1970, Music

McCartney (1970)

It is incredible to me that this album now has a pretty good reputation. It speaks to McCartney’s fame and immense presence in the music world that an album which was once at least partially attacked by critics is now beloved. In fact, the fact that the album received mixed reviews at the time only speaks to how unwilling critics were to be critical of a Beatle. This album is not good and the only reason my rating is as high as it is is due to its historical importance.

This is an unfinished record, with a ton of tracks that feel like demos. A few of these later surfaced on Anthology and they’re only slightly more elaborate here. (You have to listen to one of them twice.) This is one of the laziest records a songwriting Beatle has ever put out and it is shocking how important Lennon and the others were to McCartney’s process. Without them he is content to puke up any old idea. People attack Let It Be -released at the same time, with great controversy – for being unfinished and lacking in quality material. This record makes Let It Be sound like a masterpiece.

The only redeeming thing is “Maybe I’m Amazed”, my absolute favourite McCartney solo track. It is so much better than anything else here it’s embarrassing. And it shows what McCartney can do when he’s disciplined and professional. It hints at his ability to create great music all on his own when he really wants to.

As you can tell, I think this is mostly not very good. But I try to think of everything in historical context and, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first “bedroom” record. Obviously it wasn’t recorded in McCartney’s bedroom, but McCartney was rich enough that he had his own studio and made an album almost entirely by himself, playing all but one instrument and singing most of the parts. I am unaware of anyone doing this before this record. (There were plenty of solo albums before this, with no other musicians, but most of them only went as far as double tracking a vocal or a guitar part. I don’t know of any where the singer-songwriter did 90-something per cent.)

As recording technology got cheaper, more and more people were able to do this. (At first it was just McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Then it was Prince. Now it’s anybody.) And so, as much as I think this record is horribly overrated, unfinished and just lazy, I can’t help but note that it is hugely influential in how people now make music.

McCartney’s one-man-band thing was literally the future and the pandemic is only reinforcing that. (How many videos have you seen of musicians overdubbing themselves in their homes?) But it’s a mixed future and it’s a lesson: just because you can record every part yourself doesn’t mean you necessarily should, and just because you can release something without feedback and editing from a collaborator really doesn’t mean you should.

6/10 only because of historical importance

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