Sunday, June 10, 2007

Review #16: Memory Almost Full

The last time Paul McCartney released an album on another label other than Capitol/EMI, the Cold War was reaching new highs as McCartney's career seemed to be taking a downturn. Give My Regards To Broad Street (1984) was that album, an odd mix of Beatle and solo remakes plus three mediocre new tracks that served as the soundtrack for the horrible movie of the same name. Two years later for the quirky Press To Play (1986), Macca went back to EMI where he stayed until this year. This time, instead of the huge mega-corporation of Columbia records, Paul jumped ship to Starbucks's HEARMUSIC label. So last week, Paul's first release on the label, MEMORY ALMOST FULL was released and is the subject of today's review!

"Everybody's gonna dance tonight/everybody's gonna feel alright/everybody's gonna dance around tonight..." is the opening verse to the album's sweet stomping opener, Dance Tonight. The song is classic McCartney and could feel right at home along with his other lighthearted hits, like "Listen To What The Man Said" and "Band on the Run". Although the song invites listeners to get up and dance, the rest of the album isn't party ready per se. Ever Present Past, the first single, is also akin to many other McCartney songs from the past. Paul gives a driving beat and melody and it all works. The song is highlight of the album and my favorite part is the bridge. "I couldn't understand the things that they were saying/But still I hung around and took it all in..."
After the opening singles, See Your Sunshine follows. It's a great pop song with a wonderful bridge. Like the rest of the album, the song proves that Paul hasn't lost his knack for great bass playing. Once the song concludes, a strange orchestral opening to the greatest rock song on the album, Only Mama Knows. Although the song has some strange lyrics about a child dropped off at an airport, the backing track is great and it just reminds you that this is the same guy who belted out "Helter Skelter". A great track is followed by a more lackluster one, called You Tell Me. It's one that from the first listen I didn't like and still don't like! The lyrics are spare and the song is played slow, nearly putting the album to a screeching halt.
Mr Bellamy is another highlight. It's written in very much an "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" way. You know the track is a medley, as there are nearly four different tunes weaved together, but you don't know where they start and you have no clue as to where they end. Like "Uncle Albert..." though, the lyrics themselves mean nothing, except to a suicidal fellow named Mr Bellamy.
Gratitude has some really nice bass playing on it, but that can't stop it from showing some weak points. The opening is nothing grand, just Paul saying the title three times, before it rolls into a screaming Paul shouting the first verse. Lyrically, it doesn't make much sense, especially the last real verse, where he explains that "I should stop loving you/think what you put me through/but I don't want to lock my heart away...." I'm not exactly sure why he would want to show gratitude to someone that's put him through a sort of pain.
Paul weaved the next five songs into a sort of medley that many are saying is like The Beatles' Abbey Road (1969) medley, but to my ears, it feels more like the medley used to close Red Rose Speedway (1973). Vintage Clothes kicks it off and features some great instrumentation behind the vocals. The repeated "a little worn..." section is a nifty highlight, especially how it leads to a great guitar riff. Next, That Was Me comes in. The song is basically built around little phrases that summarize events in Paul's life that weave together to make the second great rock song on the album. It's got a really nice rhythm and beat that go into the next song, Feet In The Clouds, which has a similar theme of reminiscing. The song is great until you realize how many "very"s weigh it down! Next is House Of Wax, a sort of lyrically heavy track that somehow creates some vivid imagery. The power also comes from Paul's magnificent vocals, which allow the song to become a climax for the album. The punching orchestra that follows Paul's shouting of "Buried deep below a thousand layers lay the answers to it ALL!...IT ALL!!!" Initially I didn't like it so much, but after a few listens, it has grown on me. The medley concludes with the sibling of Chaos and Creation In The Backyard's (2005) "Anyway", The End Of The End. The track is sort of scary...emotionally scary. Considering all that Paul has gone through over the year, the idea of Paul discussing death is a little shocking. Nevertheless, it's a great piano ballad; probably could be up there with "Let It Be", even.
Despite having a great ending in "The End Of The End", Paul tacked on a bumpy, ricking, head-knocker Nod Your Head. Basically, the lyrics tell you to nod your head if you love someone. That's it. It kind of feels like the discordant "Transcendental Meditation" that The Beach Boys used to end the other-wise mellow Friends (1968) album. This song is a lot better than that one, though, and works better with the album's previous material.
For those who purchased the limited Deluxe Edition, you get a really special bonus disc that features three extra tracks and a twenty-seven minute, in-depth commentary. It kicks off with In Private, a short instrumental that feels like a combination of "I've Only got Two Hands", the secret track on Chaos, and the various instrumentals on McCartney (1970). Why So Blue, the next track, is just like the other tracks on the album and would have fit fine on it. I think it definitely would have been better than "You Tell Me"! The last song, titled 222, is rather avante-garde, with a great instrumental track and a few short verses thrown in. It's probably my favorite of the three and one of my favorites in the two-disc set. Following the tracks is an incredible commentary (titled Paul talks about the music of Memory Almost Full) had Paul go track by track, explaining the thought process behind them. He goes on for about two to three minutes on each song!
The great thing about the deluxe edition is it's incredibly creative packaging. The discs are housed in a digi-pack that it the size of a standard DVD case. Included is a poster that is very much like the one included in The Beatles' "White Album". One side has shots of Paul in the studio and filming the "Dance Tonight" video, while the other has lyrics (including those of the bonus tracks) and credits.
In conclusion, Paul delivers a great album, but it isn't as good as Chaos. Both albums had their weak points ("A Certain Softness" on Chaos and "You Tell Me" on this one) but overall, Chaos was filled with much stronger material and definitely less fluff than Memory Almost Full.

Music: 8/10
Packaging: 7/10
OVERALL: 9.5/10

No comments: