Album Review: Paul McCartney – McCartney III (Capitol)

There are worse ways to end a year musically than with a new Paul McCartney album. And his McCartney III adds a nice touch to an otherwise “challenging” 2020.

With the title McCartney III, everyone and his mother naturally wants to draw connections to McCartney I (1970) and McCartney II (1980). While on the surface that would seem sensible, I find this album reminds me of another old critically-derided album, by Wings titled Wildlife (1971).

So a little history before we get into the new album…

The first McCartney album was notable for the fact that Paul (and Linda), recorded the entire record on their own, on their farm with Paul overdubbing all the instruments and Linda adding a few BVs. At the time this was a solo album like no other, but nowadays it’s a fairly common practice. The album drew mixed reviews (it wasn’t The Beatles) and generated its share of now-classic McCartney tunes…Maybe I’m Amazed, Every Night and the lovely Singalong Junk.

The second McCartney album was released in 1980 after the breakup of Paul’s other band Wings. Another stripped down affair, this one found Macca noodling around with various synths. Over the years the album and songs such as Temporary Secretary and Coming Up have gained some critical cred but I still find them tough to listen to.

Which leads me to Wildlife, the McCartney album I think III is most like. Ostensibly a Wings album, Wildlife found Paul, Linda and Denny Laine dipping their toes into a lo-fi, loosely recorded bunch of tunes that, on the surface don’t really jell. The first side featured nonsense rockers such as Mumbo and Bip Bop and a loose version  of Love Is Strange. But side two holds a couple of real gems, namely Dear Friend (addressing a certain Mr Lennon) and Some People Never Know. Actually now that I think of it, the entire side to is all good!

I was but a wee lad when these albums were released and they made a big impression on me. (See photos of the first three pages of my albums listed in order that I bought them…McCartney I is 26, Wildlife is 58 and in-between came the amazing Ram.

So what’s all this ancient history got to do with McCartney III?

Well, for one thing any music by Paul comes with a certain amount of emotional baggage for any of us boomers.

Second, musically, Paul is all over the map on both albums…there is a common loose vibe and a easiness to his approach.

McCartney’s voice is noticeably older on III, and that’s one of its charms. Sure there’s no Yesterday or Eleanor Rigby or even a Rocky Raccoon among  the songs but there’s plenty to like. My faves are the opening and closing tracks, Winter Bird/When Winter Comes Along with Women And Wives (something Paul knows a bit about) and The Kiss Of Venus.

So, thank you Paul. McCartney III may be overshadowed by the latest Dylan or Springsteen when it comes to this year’s assessment of “Boomer Rock”.  But I for one am happy to add to the McCartney canon.

Marty Duda