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Rock - Released September 7, 2018 | Capitol Records (US1A)

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Not easy to be Paul McCartney in 2018… Anyone who listens to Egypt Station knows that at 76, the former Beatle has very little chance to deliver an album, or even just a handful of songs, that can match his masterpieces of the previous century. Sir Paul must be aware of that as well… And yet, this album hits the nail right on the head. And while his voice understandably has lost some of its haughtiness compared to his golden years, Macca is still a master at writing finely refined pop songs. After writing hundreds of them, he has no lesson to receive from anyone, but listening to Hand In Hand, Do It Now, Dominoes or Confidante, the imprints of his very singular craftsmanship shine through. And in terms of production, the Wings’ former front man was smart enough not to fall into the trap of trying to sound younger than he is. It’s indeed classicism that prevails throughout this Egypt Station, which will surely delight his die-hard fans! © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Rock - Released June 10, 2016 | Hear Music

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal Music

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RAM

Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | Hear Music

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Rock - Released June 20, 2018 | Capitol Records (US1A)

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Pop - Released January 1, 2011 | Paul McCartney Catalog

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Hear Music

Quiet though it may be, Paul McCartney experienced something of a late-career renaissance with the release of his 1997 album Flaming Pie. With that record, he shook off years of coyness and half-baked ideas and delivered an album that, for whatever its slight flaws, was both ambitious and cohesive, and it started a streak that continued through the driving rock & roll album Run Devil Run and its 2001 follow-up, Driving Rain. For Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, the follow-up to that record, McCartney tried a different tactic, returning to the one-man band aesthetic of his debut album, McCartney, its latter-day sequel, McCartney II, and, to a lesser extent, the home-spun second album, Ram. Apart from a guitar part or two, a couple of drum tracks, and, of course, the strings and horns that pop up now and again, McCartney played everything here, from the guitars and keyboards down to the bass and drums. The difference here is that instead of producing the record by himself, McCartney brought in alt-rock auteur Nigel Godrich, best known as the producer behind Radiohead's OK Computer and Beck's Mutations, as well as being the only producer responsible for a streamlined Pavement record. Godrich has a gift for making messy or difficult music sound simple, logical, and clean, and he has that same effect on Chaos and Creation, removing the obvious rough edges and home-spun charm that characterized Macca's previous one-man affairs. Consequently, Chaos sounds as polished as a normal McCartney album, as polished as Driving Rain, but the process of its creation and recording does make this a very different album from not just its predecessor, but from most of McCartney's solo albums. It's quiet and meditative, not without its share of eccentricities, nor without its share of sprightly tunes -- certainly, the opener, "Fine Line," is a propulsive, hooky song that burrows into your head after just one spin and sounds like a tune you've known all your life, and "Promise to You Girl" also zips along nicely -- but the overall feel of the record is one that's reflective and ruminative, not messy or silly. Or whimsical or treacly, for that matter, since the combination of introspective ballads and intricately detailed but not overly fussy or polished production means that Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is a rare thing indeed: a McCartney album that's devoid of cuteness or easy sentiment. Which doesn't mean that it's somber or lacking in romantic material -- Paul loves his love songs, after all -- but the tone and timbre of the album is so simple, stripped-down, and sincere that all the music resonates a little deeper and feels a little more heartfelt. If there are no outright knockouts here, there are no weak spots, either, and if the album doesn't have the sprawl and quirks or overt humor of his classic solo albums from Ram through Tug of War, that's OK, because Chaos and Creation in the Backyard offers something different: not only is Paul in an unusually reflective mode, but he's made a lean, cohesive record that holds together better than his previous latter-day high-water mark, Flaming Pie -- which is unusual, since McCartney albums rarely, if ever, come without spots of filler. The quiet nature of Chaos and Creation may mean that some listeners will pass it over quickly, since it's a grower, but spend some time with the record and it becomes clear that McCartney is far from spent as either a songwriter or record-maker and, in many ways, continues to make some of the best music of his solo career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | Hear Music

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Rock - Released June 5, 1989 | Paul McCartney Catalog

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Pop - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal Music

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Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | Hear Music

According to Paul McCartney, working on the Beatles Anthology project inspired him to record an album that was stripped-back, immediate, and fun, one less studied and produced than most of his recent work. In many ways, Flaming Pie fulfills those goals. A largely acoustic collection of simple songs, Flaming Pie is direct and unassuming, and at its best, it recalls the homely charm of McCartney and Ram. McCartney still has a tendency to wallow in trite sentiment, and his more ambitious numbers, like the string-drenched epic "Beautiful Night" or the silly Beatlesque psychedelia of "Flaming Pie," fall a little flat. But when he works on a small scale, as on the waltzing "The Song We Were Singing," "Calico Skies," "Great Day," and "Little Willow," he's gently affecting, and the moderately rocking pop of "The World Tonight" and "Young Boy" is more ingratiating than the pair of aimless bluesy jams with Steve Miller. Even with the filler, which should be expected on any McCartney album, Flaming Pie is one of his most successful latter-day efforts, mainly because McCartney is at his best when he doesn't try so hard and lets his effortless melodic gifts rise to the surface. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Hear Music

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released January 1, 2013 | Paul McCartney Catalog

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Rock - Released August 15, 2018 | Capitol Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2015 | Hear Music

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Rock - Released June 20, 2018 | Capitol Records (US1A)

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Rock - Released April 26, 1982 | Universal Music Group International

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Rock - Released June 10, 2016 | Hear Music

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RAM

Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | Hear Music

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Pop - Released January 1, 1987 | Universal Music Group International

Technically, All the Best was the first compilation of McCartney's solo material, since Wings Greatest covered songs released under the Wings aegis. Well, there is considerable overlap between the two records -- no less than ten of that album's 12 songs are here, yet only the hard-rocking "Hi Hi Hi" is truly missed -- although the seven new songs do give this album a different character, for better or worse. With the U.S. version of All the Best, which has four different songs than its British counterpart, the balance shifts toward the positive, since it simply boasts a better selection of songs. Yes, "Once Upon a Long Ago," the single offered as bait on the British All the Best, isn't here, but it's not missed since two of the four songs exclusive to the American version are among McCartney's best solo singles ("Junior's Farm," "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey") and the other two are good adult contemporary easy listening (the previously non-LP "Goodnight Tonight," "With a Little Luck"). These songs add to the retrospective, although it's still not perfect -- such highlights as "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Take It Away" really should have been included. However, as a cross section of McCartney's solo singles, this is very, very good. It may be a little heavy on the schmaltz at times, yet this is still mainstream pop craft of the highest order. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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