The fact that an ex-Beatle would ditch the major label factory to pact with the world’s biggest coffee shop is definitely a sign o’ the times but as far as McCartney’s recorded legacy itself, that’s another story.
You also wonder why other music bigwigs haven’t taken similar paths. Pearl Jam and Radiohead is up for contract renewal and they could easily set up their own shop or strategically partner with a non-traditional company outside the industry (and may yet). Most likely Macca’s new album (Memory Almost Full, love that cute play on technology and aging) will do well if only because Starbuck’s customers will get bombarded by the thing around the clock and a number of boomers will likely submit to it while gulping their java. It’s a safe bet though that it’s not going to do the business of Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company (5 million sold) and not just because of the star-power Ray had on the record—it’s also because sales in general have slumped and it just so happens that when a star dies, their cache/sales go up. Still, he’ll likely sell enough to keep himself happy and convince him that he made the right decision. It’ll likely also convince other elder musical statesman to consider the same path.
Other than the news about the deal is the music on the album itself. Listening to it now, it doesn’t sound bad—even on autopilot, Paulie’s still got a great, sweet voice and a talent for songcraft. You know, it’s pleasant and kinda catchy. At the same time, it’s not something that you’d tell friend to run out and buy unless they’re absolute Beatle/Macca nuts. At this point, the problem that he and other aging rockers have is that their recent work ain’t gonna measure up against their back catalog, try as they might. Forget the Beatles- the new record isn’t Band on the Run and doesn’t have anything close to say “Maybe I’m Amazed” or even “Listen to What the Man Said” or “Coming Up.” But at the same time, it’s not disgraceful and he really is trying here. He’ll trot out a few of the songs on his new tour and fans will listen patiently until he gets back to his old hits. After that, most of the tunes will probably vanish from his future set lists.
Lucky for Macca and other boomer-rockers, their sales on the concert circuit make album sales irrelevant though you do have to give them some credit for at least still trying. Or maybe not it’s not that respectable when they crank out crappy records just to convince themselves and/or fans that they’re still artists per se and not nostalgia acts.
Paulie’s present and last few albums prove that he’s just winging it or abusing his fans but if he really wants to stay as vital as he’d like to think he is and not just live on his history, he should push himself more. Believe it or not, in the late Beatles period and even during his long solo career, Macca’s occasionally pursued a less-heralded experimental side, well-documented in the sadly little-seen book by Ian Peel The Unknown McCartney, which documents his collaborations with producer Youth and Super Furry Animals among other things. If Paulie could effectively combine his endlessly catchy side with his avant side, he’d have indie music fans everything drooling (including me). Hey, we can dream, can’t we…?