Paul McCartney reissue review: Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Recorded almost single handedly, Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was released in 2005. Being received with very warm responses, is considered to be one of the most mature, classy and introspective albums of his career.

Produced by Nigel Godrich, best known for his work with British band Radiohead, he was brave enough to not allow Paul to record songs that he didn’t like. While Paul was at first taken aback by this audacity, Godrich’s quality control ensured the album had only the best possible songs on it.

Similarly to the albums McCartney and McCartney II, Paul records all the instruments himself with the exception of two tracks. Unlike the two aforementioned albums though, this one was recorded in a studio as opposed to at home. The result is a consistent, high quality, clean, modern sounding album.

The album opens with the upbeat piano rocker Fine Line. While it is very reminiscent of The Beatles 1968 single Lady Madonna, the positive mood of the song shifts to a more minor feel during the solo.

Next is the steady How Kind of You. The song had a nice message and is sung over a drone or ‘pad’ of chords. It is a successful experiment in minimalism. A pad would normally be used in the mix underneath all the instruments to literally pad the sound out, however when all other instruments are stripped away and there’s just the pad and the vocal, it is an effective combination.

An adventure into the folksy finger picking style, Jenny Wren is a gentle song a major key that has an unexpected twist by morphing into a minor key at the end of each verse. The solo played on an eastern wind instrument called the duduk gives the song a haunting edge.

Using several strange chord changes, At the Mercy is a slower song played on the piano. It has two bombastic middle sections which juxtapose brilliantly with the softer played main portions of the song.

Channelling the spirit of George Harrison, Friends to Go is a nice mid-tempo acoustic guitar based song.  It has constant changes between major and minor of the same chord which is very reminiscent of George Harrison’s writing style, which Paul said that he was trying to channel.

The weakest song on the album, English Tea is a short whimsical and quintessentially English ditty. While the song isn’t ‘bad’, it just sticks out as odd in the middle of a mature and introspective album. Paul plays a recorder solo in the middle of the song, which gives it an almost village summer fete atmosphere.

The comforting acoustic ballad Too Much Rain is next. Paul was inspired to write the song after hearing the Charlie Chaplin 1954 penned song Smile. With its positive message, heartbreaking melody and wistfully sung by Paul, the song is the albums true hidden gem.

The Latin styled A Certain Softness comes next. A warm recording, the song has a very Latino vibe about it. The song isn’t the greatest in the album, but an enthusiastic percussion track and a middle section with beautiful harmonies and a descending chord pattern still make the song a very enjoyable listen to.

Next is an unusual song. While Paul is most well known for writing happy-go-lucky love songs, Riding to Vanity Fair is a barely veiled attack on someone, reportedly Heather Mills with whom he was married to at the time. An interesting song and the most personal on the album, the track employs a plaintive child’s toy glockenspiel and eerie strings, both of which give the song an almost off balance, sinister edge.

Previewed during Paul’s headlining concert at the Glastonbury festival in 2004, Follow Me is a straight forwards acoustic love song. One of the only songs on the album that employs other musicians, he is joined by his touring band Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr and Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens. Nicely structured and well instrumented, this song is one of the stronger ones on the album.

Another up tempo piano rocker is next. Promise to You Girl starts off slow before the main song kicks in. Fast paced and reminiscent of the albums opening track, the song employs some signature close knit intricate harmonies in the slower middle section.

The penultimate song on the album, This Never Happened Before is a gentle laid back piano ballad. Evocative of his 1973 hit My Love it starts off with a dampened drum loop and piano and maintains its laid back relaxed feel throughout. As a song for the lovers it has heartfelt lyrics and a luscious orchestral score.

To bring the album to a close is the majestic ballad Anyway. Another love song, it builds up from just piano and vocal all the way up to a full band and a sweeping orchestra. Another song in which Paul employs the close intricate harmonies, it’s a beautiful ending to the album. The song ends and after a 20 second pause there is a bonus track called I’ve Only Got Two Hands. It’s an instrumental broken up into three parts: the first is an electric guitar jam, the second a fast piano piece and the third is an atmospheric and experimental mix of guitars, drums and other noises played backwards.

Being in the second wave of Paul McCartney’s reissues, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is one of three being released without any bonus discs or any other extras.

1 CD (album only)

First wave of reissues:
Band on the Run
Second wave of reissues:
McCartney, McCartney II, Driving Rain, Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard, Run Devil Run

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2 thoughts on “Paul McCartney reissue review: Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

  1. thomoz says:

    Riding To Vanity Fair is actually about Paul’s drug addicted publicist Geoff Baker, who complained bitterly in the press about Paul and recanted everything after he cleaned up his act a year after their business ended.

  2. […] Paul McCartney reissue review: Chaos & Creation in the Backyard (joshgill.wordpress.com) […]

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