Thursday, August 13, 2009

Album of the Day #164: McGEAR - Mike McGear

Artist: Mike McGear
Title: McGear
Label: Warner Bros.
Year: 1974
Songs: Sea Breezes [Bryan Ferry]/What Do We Really Know? [Paul McCartney]/Norton/Leave It [Paul McCartney]/Have You Got Problems?/The Casket [Mike McCartney/Roger McGough]/Rainbow Lady/Simply Love You/Givin' Grease A Ride/The Man Who Found God On The Moon
Written by: Paul McCartney & Mike McGear, except where noted
Produced by: Paul McCartney
Thoughts: In 1974, Paul McCartney was apparently looking for something to do, just about the same time his younger brother, Mike, also known as Mike McGear, left his latest group (apparently called Grimms). So, Mike got Paul to produce a single "Leave It" for him, which lead to the creation of a full album, called McGear. Paul brought in Wings (Denny Laine, Linda McCartney & Jimmy McCullogh) and drummer Gerry Conway to do the basic tracks. He even co-wrote most of the album with Mike.
The set kicks off with a funky cover of Bryan Ferry's "Sea Breezes" (I'm not a Ferry fan, so I don't believe I've ever heard the original). McGear's vocals are very unique and nasal. Right away, though, Paul is using that unique vocal to his advantage. He's not going to push his brother into directions that he can't go, but Paul will put it to the test. The strings don't get in the way that much either. "What Do We Really Know?" is Mike's writing credit on the album. It's a speedy number, highlighted by fantastic drumming by Conway and lead guitar by McCollough. The funny thing is that towards the end, it becomes some fake gospel thing, what with the backing vocals (the unmistakable Denny/Linda harmony), before devolving into a jam. "Norton" is a funny track, probably coming from Mike's comedy heritage. "Leave It" was the single, and it's a very punchy track, accentuated by fantastic saxophones. It also features the entirety of the original Wings line-up, with Denny Seiwell (drummer on RAM, Wild Life & Red Rose Speedway) on drums. "Have You Got Problems?" closes the first side and it's like many of these songs. Paul is playing with tempo...where for one minute it seems like the songs is a slow barber-shop shuffle, the next minute it builds up speed, before it goes back to the saxes of the barber-shop.
"The Casket" is a somber number that opens side two and was written with poet Roger McGough, who collaborated with Mike throughout the latter half of the sixties (and also apparently wrote some of the dialogue in Yellow Submarine). Paddy Maloney's Aeolian pipes make the song definitely unique! "Rainbow Lady" is pretty nifty with some really cool synthesizer work (think Ringo's "Six O'Clock", another Paul song), credited to Linda. Paul also gives a heavy dose of fantastic backing vocals. "Simply Love You" is a silly love song (ha! literally) that really does nothing for me, although the bridge is pretty nifty. "Givin' Grease A Ride" is extremely funky, with great guitar work and punchy horns. It kind of feels like "Helen Wheels - Part II", but it is about a minute too long. The album finishes with "The Man Who Found God On The Moon", an artsy six-minute track that is a little over-blown and, like the last track, is much too long. The song seems a little formless, making it seem as if it's even longer. Still, the performance is pretty good and it's kind of cool to hear the brothers doing a duet towards the end.

I think this is a good album. Obviously, you're not going to mistake him for Paul, since Mike brings a less international-identity to his music. (It seems as if Mike has more trouble hiding his accent than Paul does while he sings.) Of course, it also is not something that anyone outside of the Beatle realm might even care to listen to. I picked it up at a Beatle convention on vinyl as it is nearly impossible to find the CD issued in 1992. This is the last time Mike would appear in the music business, as he went on to make his name as a photographer....and I'm pretty sure we all know what Paul went on to do.

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