Music

Paul McCartney: Ecce Cor Meum

Unfortunately, there are multiple moments where McCartney sounds less like he's composing a classical work as he is a film score (and one to some lightweight romantic-drama, at that).


Paul McCartney

Ecce Cor Meum

Label: EMI Classics
US Release Date: 2006-09-26
UK Release Date: 2006-09-25
Amazon
iTunes

The biggest problem that Paul McCartney faces as a classical composer is the fact that he’s Paul McCartney. He needn’t ever release another album -- he’s Paul McCartney, and he can live off of that alone. That little British band he was in sometime ago just happened to redefine pop music. Yet no one can fault any of the members for lack of ambition (except maybe Ringo). Of course McCartney would want to dip his hands into classical music for a bit. He gave it his first shot in 1991 with Liverpool Oratorio, a collaboration with composer Carl Davis that was 90 minutes in length. Sir Paul tried again in 1997 with the "classical poem" that was Standing Stone and again in 1999 with Working Classical, a collection of shorter chamber music pieces.

Yet during all of this (and in-between releasing his pop albums), the main criticism still remains a stinging one: he’s Paul McCartney -- King of the Pop Song, not the Orchestra Pit. Blur guitarist Graham Coxon said it best when I interviewed him and asked him about possibly "doing a McCartney" and trying his hands at classical. He simply noted how the comparisons are too great, as with pop songs you’ll be stacked up against current chart stars and a few of your "influences", but "when it comes to classical music you’re up against people like Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff and Chopin". True story.

So, this brings us to Ecce Cor Meum, which translated means Behold My Heart. With the help of multiple choirs, McCartney -- entirely by himself -- tries to compose a work that, in the words of the man who initially commissioned it (former Magdalen College president Anthony Smith) would be "sung by young people the world over -- something equivalent to Handel’s Messiah". Unfortunately, such lofty ambitions -- despite well-phrased and quite-glowing liner notes by Peter Quantrill -- fall short in the long run. Though McCartney is very much not a classical composer, this may be the closest he gets to sounding like one. Opening number "Spiritus", in its lengthy 12 minutes, somehow manages to imitate just about every style in classical music, right down to a creeping oboe that sounds like it wandered away from Peter & the Wolf. When it comes to the far-better realized "Musica", not only are we treated to the lovely voice of soprano Kate Royal, but we get a section that actually ties together melodically. Unfortunately, there are multiple moments where McCartney sounds less like he’s composing a classical work as he is a film score (and one to some lightweight romantic-drama, at that).

The three minute interlude (subtitled "Lament"), with is mournful oboe, manages to actually generate more emotional resonance than the rest of the album. Though certain accolades must be given to the eponymous closing work of the album (triumphant and well-executed climax and all), Ecce Cor Meum’s largest fault is staggeringly large: a sheer lack of focus. Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem are staples to this day largely because of the focus -- very direct tellings of the story of Jesus, or sheer cathartic mourning. Ambitious in scale and scope McCartney is not. He was never a truly astounding lyricist, and here delivers movement after movement of generic "We Are the World"-styled sentiments. "Music is the servant of the Queen and King/ Who are happy if we smile but are delighted if we sing" is such a phrase in "Musica". Phrases in praise of joy, love, and music ring throughout, though without any through-line or structure, which can be attributed to the been-there feel of a lot of the work in question.

Ecce Cor Meum remains an enjoyable experience, regardless. It shows McCartney maturing as a composer, but still not crossing that line from "good" to "great" (or universally accepted like Messiah, for that matter). Hope remains, however. Only a year prior did Sir Paul release Chaos & Creation in the Backyard, his finest solo pop effort in years. If he sticks at it, McCartney can still make a true impact as a master of the classical. Until then, he can do what he wants. Why? Because he’s Paul McCartney.

5

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image