Paul McCartney's two truest solo albums, 1970's 'McCartney' and 1980's 'McCartney II,' have newly been re-released in deluxe versions with bonus songs and video footage.

Both records found him handling all the instruments and vocals himself, seemingly as a way to prepare for a pending break-up with one of his famous bands -- granted, one WAY more famous than the other.

1970's 'McCartney' was the album whose press release controversially announced the break-up of the Beatles, but Paul doesn't seem too worried about making a grand artistic statement on the level of 'Abbey Road' within the grooves of the record itself.

Instead, he seems content to bash away at the drums and rather roughly sketch out highly melodic, largely acoustic songs such as the charming opener, 'That Would Be Something.'

Both the musical and lyrical content of this track seem designed to minimize the scale of expectations for the rest of the album. That's a smart move, because other than the undeniable, fully fleshed-out 'Maybe I'm Amazed,' which stands apart from the rest of the album in terms of production, 'McCartney' is mostly a series of delightful trifles.

Several of the songs, such as the melancholy carnival theme 'Hot as Sun' or the drum-and-guitar workout of album closer 'Kreen-Akrore,' are primarily instrumental, and the whole thing passes by in just over a half an hour.

Still, it sounds like he's having a blast, and for the listener, reveling in McCartney's nearly unmatched melodic and instrumental abilities is a pretty cool way to spend the time.




McCartney II

1980's 'McCartney II,' privately recorded the year before, was released at a similar, if not nearly so monumental, time of change in McCartney's career, after he decided to put sessions with his next band, Wings, on hold and re-think his future.

A similar sense of unfinished experimentation links this album to its predecessor, but the willfully odd synth-pop of 'II' is more fully formed.

Some songs, such as the opening one-two punch of 'Coming Up' and 'Temporary Secretary,' find Paul right in line with new-wave rockers like Elvis Costello and Talking Heads.

Other times, he delves back into more traditional musical territory, such as the upscale blues of 'On the Way' or the raucous shuffle of 'Nobody Knows.' The gentle instrumentation and echoing vocals of the dreamy 'Waterfalls' are a particular highlight.

As on the first album, sometimes you wish McCartney had finished off his thoughts a bit more solidly, but then again, compared to the over-polished work that cropped up later in his career, maybe the loose spirit and unexpected detours are just what the doctor ordered.



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