The release of this deluxe, two-CD version of McCartney's latest, originally put out last fall, gives me the opportunity to revisit it, and see if it holds up. I originally felt it was a very strong album, apart from the choices of singles, and that it gets better as it goes on. That still holds, but I find that those singles, "Come On To Me" and "Fuh You," bug me even more. And while I find lots on the latter half of the album to enjoy, the first half proves disappointed more often than enjoyable. These are the songs where you can feel him trying too hard to write and produce a hit. The lyrics are forced and foolish at times. "Come On To Me" is intended as a look at the romance dance, but it seems emotionless, a description of a one-night stand. The less said about the bad joke that is "Fuh You" the better. And more attempts at writing catchy numbers, "Who Cares," "Confidante" and "People Want Peace," are technically proficient but soulless.
Then everything chances in part two, as suddenly it sounds like he's simply making music to enjoy, always his greatest strength. Piles and piles of hooks, great chord changes, excellent melodies and cool productions remind us once again that he's at his best letting it flow, not trying to be Paul McCartney, but simply being Paul McCartney. To put it in Beatle terms, the first half of this set is the guy who wrote "Let It Be," while the back half is the guy who wrote much of the medley on the Abbey Road album.
The extra stuff on this expanded edition is a 33-minute, 10-track second disc. This includes bonus tracks recorded for the album, some appearing here for the first time, and some live cuts at the various special shows he did to hype the album. It's no surprise that the leftover cuts from the album sessions are really quite good, as they are more of the relaxed, experimental stuff he mistakenly thinks don't make the grade. "Get Started" and "Nothing For Free" beat any of the first eight cuts on the original album. The intriguingly named "Frank Sinatra's Party" is sadly lightweight but not bad for a bonus. As for the live material, guess what? It's the tracks he felt were the strong ones, those contrived singles again, plus "Who Cares" and "Confidante," interesting only because they were recorded at special venues, the Abbey Road Studios, The (rebuilt) Cavern Club, and Grand Central Station.