Paul McCartney's Egypt Station: What You Need To Know
Paul McCartney's most recent outing with new material came five years ago with the release of his 2013 album New, the 16th album McCartney has released under his own name and one which made use of the combined production talents of Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth, Ethan Johns and Giles Martin.
This week the former Beatle is back with solo album no.17, Egypt Station, which takes its name from a 1988 McCartney painting that also forms the basis for the album's cover artwork. Having already unveiled a handful of the new album's tracks including 'Come On To Me', 'I Don't Know' and 'Fuh You', McCartney's 17th album makes its way into stores today. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Work on the new album began around three years ago shortly after McCartney invited Greg Kurstin, the man behind Adele's hit 'Hello' and producer for the likes of Beck and Foo Fighters, to assist with some music for an as-yet unreleased animated film. McCartney evidently enjoyed working with him and the two began recording the odd session together just to see what came out of it. The pair continued to work together in periodic sessions between Kurstin's studio in Los Angeles and McCartney's own studio located deep in the rural heartlands of East Sussex.
Who's producing it?
With the exception of 'Fuh You', co-written with and produced by One Republic mainman Ryan Tedder, the rest of Egypt Station is produced by Kurstin, along with McCartney himself.
Any special guests?
Nope. Despite his recent collaborations with the likes of Rihanna and Kanye West, the former Beatle has evidently opted not to pull out his little black book of contacts for the new album and it's just Macca going it alone here, sometimes with his touring band providing the backing track, but often with McCartney playing nearly everything himself.
What does it sound like?
There's a fair amount of variety across the album's 16 tracks, from the ambient sounds on 'Opening Station' and 'Station II' which bookend the new album, through the typically Beatles-esque stomp of 'Come On To Me', to the unabashed pop hooks of 'Fuh You' and the gentle balladry of 'I Don't Know'.
The album's real epic moment comes in the form of 'Despite Repeated Warnings', an allegorical tale of a ship's captain setting a course for disaster set to a huge orchestral soundscape reminiscent of earlier songs like 'Live and Let Die', but there are some other interesting sonic diversions too, such as the samba vibes on the infectious 'Back in Brazil'.
There's plenty of evidence that McCartney still has a willingness to experiment with new things, but this often takes the form of unconventional instrumentation and arrangements instead of more bombastic effects like backwards guitars and other studio trickery (he has, after all, done all of this before). According to Kurstin there was “a lot of deconstruction in the studio”, the producer telling Rolling Stone that McCartney “loved to pull everything out and try to be minimal. Sometimes we did have a lot of things going on, but other times we’d strip it way down and say, 'Let’s just have drums and one orchestral instrument. Let’s have bass clarinet playing what would normally be a guitar part.'”
Does it deliver?
At the age of 76 and with an unassailable legacy behind him, McCartney really doesn't need to do any of this any more, but if there's one thing that really comes across on Egypt Station its just how much he's still enjoying making music. On this evidence, Macca is showing absolutely no interest in retirement, which can only be good news for his fans.