Thursday, November 13, 2008

Album of the Day #110: COLD CUTS - Paul McCartney

Title: Cold Cuts
Artist: Paul McCartney
Label: (bootleg)
Released: still unreleased
A Love For You/My Carnival/Waterspout/Mama’s Little Girl/Night Out/Robber’s Ball/Cage/Did We Meet Somewhere Before?/Hey Diddle/Tragedy [Nelson & Burch]/Best Friend/Same Time Next Year
Written by: Paul McCartney, except where noted
Original Recordings Produced by: Paul McCartney
Thoughts: I’m probably going to drive Google searchers insane by writing about this and not posting the actual album, but I’m not ready to get into the bootlegging business. (Although, I did make that awesome cover.)
The history of Cold Cuts started, probably, as early as 1975 as the idea for Paul’s last Apple LP. Paul failed to release an LP in 1974 (the only new Paul recordings that year were “Zoo Gang”, “Junior’s Farm”/“Sally G” and the Country Hams 45) and it was obvious that Capitol and EMI were probably nervous that Paul would jump ship. They knew they were going to lose George to Warner Brothers and they had no interest in signing Ringo. John was a lost cause because everyone knew he wasn’t going to seek a new contract (and wouldn’t record again until 1980). So, it was obvious that the only Beatle who was still financially viable was Paul. Paul was originally going to issue a hits collection, Hot Hitz And Cold Cutz (or even Kold Kutz), which would have an LP of hits and an LP of unreleased material. (It is surprising that Paul had so much stuff sitting around only five years into his solo career!) Soon, though, Paul ended up signing a new contract to give Capitol and EMI exclusive rights to distribute his LPs worldwide and Venus And Mars came out in early 1975. If Paul did indeed jump ship, it is likely that EMI and Capitol would have conspired to release a collection like The Best of George Harrison, Blast From Your Past or Shaved Fish, which allowed EMI to make last minute profits on the solo Beatles’ materials (although none were actually smash hits).
Paul revived the Hot Hitz And Cold Cutz idea in 1977 as a Christmas release, since he wasn’t planning on putting a new LP out until 1978’s London Town. To make the Christmas release a cheaper product for EMI to release, he streamlined it to a single LP of just twelve hit singles (considering he had at least 20 by this time, meaning he could have had a 2 LP set of just hits). No one said that Paul wasn’t a wise businessman (at least when it comes to music), so it made sense for him, since no matter what he put out it, was going to make a lot of money, which is exactly what Wings Greatest did.
Paul revived the idea again in 1986, as a stop-gap release. (Remember, after Press To Play in 1986, he wouldn’t release an LP of new material, excluding The Russian Album, until 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt.) This version was just going to be a single LP of outtakes with the title spelled correctly, as Cold Cuts. It is practically unknown as to why Paul didn't release it this time. (He also recorded Return To Pepperland with Phil Ramone in 1986 that was never released.) As the last known line-up, this is the most common version today, which you could probably find virtually wherever bootlegs are sold. So, this is of course, the version I’m going to talk about today.
Cold Cuts is an odd collection of material that spans from 1971 to 1979, so as you can guess, the songs sound so different, because of their varying origins. Great compilations like this are usually great because they follow a chronological order, which I’ve always thought was the best way to go. First, it allows you to see an artist’s progression and, secondly, it allows you to hear the songs that sound similar together. It’s like watching a movie with the chapters on shuffle. I think the coolest material is some of the Back To The Egg cast-offs. “Cage” is a cool, suite-type track à la “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”. “Did We Meet Somewhere Before?” and “Same Time Next Year” are also great tracks, especially “Same Time Next Year,” which is such a great closer. Also noteworthy is my all-time favorite unreleased McCartney track, “Waterspout”. It was dropped from the London Town line-up early in the process, but the track has a lovely feel not found on the LP. “Robber’s Ball,” from 1978, and “Night Out” from 1973, are the weak tracks, which certainly feel like jokes, but their pretty fun jokes. The rest of them are pretty good, like the great “A Love For You”, “Hey Diddle” and “Mama’s Little Girl” from the RAM sessions.
Only a few of the tracks have been officially released, making this release an absolute necessity for McCartney nerds like myself. If you aren’t fully acquainted with Paul’s solo material, though, it’s not a good idea to search for this. First, the sound always sucks. No matter what version I’ve heard, the sound is awful. Next, Paul is great at putting his best material on his LPs. He may let a song or two slip by, like “Waterspout” or “A Love For You”, but generally, he gets it right. Listening to this will not give you any big revelation about Paul’s life after the Beatles, but it will give you some temporary enjoyment, although you will feel guilty because it’s a bootleg.

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