Paul McCartney reissue review: McCartney II

Much in the same way as his first solo album, Paul McCartney single handedly recorded McCartney II at home. Relying heavily on synthesisers and studio experimentation, the album is his first venture into electronica and dance music.

After years Paul had been refused a visa to enter Japan due to past marijuana busts, however he was finally granted access to the country with Wings in order to put on a series of concerts. However promptly upon arrival at the airport he was arrested and jailed for eight days for again possessing drugs.

During the time spent in jail he decided he wanted a sabbatical from Wings, and upon his return to the UK he decided to release a set of songs that he had recorded the summer before. Like his 1970 album McCartney, all the songs were all recorded alone in his home studio at his farm in Scotland. Ironically during the sessions for the album in the summer of 1979, Paul recorded one of the most loved Christmas hits of all time, Wonderful Christmas Time.

To open the album is the bouncy and light hearted Coming Up. Paul’s best selling single from the album, the song is a favourite among fans and Paul himself has admitted it’s one of his favourite songs to play live. John Lennon even liked the song, crediting it as the reason he came out of retirement and resuming recording.

The zany Temporary Secretary is next. It has a fast electronica dance feel to it, and an unusual style of production. By all accounts a strange song, there is still a fantastic trademark melody. Using some clever and witty rhymes in the lyrics, the chorus is infectiously and almost annoyingly catchy.

With its laid back solos and heavy echo on the vocal, On the Way sounds very much like something John Lennon would have recorded. The first song on the album to use a lot of echo on the vocal, it is put to good use, filling out the thin backing track consisting primarily of drums and bass.

One of the most beautiful ballads Paul has written, Waterfalls is a slow electric piano number. It has a heartbreaking melody and thin and simple arrangement. Because it is played on the electric piano as opposed to being played on a normal piano it has a much warmer more rounded tone that only emphasises the songs simplicity.

Sounding like a 50’s throwback, Nobody Knows is an energetic rocker with a powerful vocal and lyrics influenced by the period it evokes. It’s surely a compliment to say that even though Paul recorded it by himself, the song still sounds like it could have been played by a tight four or five part garage band.

The first experimental instrumental of the album is Front Parlour. A drum heavy robotic sounding track, it uses many different effects to change and distort the other instruments. An upbeat track, the main melody, while buried quite low in the mix, is played on a synthesiser.

The atmospheric yet optimistic sounding Summer’s Day Song is next. The backing track consisting of only a mellotron, a guitar and synthesiser, and there is only one verse sung in the middle of the song and again in a wonderful three part harmony towards the end.

Sounding almost oriental, the melody of the instrumental track Frozen Jap is played in fifths. The drums, percussion and synthesiser are all very staccato and spiky. Once again the melody is played on a synthesiser on some sort of oriental instrument setting which also adds to the traditional Chinese feel.

Another 50’s throwback, Bogey Music is a straight forward rock and roll song. It has a great double tracked vocal, one sung at normal pitch, the other lowered an octave so it sounds almost unnaturally deep. The only drawback to the song is the slight overuse of echo on the vocal.

One of Paul’s more successful ventures into electronica dance, Darkroom has a laid back yet relentless drumbeat and a harsh, spiky vocal. Towards the end the song picks up pace and gets faster and a little more frantic before ending with a deep, creepy laugh and reprise of the song played at normal speed.

In stark contrast to most of the fast dance songs on the album, One of These Days is a soft slow acoustic ballad. The song uses only a warm acoustic guitar, double tracked lead vocals and an occasional harmony vocal added by Linda, which results in a gentle and quiet end the album.

The album has been remastered and is being rereleased in three different forms. The bonus discs include B-sides such and rare live versions.

1 CD (album only)

2 CD (album and bonus disc)

3 CD/1 DVD and book (album, 2 bonus discs and DVD)

2 vinly / digital download (album and bonus disc)

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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One thought on “Paul McCartney reissue review: McCartney II

  1. Great review ! No cheap shots. Backstory good. Song-by-song breakdown is my favorite type of article to read (and write).

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