Paul McCartney: Six before III…

McCartney III, Paul’s “rockdown” project, is set for release on 11 December. But how will it rank alongside such a rich and varied back catalogue? Let us know your views of the album and where it would sit alongside these: Long Live Viny’s ‘six of the best’ selection from McCartney I to the present day, via Wings, Costello, Godrich, and all points in between…

1. Band On The Run, 1973
A loose concept album about a fictitious band. Sounds familiar? If this didn’t quite scale the giddy heights of Sgt. Pepper it did wholly resurrect McCartney’s critical standing. Macca’s habit of compiling unfinished snippets into multi-part songs works seamlessly on the title track and Alan Partridge favourite Jet soars above its elusive lyrics. By Mrs Vandebilt, Paul’s fluid, propulsive bass-playing is placed front and centre in the mix and the subconsciously Lennon-apeing Let Me Roll It is a lurching highlight. There’s light and shade, too, with the airy Mamunia and graceful No Words. Pumping closer Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five sealed the deal on his finest solo collection.

2. Ram, 1971
How times have changed. Upon its release, critics carped that Macca had lost the plot, now Ram is considered a rough-hewn indie-pop classic. Although this is now seen as a paean to domestic bliss with wife Linda, niggles with his former bandmates (mostly Lennon, naturally) arise through veiled asides. Ram’s centrepiece is the schizophrenic Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey medley. As he sings on the crazed spliff-infused Monkberry Moon Delight: “Catch up, cats and kittens. Don’t get left behind!” Many did…

3. McCartney, 1970
After The Beatles’ split left McCartney severely depressed, his first step as a solo artist put as much distance between himself and his former band as possible. Macca gives the middle finger to those desperate for a ‘statement album’. The Lovely Linda and That Would Be Something are mere sketches on a slight offering. Macca does offer up the wonderfully melodic Every Night and his best-ever solo cut, Maybe I’m Amazed.

4. Chaos And Creation…, 2005
The tantalising prospect of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich pushing Macca to the limit bore fruit. Paul’s signature style shines through on perky rocker Fine Time, fingerpicked acoustic ballad Jenny Wren and twee English Tea. The bittersweet Too Much Rain is textbook Macca defiance. Godrich’s presence is felt most keenly on the wonderful Riding To Vanity Fair, one of Paul’s best ballads for years.

5. Tug Of War, 1982
Reunited with George Martin, Tug Of War was heralded as a return to form for McCartney. Sessions were halted when Paul heard of John Lennon’s murder, and his heartfelt tribute Here Today is goosebump-inducing. Two collaborations with Stevie Wonder also feature, Ebony And Ivory and What’s That You’re Doing? Trademark Macca quirkiness is delivered with The Pound Is Sinking. McCartney’s critical standing was rehabilitated – at least for the time being.

6. Flowers In The Dirt, 1989
For many Beatles fans, an Elvis Costello-Paul McCartney songwriting partnership was a lip-smacking prospect. Could the acerbic Costello add the same bite to Macca’s songs that Lennon once did? After working on a batch of demos, only a third of the final LP featured Costello – a missed opportunity. Its singles, including My Brave Face, were only minor hits. The nine Elvis-Macca demos on the Special Edition prove this could have been superb.

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