Paul McCartney – ‘McCartney’ (1970)
It’s difficult writing about Paul McCartney’s debut solo album without separating it from the tensions and drama that surrounded its release and the break-up of the Beatles. The album was released in April of 1970. The Beatles final album released, ‘Let It Be’, was released in May of 1970.
The other three Beatles had actually asked McCartney to move the release date as far from the ‘Let It Be’ album release as possible to prevent any conflicts. Also, when McCartney released the album in the U.K. he issued a press kit for the media that was essentially a self-interview, which seemed to indicate he was through with The Beatles. While John Lennon had already told the other three Beatles, as far back as September of 1969, that he was leaving the group, and George Harrison was also anxious to move on, a more coordinated, future, official, joint announcement dissolving the group was the plan. That, however, is obviously not what happened. While that summary provides a short-hand, uncomplicated version of the events of the spring of 1970, it’s also important to note it also took place amidst the backdrop of the group selecting a new manager. Ultimately Alan Klein, was chosen something Paul McCartney did not want, as he preferred his father-in-law, entertainment lawyer Lee Eastman.
The McCartney album was not the first outside album released by a Beatle. John Lennon and Yoko Ono had already released three experimental albums, ‘Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins’ in 1968; ‘Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions’ in 1969; and ‘The Wedding Album’, also in 1969. George Harrison released a soundtrack album, ‘Wonderwall Music’, in 1968 and an experimental album of electronic music, ‘Electronic Sound’, in 1969. Ringo Starr had released his cover album of jazz standards, ‘Sentimental Journey’, in early 1970. All of those albums were viewed as side projects co-existing with the Beatles. The McCartney album was the closest proper album any of the Beatles had made that felt more like a traditional pop-rock album, even given all its humble, sparse and intimate musical and production characteristics. It also signified the birth of a true solo recording career and in light of the breakup, it was the beginning of the long and winding road of life after the Beatles as recording artists for all four members.
The album has been issued and reissued countless times over the years in many configurations and formats. This new reissue must be considered one of the best issues of the album and would be a treasured addition to the collection of any fan of the Beatles or McCartney.
Officially released as a Record Store Day, drop two release, on September 26th, the album is distributed by Capitol and 7000 copies were manufactured. The package is an exact replication of the original gatefold package and features the Apple label and the original label design. This particular issue is a 180-gram vinyl pressing that is part of the Abbey Road Studios Half-Speed Mastering series. In fact, the album comes with a certificate of authenticity from Abbey Road Studios mastering engineer Miles Showell. This mastering process is not hype and at a $22.98 list price the release is a bargain, considering that most releases using half-speed mastering usually retail for at least $34.95.
The proof is in the listening and the sound is superb. While some records remastered from the original tapes can almost be too quiet and lack volume, this new mastering of the album has plenty of life but exhibits the best attributes of quality vinyl mastering from the original analog tapes.
Throughout, the music has a warm, intimate feel that is especially welcome in bringing out Paul’s bass playing. He supplied almost all the singing and instrumentation and did most of the initial recording of the album at his London home on a 4-track tape recorder.
This is an album that has aged well. Upon release, the album was not critically acclaimed, although the song ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ received considerable airplay and, when released as part of the live album ‘Wings Over America’ in 1977, became a huge hit.
The album featured many songs that McCartney had been working on since his time in the Beatles, with some seemingly contenders for inclusion on the group’s albums. ‘Junk’ and ‘Teddy Boy’ were written in India in 1968, prior to the recording of ‘The White Album’. ‘Junk’ appears in two different versions and is a dreamy and melancholy song that would make for perfect film music. ‘Teddy Boy’ is the kind of infectious song that only McCartney could write and it’s filled with the innocent charms of a children’s nursery rhyme set to music.
Along with ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Every Night’ and to a lesser degree ‘That Would Be Something’ received considerable airplay. While at first listen in 1970 after the majestic ‘Abbey Road’, these songs may have been viewed as perhaps not fully realized, with the passing of time, they have become some of the most beloved McCartney tracks he has ever recorded.
There are other fine tracks and the instrumentals gave McCartney a chance to stretch out, although with time or maybe a collaborator, they perhaps could have become much more.
While the big, mammoth McCartney reissues come with books, memorabilia and hours of unreleased audio and video, this new reissue is a welcome addition to his vast canon. Although there have been many reissues of his Wings and solo albums, hopefully this single, vinyl album half-speed mastering process will be used on other releases, with Ram, all his Wings albums and Thrillington leading my wish list.
Paul McCartney – ‘McCartney’ (Capitol 1970/2020 reissue)