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Spins: Paul McCartney • McCartney 50th Anniversary Half Speed Master

| November 10, 2020


Paul McCartney

McCartney 50th Anniversary Half-Speed Master


Paul McCartney’s debut solo album McCartney followed releases by all three of his Beatles bandmates and arrived a month before the band’s 1970 swan-song release Let it Be. This 50thanniversary reissue made its own debut with September’s Record Store Day Drop and now remains available in a limited run of 7000. If your collection includes 2018’s worthy Egypt Station but lacks the album that started the long thread of McCartney’s often-charming arc as a solo artist, now’s your chance to hear McCartney at its best–even if the album’s approach is deliberately and defiantly in opposition to the Beatles’ studio craftsmanship built alongside producer George Martin.

The 13-track vinyl reissue benefits from a half-speed remaster at Abbey Road Studios, but the self-produced collection’s lo-fi approach contrasts starkly with the Beatles’ prior release Abbey Road. Production notes reveal that aside from a handful of instruments, the tools used to create McCartney included only a Studer 4-track recorder (with no level meters), a single microphone, and sheer nerve. McCartney was mostly recorded at home in bursts of creativity and experimentation.

McCartney performed all instruments himself, with occasional support from wife Linda for harmonies (and photography). “Buy, buy, says the sign in the shop window. Why, why, says the junk in the yard?” the McCartneys sing during “Junk.” The song’s trace of melancholy is balanced by the idea of a young couple building memories together. “Man We Were Lonely” fuses the acoustic folk of “Blackbird” and the then-forthcoming “Two of Us” for another song that finds the couple contented and comforted while settling into marital bliss. The set’s most enduring track is “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which became a top ten hit when the live version from Wings Over America was released in 1977. The song connects with the mid-tempo contentment and acoustic jangle of “Every Night” as two more songs praising home life with Linda and the triumph of love over loneliness (and the depression McCartney experienced in the face of the Beatles’ breakup).

The album’s gatefold sleeve is decorated with Linda’s family photographs of daughters Heather and newborn Mary and beloved sheepdog Martha (familiar as the White Album’s “Martha My Dear”). Tracks like the bluesy “Oo You” are neither essential nor enduring concert favorites, but it’s fun to hear McCartney as he clearly enjoys the pursuit of his muse. “Valentine Day” is an improvised instrumental with “Come Together”-styled power chords and solo guitar snarl. “Singalong Junk” reprises the earlier song as a swinging instrumental led by sparkling piano and warm guitar licks. “Kreen-Akrore” offers a few odd minutes of Linda’s heavy breathing as Paul fools around at the drum set, inspired by watching a documentary about a hunt by natives of the Brazilian Amazon. The “Glasses” portion of a medley with the jaunty “Hot As Sun” features

McCartney is playing wine glasses. McCartney would never stand as a surrogate greatest hits album, but the handful of highlights touch the peak of McCartney’s mastery for pop melody. Although the album’s casual approach initially earned poor marks and stole some of the thunder of the Let it Be release, McCartney can be considered more kindly in hindsight. Throughout the album, the playful mood forms a compelling time capsule marking McCartney’s pivotal transition away from the Beatles.

– Jeff Elbel

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