EMI announced earlier this week that the often brilliant, occasionally frustrating and always interesting post Beatles catalogue of Paul McCartney will finally be getting re-issued later this year. No details were specified except to say that it will be a digital as well as a traditional cd format campaign.
Paul's solo career began officially with the captivating McCARTNEY album in 1970 although he had done some work away from The Beatles throughout the sixties, most notably with THE FAMILY WAY soundtrack.
McCARTNEY was a true solo album, with Paul playing everything himself with only his wife Linda adding some additional vocals. The album would also add a theme that would play throughout his entire career after The Beatles, that of family.
RAM followed in 1971 and was credited to Paul and Linda. It is my favorite of McCartney's solo albums and I think it rivals his best work with The Beatles. The fantastic BACK SEAT OF MY CAR is among the greatest things he's ever written and the whole album is a solid and sometimes stinging masterpiece.
The rest of the seventies were taken up with Paul's new band Wings and would include some of his best and weakest work. The albums, including the huge BAND ON THE RUN to lesser known works like LONDON TOWN, would all be mixed bags featuring jaw dropping greatness and head scratching WTF moments.
It is worth noting that John Lennon's solo works also have the same mixed quality. Perhaps the greatest thing about their partnership together was quality control and having someone to say to them, 'hey that's not very good or it needs a bit more work'.
Still as with Lennon's work I love the Wings albums. For all of their inconsistencies they still have some of the best music of the seventies and are never boring.
McCartney began making solo albums again in the early eighties with the homemade affair McCARTNEY 2 and the George Martin produced TUG OF WAR. TUG OF WAR received much acclaim upon initial release but has been a bit forgotten, it remains a fine album that is deserving of re-appraisal.
The mid eighties produced the weakest material of Paul's career with the lackluster PIPES OF PEACE and PRESS TO PLAY albums. Things began to pick up when Paul began collaborating with Elvis Costello and the over-produced FLOWERS IN THE DIRT featured some of his best material since the mid seventies.
1997 would see the release of the fine FLAMING PIE album but it was really the double shot of DRIVING RAIN and CHAOS AND CREATION IN THE BACK YARD that would find Paul making his best music since RAM.
Paul's new album is due out next month and I am curious to see if he continue the creative winning streak he has been on in the past five years.
Then there is the other story. Since the late sixties Paul has been involved in a number of lesser known, more abstract and less commercial ventures. These include the Percy Thrillington alter ego and the stunning ambient group Fireman. Throw some slabs of avant garde feedback experiments, art installations and Yoko Ono collaborations and the 'cute one' is a lot more interesting than the casual fan might be aware of.
I highly recommend the fine book, THE UNKNOWN PAUL McCARTNEY, as an introduction and guide to Paul's fascinating side and hidden projects. Also the incredible RUSHES album by Fireman (McCartney and Killing Joke's Youth) which contains some of the best ambient music ever recorded.
No word yet on what albums will be included in the reissue campaign or what bonus tracks we might expect. Bootleg collectors will know that their are dozens of albums worth of outtakes, unreleased tracks and other studio nuggets that could be unleashed. It would be nice to see an ambitious campaign that would really try to put this incredible career in context culturally and artistically and not just a simple remastered albums program.
Here is one of Paul's greatest songs from that first album back in 1970, as a reminder that there has been life after The Beatles.