September 07, 2007
Memory Almost Full
Paul McCartney's new album Memory Almost Full is like some of his early solo albums in that it's mostly just him and that it has seductive melodies. (Think Ram rather than Band of the Run). And it starts with a typical upbeat McCartney song where he is trying as so often to provide the soundtrack for a happy get together. (Birthday sort of thing, or Red Rose Speedway which latter - it also resembles in that it asks to be played over and over.) He accompanies himself on ukelele and this is probably a nod to George who always travelled with two – in case anyone could play with him. Hence the poignancy – Paul singing upbeat through the tears for George. This is 42 minutes of real album rather than the fifteen minutes of quality and fifty minutes of fillers that a CD usually is these days. But most of all, like Empire Burlesque the first album after Dylan's Born Again period, this is an album where someone known and loved dearly (though long since abandoned as a hopeless case) is urgently speaking to you again. The solutions - musical, lyrical, philosophical - are anything but glib, for all his facility with melody, music and words. This isn't just a musician who can do anything - we knew that and it isn't enough on its own. This is a record with something that needs to be said. I had long ago given up buying Macca albums - London Town, Tug of War - that flattered to deceive. One great heart-gripping track, wings taking off over the Mull of Kintyre and then lots of empty chirping. So I checked very carefully before buying this one. The truth is, as Yeats put it, only an aching heart/ Conceives a changeless work of art" and Macca's heart is certainly aching in every beat and note of this album. Bereavement, loss, a lifetime singing through the tears (more of these actually than most, for all his happy and positive outlook) , and most important of all some hard-earned wisdom, they're all here. And God he can still sing and play like an angel. I'd like him to know I heard what he was saying here and that it touched me very deeply but I don't have his address. So I'm thanking him here. For this and all the other bits of my life he's added a soundtrack to. Life is going to get us all in the end but the only way to go down is the way Macca does- singing.