Paul McCartney has had such bad press recent years being tarnished as some soft MOR embarrassment. You shudder at how that can have happened to the man who changed the history and artistic power of rock ‘n roll in that six year recording period recently re-released in The Beatles Remastered series; fourteen albums, two of them double, in let me say it again, just six years! The Remasters not only reminded the listener of McCartney’s part in the most prolifically brilliant song writing partnership of the latter half of the Twentieth Century but, in the clearer sound, his bass playing demanded a whole new level of admiration. The Remasters tell us loud and clear that The Beatles were more than a soundtrack to the Sixties; those boys could play!
McCartney’s latest live album takes you on a journey back to those heady days. The second CD has only one post-Beatles’ song. It took McCartney until 1976 to add a couple of Beatles’ songs to his Wings’ live concert sets and a few found their way onto, perhaps his best ever live offering, Wings Over America but since that time he has been unabashed in his liberal smattering of Lennon-McCartney and even Harrison songs. Whether you are listening to McCartney live or on DVD or CD (both in this package) you feel the bombardment of classic songs from Day Tripper to Let It Be to Get Back to Yesterday. The first disc though shows us that, though bulkier and as a result perhaps more dross, McCartney has a strong post-Beatles’ catalogue too. The obvious Band On The Run and Jet sit alongside the less praised Flaming Pie, Mrs Vandebilt and two of his most recent compositions under his less-secret-than-it-was alias The Fireman.
Amidst it all there is an intriguing little trilogy of songs; My Love, Here Today, Blackbird. These songs cover every phase, Wings, solo and The Beatles respectively and reveal succinctly the various McCartney subject matter. My Love is one of the consummate McCartney love songs of which there are probably more than needed though he did say on Silly Love Songs, “You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs/I look around me and I see it isn't so/Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs/And what's wrong with that/I'd like to know/'cause here I go again.” Blackbird is the political Macca, singing about the Civil Rights Movement and he does it with a little more subtlety than his Give Ireland Back to the Irish. Here Today is a beautiful letter to John Lennon written shortly after his death and far from the only time that McCartney reminisces; his last studio album Memory Almost Full has lashings of pre fame Liverpool. Lennon’s shadow for good and bad seems to hang over McCartney’s entire life and work.
Good Evening New York is McCartney’s second live album this decade and his fourth in twenty years. He is a Beatle so the demand for product is obvious. In the old days people bootlegged tours and now that it is cheaper to release live albums the bootlegger is pretty much out flanked by official releases, so the vast audiences who have seen McCartney in recent years can have a record of what they saw and heard. That is the function of this great live album that has not the same interest or novelty of Wings Over America in 1976 but if you are a fan then it is another reminder of a career and a really great way to distil your vast McCartney collection into a car stereo compact listen. Embarrassing? Certainly not!