Monday, February 6, 2012
I first heard the album's first single, My Valentine, some time ago, and found it to be a remarkable summation of every love song the man had written, and he's written more than a few. Coming after perfect pop creations such as Here, There, and Everywhere, I Will, My Love, and Maybe I'm Amazed, Paul's latest silly love song is the best song on an album of tunes written by such masters as Billy Rose, Johnny Mercer, and Irving Berlin. The melody is gentle and lilting, his phrasing is superb, and the lyrics sound like the words of a man in love. Accompanied by Diana Krall's band, McCartney's heart on his sleeve performance is aided by a tremendous bit of lyrical guitar playing courtesy of Eric Clapton, who, as always, does his best work when working alongside a musician of his equal.
Producer Tommy LiPuma, and Krall's band are both near perfect throughout the record. Forgive them for possibly not quite having the instrumental, or arranging chops that Paul has bandied about for the last 50 years - the accompaniment is quite wonderful and unobtrusive throughout. The arrangements are sophisticated, and jazzy smooth, especially Krall's excellent piano playing. LiPuma's production is masterfully executed, and it truly sounds like a fifty year old recording. The stand up bass is always in the foreground, the brushes can be heard brushing the cymbals, and the strings are sumptuously sitting in the background, adorning and garnishing the entree, McCartney's great vocal stylings. Pro Tools? No, this is pros with tools.
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter contains the album's title, and as the album's opening track, it sets the stage appropriately. Krall's piano solo is as playful as any to have spilled off the fingertips of the writer of Martha My Dear. This tune wouldn't have sounded out of place at all back in 1973, when Paul was shaking off his band's traumatic ending, he was focusing on the lovely Linda, and getting his Wings.
Stevie Wonder makes the album's second big name cameo appearance on the album's closing track, the McCartney penned Only Our Hearts, a tune that makes me think he still thinks of Linda a great deal. Wonder supplies a very appropriate harmonica solo. Paul works, and works, and works. Why? I think that quite possibly he's keeping himself busy, and waiting for a reunion that will only come after he's gone from this life.
Its timing is perfect for me as well. I am currently working on a book about Sir Paul - a tome that will not deal with lawsuits, band breakups, or personal proclivities, but instead looks at what matters most - the fact that James Paul McCartney may well be the most well rounded musician that ever lived. This long player is the perfect end cap, and gives me a great bit of perspective as I look at the musical life of an amazing man.
Come to this record knowing that it is a love letter to love, performed by a man sixty-nine years old, who has grown old gracefully and with tremendous dignity. You can't ask for more from an artist - he's remained true to his trade, his music, and his heart. Thanks, Paul.