McCartney III: A Portrait of an Artist
Only Sir Paul can deliver one of the best rock albums of the year in a year he had no planned releases.
It is easy, and often unavoidable, to wax poetic about how Sir Paul McCartney shines his unique light of hope through his music. He’s always done that, and his new album, McCartney III, is no new revelation, but rather a comforting contribution to a musical output that spans over half a century at this point. It is something to be listened to, indulged in, and uplifted by. What else would you expect from arguably the most prolific Beatle?
There are few obviously profound statements here. Often it is the music that speaks most powerfully and artfully instead. In fact, the opening track, “Long Tailed Winter Bird” has hardly any lyrics. It’s more a celebration of the beauty of a catchy riff and its heartfelt repetition. Much like the actions of a winter bird, and a winter landscape, repeat themselves day after day, McCartney’s riff repeats over and over. Winter days often stay the same, hardly changing their visage, and blend into one another softly. Yet they can be beautiful and inspiring despite their monotony. It’s the perfect analogy to life in 2020. For many of us it was a metaphorical long winter of time at home with unchanging landscapes. McCartney saw the beauty in it though and can’t help but celebrate that beauty through song. If you’re a talented composer and artist, raising a simple riff to such a height of artistry is what you do, and Sir Paul does it better than just about anyone.
Recorded at home, McCartney drew upon the quiet landscapes that surrounded him, but, at 78, still got plenty of mileage and inspiration out of blasting some good ole’ rock n’ roll guitar. “Slidin,” with its heavy groove, thick guitar lines, blues influenced guitar solo, and self-revelatory (as well as revolutionary) lyrics would fit alongside any of his 1970s hard rock compositions. Sir Paul shows us here that he still can rock better than most of his peers, AND imitators. “Seize The Day,” rocks with the type of groove and tempo that brings to mind late Beatles’ era tracks, and is unmistakable McCartney at his best. The track also showcases his best vocals on the album. The call back to his late Beatles’ years seems to melt the years off his voice.
Perhaps the most profound track on the album, “Women and Wives” is as close as a 20th Century rockstar can get to wearing the mantle of an aged, yet learned, sage. Taking on a tone of instruction, McCartney sings, “What we do with our lives/Seems to matter to others/Some of them may follow/Roads that we run down/Chasing tomorrow/Get ready to run/Chasing tomorrow/Get ready to run.” All this is sung over the sombre piano movement that McCartney made a rock standard with “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.”
McCartney, as always, doesn’t linger long on heavy statements as the track immediately following “Women and Wives” demonstrates. It’s a throwback to songs like “Lovely Rita” and indulges in McCartney’s penchant for coming up with colorful female characters. “Lavatory Lil,” is a lighthearted, palate cleansing tune that reminds listeners that it’s okay to be frivolous and fun while simultaneously maintaining a concern for the future, your loved ones, and indeed your fellow man…
And that’s where Sir Paul McCartney exists and draws his greatest strength from-the writing silly love songs, ditties about unique characters, and the power of love to better not only one’s life, but one’s community, country, and the world, especially in dark times. McCartney III encapsulates this ethos once again. I guess it’s almost impossible, for me at least, to NOT wax poetic when discussing Sir Paul’s music. Somehow I don’t think he’d mind…