CD Review: Paul McCartney

Memory Almost Full Hear Music
Music •••½ Sound ••••
If I were Paul McCartney, the last thing I'd want to see in an ad for my new CD would be: "The solo album worthy of his musical legacy." But there it is, big as life, blazoned across the top of a full page in The New York Times.

Let's take a moment to mull that over. "Solo album." Hmmm. McCartney has been "solo" (with or without Wings) for almost 40 years now. Each time he releases a new record, should we really be calling it a solo album? Oh, wait: This is "the solo album worthy of his musical legacy." Hmmm. Memory Almost Full is his twenty-first record after the Beatles. Is the ad implying (or baldly claiming) that, finally, McCartney has made an album that comes to the Fab fore? Um, okay, if you say so - then please give me time to rid my collection of such unworthy albums as McCartney, Band on the Run, Tug of War, Flowers in the Dirt, and Flaming Pie.

If this review is starting to read like my previous review of McCartney - for 2005's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard - well, I figure I'm allowed, since the hullaboo surrounding Memory is exactly the same as the commotion for Chaos. That was the McCartney record, you may recall, that Time magazine said was "the first album in his post-Fab Four catalog that really matters." But no, the New York Times ad seems to be saying, this is the first one that really matters. Sigh. Can't poor Paul release an album that's unshackled by superlatives and absolutes? It would do us all well to remember what McCartney himself wrote in the liner notes for Flaming Pie, for example: "I wanted to have some fun and not sweat it. That's been the spirit of making this album. You've got to have a laugh, because it's just an album."

Or is it? A recent issue of Rolling Stone includes the following quote from producer David Kahne, recalling McCartney's ambitions for the new album: "He said he wanted it to compare to everything that he'd ever done. I said, 'Everything?,' and he said, 'Everything.' " Hmmm. Maybe that ad line was written by ... McCartney himself!