Paul McCartney’s first album of the new millennium, Driving Rain, showed that not only had McCartney still got a massive amount of both creativity and enthusiasm, but that he had fully bounced back after the passing of his true love Linda.
It was 2001 and Paul McCartney was back, but not quite as we knew him. Now his music was harder and grittier than it ever had been before, and his is in no small part thanks to the young new band consisting of Rusty Anderson on guitars, Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums and Gabe Dixon on keyboards. These raw sessions were recorded in LA and produced by David Kahne.
The album received rave reviews however it performed relatively poorly. This can be contributed to the fact that it was released just before the September 11th attacks.
The album opens with Lonely Road. A raw and primal song, you can hear Paul’s anguish at losing his wife of 28 years and how he is trying to come to terms with her passing. The guitars are distorted, gritty and unclean, and the track really captures the raw emotion. The track displays how tight the band is without being over rehearsed and the effect is an almost spontaneous sounding track on which Paul pours his heart out.
Next comes the classic McCartney piano based ballad From A Lover To A Friend. A slow, gentle, sparse song, it flows along almost mournfully. The lyrics again could be aimed at Linda, asking for her permission to move on with his new life as he courted charity worker Heather Mills.
From a Lover to a Friend was originally released as the album’s first single, however after the September 11th attacks the single was pulled off the shelves and replaced with the albums more appropriate closing song, hastily written specifically for the occasion.
A more experimental track, She’s Given Up Talking starts out light and acoustic before morphing into an electric thick, fat sounding track that sounds almost trance-like at times. Another guitar heavy track fades out in the final minute of the song to a hypnotic drum pattern accompanied by a repeating vocal and droning synthesizer notes.
The albums simple poppy title track Driving Rain is next. It was composed on guitar after a long car journey down California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway. The track shows Pauls ability to still write straightforward commercial pop songs, a skill that he crafted in the early years of The Beatles.
Next is the lightweight (and that’s not to say not meaningful) I Do which was written for Heather. A pretty love song, this acoustic guitar based track combines heartfelt love letter lyrics and flourishing string section to create one of the albums gentlest songs.
Tiny Bubble is Paul’s decent attempt at a song with soul. It has a steady mid-tempo groove and some nice simple but effective guitar work. The use of a retro sounding Hammond organ, the song sounds like it could be quite a home on one on The Beatles later albums.
In the next song, Magic, Paul talks about first meeting his true love. Whether this song is aimed at Linda or Heather is a matter of debate, but the lyrics are heartfelt and one can clearly imagine the spark of excitement and longing on the night in question.
Next is the plucky Your Way. This song could easily fall under the country genre of music with its plodding bass and slide guitar work, it wouldn’t have looked out of place on The Beatles White Album.
A voyage into the nonsensical, Spinning On An Axis is a fun and unusual song.Co-written with his son James McCartney, this is the only song on the album in which Paul lays aside his iconic Hofner Beatle bass guitar breaks out the legendary Rickenbacker bass as made famous in Wings.
The gritty and raw rocker About You blasts out next. Being able to stand up alongside some of Paul’s greatest classic rockers, the song storms along giving the band full opportunity to show off their skills. Fantastic song, in not a little too short.
Almost an instrumental, Heather is an upbeat piano rocker with only one short verse that doesn’t make an appearance until the song has almost come to a close. Paul has never been one to leave a great tune with no lyrics, but doing it on this track only adds to its effectiveness. It’s fun, up-tempo and effective.
Number two of Paul’s attempts at songs with soul, Back in the Sunshine Again. Also the second of Pauls songs on the album co-written with his son, the track features James on rhythm guitar and throwing in a few classy licks here and there.
Your Loving Flame is another piano based ballad in which Paul deals with his love for Heather. Reminiscent of Wing’s 1973 ballad My Love in both sentiment and musical form, the song is one the strongest ballad the album has to offer.
With a quasi Indian feel to it, Riding to Jaipur was in fact conceived on a train journey in India. A simple song, the music is very drone like and full of percussion, much as classical Indian songs are. The repeating lyrics are reminiscent of a mantra being chanted, and the whole track effectively encapsulates the ‘vibe’ of that region with minimal western touches.
The epic Rinse the Raindrops thrashes out next. Originally a studio jam, the song is made up of multiple takes played in various styles and tempos. Running for just over ten minutes, the song culminates in a screaming vocal the likes of which haven’t been heard from Paul since The Beatles 1968 songs Helter Skelter. Despite its length, the song has enough changes throughout to firmly keep your attention.
While the album was originally meant to end after the previous song, Freedom was a very last minute addition to the album (in fact the very first prints of the album didn’t even have this song included). Written specifically about the September 11th attacks in both New York and Washington, the song deals with our rights as human beings and our rights to freedom. While it’s by no means the greatest protest song of all time, the heartfelt response captured the hearts of America, none more so than the citizens New York City, where Paul first performed this song at a huge charity concert a mere month after the terrorist attacks.
For a long time criticised by many fans as being a sloppy sounding album with bad production, Driving Rain is starting to receive the attention that it truly deserves. It is the fantastic album that kicked off the critically acclaimed Back in the US and Back in the World tours that put Paul McCartney firmly back on the map.
Being in the second wave of Paul McCartney’s reissues, Driving Rain is one of three being released without any bonus discs or any other extras.