeably little between the expiration of Wings with 1980’s McCartney II and 1997’s rejuvenated post-Anthology, post-Britpop Flaming Pie. Although the set is arranged non-chronologically, we have to wait until the very last track of disc 1 to find a track from the eighties, and that’s Macca’s much-maligned Stevie Wonder duet Ebony and Ivory. Disc two fares slightly better, with a couple of other tracks from the Tug of War album sprinkled in among the inevitable Pipes of Peace, Say Say Say (here in its 2015 remix which switches Paul and Michael’s vocal parts to confusing effect), Coming Up and No More Lonely Nights. Meanwhile the quadruple disc set manages to ignore the decade altogether until the middle of disc 2, but we do get a handful of overlooked gems such as Waterfalls, Temporary Secretary and Press, while We All Stand Together is quietly buried at the end of disc 3 and can be skipped with the minimum of fuss. Worst of all though, remember Macca’s 1989 set Flowers in the Dirt which included songwriting collaborations with Elvis Costello and was widely hailed as a return to form? There’s nothing from that here. Nothing at all. No My Brave Face, no This One, no You Want Her Too, but still there’s room for a whole eight tracks from Flaming Pie, not to mention Bip Bop and bloody Mull of Kintyre.

If you can live with this virtual airbrushing the ’80s from Paul’s official history – and we can’t, we are an ’80s website after all – Pure McCartney does a pretty good job of covering the rest of Macca’s career, even squeezing in a track by The Fireman (McCartney’s experimental project with producer Youth) alongside tracks from Band on the Run and giving due love and attention to recent albums like Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard and Memory Almost Full. The set does include a lot of undeniably great music, both familiar and obscure, but you have to wade through a lot of self-indulgent whimsy to get to it. A perfect microcosm of McCartney’s solo career, then.

7/10

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