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DVD Review: ‘The McCartney Years’
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The McCartney Years DVDThe McCartney Years
3-DVD set
Rhino Entertainment
Available now

The recently released 3-DVD package The McCartney Years is an ambitiously expansive collection of music videos and concert footage from Paul McCartney‘s post-Beatles career. The first two discs are comprised of videos/promo clips of more than 40 songs, including most of the big hits (“Band on the Run,” “Silly Love Songs”), but even more appealingly, many lesser-known pop gems (“Off the Ground,” “Hope of Deliverance”) that didn’t make their way into the classic rock canon because of a change in popular music tastes. McCartney’s knack for primarily guitar-driven, melodic rock doesn’t quite burn up the Billboard charts the way it did in the 1960s and “˜70s

For the videos, McCartney seems to relish the opportunity to get into character, always giving his all as an actor, lip-syncing with the best of “˜em. But let’s face it “” McCartney won’t go down in history as a master thespian, mime, or male model. His genius lies in his music composition, melodicism, musicianship and singing.

McCartney has an endless supply of hooks, and while he’s been rightly bashed, at times, for being overly sentimental and schmaltzy, he rarely gets props for his post-Beatles masterpieces. “Put It There,” “Heart Of The Country,” and “Waterfalls,” among others, are easily on a par with the high standards set by the Beatles.

McCartney always thinks about more than just the song though. For example, enlisting Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour to play his inimitable soulful psychedelic lead guitar on the otherwise pretty pop of “No More Lonely Nights” was an edgy, brilliant choice to give this track a surprisingly trippy ambience.

Disc three “” the highlight of this effort “” captures McCartney live in 1976, 1985, 1991, 2002 and 2005. The best, and most rocking of the concerts, by far is the 1976 Wings set, filmed in Seattle for the 1980 film Rockshow. As McCartney says in his commentary to this section of the DVD, this was the best Wings lineup, with Joe English on drums, Jimmy McCulloch and Denny Laine on guitars, and wife Linda on keys. For this show, the band was also joined by a horn section.

Wings were considered to be on the wimpy side of things in their day, but this clip shows that in concert the group’s natural inclination was to bring more energetic flair and rhythmic heft to the material. “Venus And Mars/Rockshow” and “Jet” are totally smokin’ and flawless, even surpassing the greatness of the studio versions that were FM radio staples in the “˜70s.

The band’s versatility is also impressive. When McCartney switches from bass to piano for “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Laine plays bass. For “Lady Madonna,” McCulloch takes over on bass and Laine switches back to guitar. This section ends with a beautiful contrast, further illustrating the band’s depth: On the exquisite “Bluebird” McCartney, Laine and McCulloch strum acoustic guitars, and McCulloch’s tasteful licks are the perfect complement to the heavenly vocal harmonies of and Paul, Linda and Denny.

Mean-spirited criticism of Linda abounded while she collaborated with her husband, but as these live performances prove, she definitely had a “sound,” both as a vocalist and keyboardist that was an important contribution to her husband’s work.

The acoustic flavor continues on the “MTV Unplugged” excerpt from 1991, the high point being a beautiful rendering of the Beatles “And I Love Her.” McCartney possesses a keen sense of how to re-work his own classics to keep them fresh, and knows how to tap in to his band members’ strengths. Unlike many classic rock-era performers, McCartney doesn’t see his hits as arrangements that are set in stone. He’s confidently aware that his tunes are good enough for re-interpretation.

The Glastonbury concert segment from 2005 touts another great backing band but plays it safe “” heavy on hits, although there are several inspired moments, particularly the chugging “Flaming Pie” and the bluesy groove of “Let Me Roll It.”

One unifying feature of McCartney’s music, regardless of time period or musical style, is his perennially perfect bass playing. Even John Lennon, who made many snide, perhaps jealous, comments about his former songwriting partner, said during his last major interview (with David Sheff) in 1980: “Paul was one of the most innovative bass players that ever played bass”¦He was coy about his bass playing. He’s an egomaniac about everything else, but his bass playing he was always a bit coy about. He is a great musician who plays the bass like few other people could play it.”

His influence on rock bassists is profound. It’s one thing for Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson to acknowledge McCartney as his main inspiration on the bass, but quite another to hear Deep Purple’s Roger Glover praise McCartney’s perfection on the instrument. Both musicians expounded on McCartney’s greatness on separate occasions during the syndicated call-in radio program Rockline. Even Cream’s Jack Bruce credited McCartney’s experimentation on the bass as the inspiration for his own improvisational approach.

McCartney never repeated the same prolific burst of magical, mystical greatness he enjoyed in the 1960’s, but he continued to crank out some incredible music, both as a diligent craftsman in the studio and in the vastly different world of the concert stage. This 3-DVD set, with its videos, concert clips and many extras “” interviews, commentary and behind-the-scenes glimpses into McCartney’s creative processes “” contains much to please die-hards and casual fans alike, and documents McCartney’s undeniable, post-Beatles artistic merit.

The McCartney Years E-Card:

The McCartney Years Streaming Video Trailer #1:
QT 56; QT 100; QT 450; 56 wvx; 100 wvx; 450 wvx; smi

The McCartney Years Streaming Video Trailer #2:

QT 56; QT 100; QT 450; 56 wvx; 100 wvx; 450 wvx; smi

“Silly Love Songs” Streaming Video:
QT 56; QT 100; QT 450; 56 wvx; 100 wvx; 450 wvx


1 Comment »

  1. McCartney is even better now in the age of iPod playlists, where the weaker stuff can be filtered out easily. There are dozens of songs that, as the article mentioned, are as good as Beatles music. Nothing against Lennon, whom I also like to listen to, but McCartney had better solo stuff overall.

    Comment by NotThatGuy — December 21, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

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