Paul McCartney – McCartney III album review: Comforting in its familiarity
Earlier this year, the now 78-year-old Paul McCartney was forced to hunker down at his rural Sussex farmhouse because of the pandemic. His response? Fifty years after he tentatively hoisted the anchor on his solo career, the third in the series bearing his name (and his 18th solo album overall) has unexpectedly arrived – and like those two albums, McCartney conceived, produced and played every instrument here; this time, through necessity rather than choice.
It’s prudent to remember that McCartney’s first two self-titled LPs were critically panned upon release. McCartney I was too un-Beatles-like for Fab Four fans to accept, while McCartney II 10 years later was derided for its incursions into synth-rock, with experimental songs like Temporary Secretary and Front Parlour.
It’s unlikely that McCartney III will be met with the same derision as its predecessors, however. This is as wholesome and solid a pop-rock album as you’re likely to hear in 2020; comforting in its familiarity, yet with a couple of congenial surprises up its sleeve.
This collection, McCartney has said, was never planned as an album. The languid jam of album centrepiece Deep Deep Feeling attests to that notion, a sprawling eight-minute-long track that sees him play with his voice, noodly guitar solos and expansive grooves as he needles the pros and cons of being in love.
Lavatory Lil sees him revert to 1960s hip-shimmying pop as he profiles a femme fatale with a difference; the thoroughly enjoyable sleazy bassline of Slidin’ make it one of the rockiest songs here, while the optimism-infused Seize the Day is arguably the most Beatles-esque track on the album.
As loose and jam-like as some of these creations are, others have more purpose – like the wistful midtempo rollick of Pretty Boys, perhaps a collected retrospective take on his own salad days. The warm, colourful zig-zags of melody on Find My Way are reminiscent of Travelling Wilburies, while acoustic closing track Winter Bird – When the Winter Comes paints a tranquil scene of pastoral bliss that’s perhaps not hugely removed from McCartney’s reality these days (“Must fix the fence by the acre plot,” he observes, “two young foxes have been nosing around”).
It sums up the best qualities of this album: a reassuringly consoling collection of songs, sung by an eminent voice that may show occasional signs of frailty, but remains completely charming throughout.
Download: Deep Deep Feeling, Seize the Day