Paul McCartney's McCartney III: What You Need To Know
On Friday last week (December 18), the one and only Sir Paul McCartney delivered a new album which not only takes his post-Beatles album tally to 18 (not including various side projects and collaborations), but also completes a trilogy of eponymous solo LPs that began its long journey a little over half a century ago.
Released just one week after it was finally announced in public that The Beatles were no more, his self-titled solo debut McCartney made its arrival in April 1970, having been recorded in lo-fi fashion at home (and unbeknownst to his erstwhile bandmates) on a 4-track machine, with McCartney playing all of the instruments himself by overdubbing each part.
These days, that approach to making a record is by no means unusual, as recently proved by the string of self-created albums released during the lockdown months of a cursed 2020 by the likes of Charli XCX and Taylor Swift. But it speaks to a restless creativity and a thirst for experimentation that has characterised much of McCartney's solo career, especially when he works alone, as he did on his debut's spiritual successor McCartney II in 1980 and on other, more recent albums such as 2007's Memory Almost Full.
Some 40 years on from that second instalment, the former Beatle and all-round national treasure returns to complete the hat-trick with a brand new album, McCartney III. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
McCartney began working on the album at his Sussex studio during the early months of the year, describing a very relaxed approach in an interview with Louder: "Each day I’d start recording with the instrument I wrote the song on and then gradually layer it all up; it was a lot of fun. It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album."
But end up an album it did, and after initially teasing the new project in October, McCartney III made its slightly delayed arrival in stores on Friday.
Who's producing it?
For the most part, the new album is self-produced, with McCartney once again playing all instruments, although there are a couple of exceptions. The album's seventh track 'Slidin'' is a collaboration with producer and human hit machine Greg Kurstin, while the album's closer 'Winter Bird / When Winter Comes' is a resurrected and reworked version of a track first recorded with the late, great George Martin, who earns a posthumous credit here as co-producer.
Any special guests?
Aside from guest musicians Rusty Anderson and Abe Laboriel Jr., both longtime members of McCartney's touring band who add guitars and drums, respectively, to 'Slidin''. Other than that, it's McCartney all the way.
What does it sound like?
As you'd guess from the quote above, McCartney clearly had a tremendous amount of fun making this record, and it shows. 'Slidin' is undoubtedly one of the album's most immediate highlights and no doubt Greg Kurstin deserves credit for his input, but it's by no means the only standout and as far as the rest of the album goes, McCartney III presents a strong argument for the idea that the former Beatle is at his best when he's left alone to do exactly what he wants.
From the folk-influenced, rambling stomp of (almost) instrumental opener, 'Long Tailed Winter Bird' to the gentle, psychedelic dreamscape of eight-minute deep cut 'Deep Deep Feeling', the new album's best moments are the ones in which McCartney really allows his mind to drift into more experimental territory.
Does it deliver?
It's not as if Paul McCartney's musical talents are news to anyone, but very few of his peers have survived as long and fewer still have retained the urge to experiment and create in new ways with quite so much vigour and vitality.
At this point, it's fairly obvious that he isn't going to stop. Ever. And if this is the standard he's still capable of reaching, why on Earth should he?
Press photo courtesy of Mary McCartney /MPL Communications