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Paul McCartney: Pure McCartney (take 2)

Eric Luecking

Pure McCartney really is a compilation for those wanted to dip their toes in wading pool instead of jumping waterfalls.

It's unfortunate Paul McCartney died in 1966, unable to see the impact of the final years of the greatest rock group in music history through classics like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, and The Beatles (The White Album). An utter certainty for a career that would have ascended to new heights should he have chosen to form another group or go it alone given his songwriting prowess, he might even have earned a place among the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In the future, his record company would have released a compilation devoted to tracks that were culled from a post-Beatles canon that showed he was a unique individual talent who wasn't just reliant upon a little help from his friends, and we'd be rejoicing upon a heralded career.

Thankfully, that Paul Is Dead legend was utter rubbish.

In the greatest coup on Death since the Roadrunner v. Wile E. Coyote, Paul McCartney has had a career practically unmatched with hits and lesser known songs that have inspired a generation of people he's never had the pleasure of meeting and who aren't even born yet. Those songs have lifted him where even wings can't fly... into infinity. From ditties to anthems to children's songs to rockers to quirky oddities, Pure McCartney gathers a starting point for the uninitiated. And just think, this collection doesn't even account for his classical work.

What's more is that even a four-CD set spanning 67 tracks honestly could have been bigger. That's not a knock on the compilation but instead a great praise that one person could have that much meaningful material amassed after a career that couldn't be topped. Alas, record companies have to make decisions on what's a viable product for the marketplace. MPL and Concord Music Group did whittle the selection down to 39 tracks for a two-CD set and to 41 tracks for a four-LP vinyl configuration. CD versus vinyl formats aside, a compilation collecting as many tracks as possible is the best way to admire such an accomplished oeuvre.

For those unaware, since 2010, his company, MPL, has been reissuing and remastering (sometimes even remixing) albums in his catalog through Concord Music Group in various formats and price points. From simple two disc sets to award-winning coffee table books for each of the nine albums released thus far in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, an impressive homage is still being paid. The archive project hasn't been a fast rollout, but it's sure been a fun and rewarding journey that has covered albums from the '70s and '80s to this point with more coming soon (as those fun little advertising cards in the packages remind us).

So while the Paul McCartney Archive Collection has been geared mostly towards self-professed Macca-ologists, another market exists. Pure McCartney really is a compilation for those wanted to dip their toes in wading pool instead of jumping waterfalls. It's never once been marketed as a greatest hits package, a final word, or an all-encompassing viewpoint of a career that is still moving forward. Still, even for those diehards who have been collecting the reissue series, Pure McCartney offers a glimpse of songs not yet reissued and improved remastering. In that sense, it's a sampler of the series that hopefully continues beyond the upcoming Flowers in the Dirt, which doesn't yet have an announced release date. So for tracks like “Big Barn Bed” (1973), “Calico Skies” (1997), “Bip Bop” (1971), “Press” (1986), and “With a Little Luck” (1978), we get to hear the latest remastering work by the Abbey Road Studios team that has been responsible for the rest of the Fab Four's reissues and solo works. It's a testament to their hard work that the music sounds the best here as it has from any previous release.

As a touring musician, McCartney still loves to play to the crowd and incorporate a good chunk of the show to Beatles music. Surely many paying customers would be disappointed to not hear any number of the Beatles songs that have been in regular rotation over the years. What Pure McCartney shows us is that even if he didn't utilize them, there's a wealth of tunes that would make for a remarkable evening of music were he to add a ditty like “Heart of the Country” or the lovely “Warm and Beautiful". The Beatles may cast a long shadow, but Paul McCartney still stands above it.

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