In honor of Paul McCartney's 69th birthday and the recent reissues of McCartney and McCartney II, here’s a look at his best solo work.
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The theme to his entertaining yet commercially unsuccessful movie Give My Regards to Broad Street, “No More Lonely Nights” is a perfect slice of stereotypical McCartney. A lovely ballad with soaring vocals, critics denounced it. One particular reviewer deemed it “wimpy”, but I pity whoever falls in love with them. Most people would focus on David Gilmour’s guitar solo, but I just can’t get over how well this song is sung.
Not to be confused with Wings’ live version, the best track off McCartney II is the highlight of McCartney’s early electronic experimentations. Sounding like a party for synthesizers with all sorts of electronic noises to be heard, Paul’s filtered voice rises above the melee to discuss love, peace, and understanding. Most musicians would turn these lyrics into a serious ballad, but they are not as smart or as fun-loving as McCartney. Listen carefully to the end, when he sings the “feel it in my bones, yeah yeah yeah...” part. He’s having a ball.
“That Was Me” is a fast, blistering scream of recognition. Speeding from memories of being in a school play to rocking out on TV, it’s the greatest autobiography ever. Not only has he lived this amazing life, that voice commands you to believe that he’s enjoyed every minute of it. Who wouldn’t? Yet with a simple, “Who am I to disagree?”, the great rock star manages to come off as a little bit humble.
A revelation to all of those nay-saying critics, the joyous instrumentation to “Fine Line” dashed away most of their negative words with every punching piano line. An ode to peace, the song’s high concept was easily hidden in a sound catchy enough to be used as a car commercial. The true definition of pop/rock, it’s light enough not be too heavy and heavy enough to not float away.
While dozens of books have tried to thoroughly examine both Paul’s thoughts during the end of the Beatles and Linda’s influence on his life and work, none of them does it as well as “Every Night”. A close listen to the lyrics tells us that although he can do whatever he wants, he is unfulfilled, but spending time with his love will fix that. McCartney’s vocals are the most impressive instrument here, with his impassioned vocalizations towards the end showing us just how he means every word he’s singing. Vastly underrated, it is a close second to his best solo song.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” is quite simply Paul McCartney’s biggest hit. Despite the fact that it was never released as a single until Wings’ grand live cover, it remains the jewel of his solo catalog. The sparse original version (recorded in McCartney’s home studio) lacks surround stadium sound, but makes up for that with a type of honesty behind its simplicity. Nothing is there to block us from the sound of a man pouring his heart out about the newfound love that has truly changed his life for the better. Unfinished, the song doesn’t end completely, but what a symbol that alone is. Just as there is no real end to true love, the song fades off, suggesting that it is still going on somewhere else. Many other artists have tried to get the same emotional response out of it in their renditions, and many couples relate to it, considering it their own theme, but it will always be Paul’s ode to his love, Linda.