Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pop/Rock Review: Paul McCartney - McCartney III

Score: 80/100 
Release Date: December 18, 2020
Genre: Rock/Pop
Similar Artists: Jeff Lynne, John Lennon, Elton John

Since his departure from The Beatles, the beloved songsmith has alternated between skillfully-written pop masterworks to complete pieces of shite.  Who would deny the excellence of Ram, Band on the Run, and Flaming Pie?  On the other hand, who in their right mind can stomach head-scratchers like Wildlife, Press to Play, and the coma-inducing pablum, Give my Regards to Broad Street. Let's face it; what you get out of a Sir Paul release is anybody's guess.

Interspersed among his bipolar discography is a triad of numbered albums that beg the question, what is so special about this triumvirate?  What they appear to represent are three experimental shifts in style and direction. "I" was a lo-fi introspective shift away from Beatlemania.  Ten years later, after the dissolution of Wings, "II" set an experimental tone for his next era of pop profundity.  Fast forward forty years. In the middle of a pandemic, which he dubbs "rock-down," McCartney finds himself at the final transformational point in the triad.  

This current incarnation harks back to the first. Let's face it; Paul was the polished Beatle, the produced and precise Beatle, while John was rougher around the edges. The combination of the two is what made the magic. On "III", John lets himself go.  He skips the razor and hairbrush, and as a result, we see more of his authentic self. He creates grooves and then jumps into them to explore space within. There's a little John Lennon in these tracks, and thus, a bit of magic is conjured. 

"Long Tailed Winter Bird" sets the pace with a vibrant blues riff greeted by scuffled rhythm and vocals a third of the way. "Find my Way' shines the light of hope into the dark space of our modern times with pop savvy. "Women and Wives" is a refreshing conjuring of a bare-bones blues ostinato. "Deep, Deep Feeling" evokes the modern soulfulness of James Blake or Mac Miller. 

"Deep Down" contains the lyric 'Yankee toes and Eskimos can turn to frozen ice' which McCartney wrote upon impulse and later determined that "it's best not to question too deeply a lyric" and left it alone. The closing track, "When Winter Comes," revisits the album's opening blues riff, building and accentuating dramatically.  Much like 2020, we begin in the winter and end in the winter with a whole lot of struggle in between.  

In the long and winding road that is Paul McCartney's career, "III" is a rest along a scenic vista after a rough stretch of terrain. Fingers are crossed that "III" marks a pivot from the polished and predictable toward a deeper and more introspective McCartney in his remaining days.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen

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