Editor’s note: You may recall that Charles R. Cross, who’s been following the Beatles most of his life, reviewed the historic concert by Paul McCartney at Safeco Field back in July, where two thirds of Nirvana sat in. Though earlier today we ran a wire service review of Paul’s new album, “New,” we asked Charles to weigh in, too. Here are his thoughts:
Paul McCartney, ‘New’ (Hear Music)
“New” is Paul McCartney’s latest, and 16th, solo album. The title is appropriate because it’s a fresh direction.
McCartney decided to audition several producers, but in the end couldn’t decide; so he used four. It’s a fresh approach, but results in a disjointed feel, as if this were a collection of singles (like early Beatles albums).
Giles Martin produced six of the twelve songs, and they are the least successful. “Looking At Her” simply has too many production flourishes, particularly its heavy use of distortion. Like McCartney’s choice to still dye his hair, this obvious ploy makes the 71-year-old sound like he’s unnaturally trying to look younger than he is.
In contrast, Mark Ronson does wonders on the rockabilly “Alligator.” Ronson, best known for working with Amy Winehouse, also did the title track, which is reminiscent of “Penny Lane,” with lovely horn parts.
The album’s best song, though, was produced by Ethan Johns. “Early Days” is the sparest song on the record but showcases McCartney’s voice, which remains strong and youthful. This ballad is autobiographical, but also bittersweet.
“We willed the thrill to never stop,” McCartney sings on “Early Days.” As an album, “New” may lack cohesion, but there are thrills Paul still can create.