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SDE reviews Paul McCartney’s ‘McCartney III’

In-depth assessment of Paul’s new album

Paul McCartney announces new solo album McCartney III

Paul McCartney has always had what you might call a ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to his songs and compositions, in the form of his ability to construct and sing wonderful melodies. If the lyric is a bit on the silly side (‘Jet’), or perhaps a tad twee (‘Ebony and Ivory’), McCartney largely gets away with it because the tunes are so often very good. They just take up residence in your brain and require a court order and bailiffs to get them out. ‘Mull of Kintyre’ is another case in point. It’s so deceptively simple, but had massive appeal and it’s all in the melody.

This is a problem in 2020, because while Paul’s gifts as a musician and a creative in-the-studio remain intact, his wonderful singing voice – an instrument that has been in full swing for well over 60 years –  unsurprisingly is no longer operating anywhere near full capacity. “His voice is shot” is the blunt, but common, refrain when music fans tend to discuss McCartney these days and while I would hesitate to offer such an uncharitably harsh appraisal, there’s no denying that over time it has transformed, matured, regenerated, if you will. What was a sprightly Matt Smith is now a craggy Peter Capaldi.

It’s sad to contemplate what we are being denied and what he can no longer deliver. But it’s also selfish in a way, because just how much can one man give? McCartney had three solid decades of commercial success and an abundance of great pop hits and after that still enjoyed another 30 years being a mature ‘heritage’ type artist, touring and releasing largely good-to-excellent albums.

My favourite McCartney ‘voice’ is probably the early 1980’s one, prevalent on the three George Martin produced albums (Tug of War, Pipes of Peace and Give My Regards To Broad Street), probably because that’s around the time I actively started buying Paul’s records. When I think of Paul McCartney, I tend to think of “I can wait another day…” (the acapella opening of 1984’s ‘No More Lonely Nights’) or the “It’s a tug of war…” intro from the title track of his 1982 album (one of his very best vocals, for me). The voice was silky smooth, had massive range and could seemingly do anything; go anywhere.

One of the issues, which I think isn’t often considered, is that if you don’t have the vocal chops, it’s not just about singing the old songs well (or not) on stage, it’s about what it means in terms of composing new songs. Clearly, McCartney can’t SING a song like ‘Wanderlust’, (from the Tug of War album) anymore, but moreover, he surely can’t WRITE a song like ‘Wanderlust’ anymore, either. Because he’s limited to where his voice will take him. Yes, of course Paul is quite capable of mapping out a vocal melody on the guitar or piano that is beyond his actual range, but what’s the point if you can’t sing it?

Because of this, I would argue that a new Paul McCartney album is doomed to be not entirely satisfactory, if you are simply judging it as ‘a Paul McCartney album’ and not as the work of a man aged 78. Maybe that’s stating the obvious, but let’s face it, he’s in competition with himself in his 30s and 40s [I’m putting The Beatles to one side] and that is simple not a winnable battle. New songs often deliver flashes of the old inspiration, brushes with past genius, and the occasional feeling of deja vu, when a phrasing recalls one of the previous 500+ songs he has composed, but the thrill, the rush, the giddiness of the melody from heaven, the purity of the delivery of a simple love song [e.g. “There is a pain inside my heart / you mean so much to me / Girl I love you / Girl I love you… so bad”] is not really on the menu anymore. It’s not his fault. Mother Nature has gently removed those particular tools from McCartney’s toolkit.

McCartney of 2020 is left to work around the problems and the limitations and hope that his deep, deep reserves of musical invention and compositional creativity will make up for any vocal/melodic limitations. He’s lost his trowel and spirit level but he still wants to build the wall.

In theory, McCartney III offers Paul the best opportunity to do this, since – in case it wasn’t blindingly obvious – it’s the third part of the ‘McCartney’ franchise, a series of solo albums which are loosely ‘about’ Paul being on his own and, to some degree or another, going off the beaten track.

A quick recap: 50 years ago, just before The Beatles called it a day with Let It Be, Paul released his first solo album, McCartney. He then spent most of the 1970s in his band Wings before 1980’s McCartney II cleaned down the workstation in preparation for 40 years of being a solo artist again. I always thought it would be cute to receive a ‘McCartney’ album at the beginning of each decade, but Paul didn’t oblige. Speaking recently to Loud and Quiet, McCartney simply said “it never occurred to me to do another McCartney album.”

Even though there has only been two records in this style (Paul’s trio of ‘Fireman’ projects with Youth are cut from similar cloth), and the last one was four decades ago, we can certainly establish some defining qualities for a ‘McCartney’ album. First and foremost, it needs to be a ‘one man band’ record. Paul must play all the instruments himself, do all the singing (Linda actually contributed backing vocals to I and II) and of course it must be self-produced. It should also feel a little bit homemade, with some rough edges present and correct.

It’s tempting to decree that the record should be a bit ‘weird’, but actually, if you listen back to the McCartney album of 1970, you will realise the only thing that is strange about it is that it’s not full of the gold standards that Paul was knocking off with ease at the end of the 1960s. ‘Hey Jude’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’, ‘Get Back’ etc. It does have one song like those, in ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, but the criticism at the time was around how lazy the album felt not have inventive it was! The general feeling was that it was a bit lightweight, with sketchy songs that could probably have done with some more work. When you consider the 11-track album has five instrumentals (not including ‘Oo You’ which is hardly a lyric-fest), the critics had a point. But the record is saved because the world was besotted by Paul McCartney at the end of the 1960s (he hadn’t written ‘Biker Like An Icon’ yet) and the album did have bundles of charm and the ‘proper songs’ that are on there, such as ‘Every Night’, ‘That Would Be Something’, ‘Man We Was Lonely’, ‘Junk’, were pretty good.

Even so, it was rather disconcerting how quickly Paul could go from the ‘do no wrong’ Macca of The Beatles, into the frustrating ‘mixed bag’ McCartney that has defined much of his Wings and solo output. It’s like some guy up above, in charge of rock legends, flicked a switch and accidentally powered down that songwriter and never managed to properly reboot him.

1980’s McCartney II is known for its synthesizers and sequencers but for all its experimentation, ‘One of These Days’ and ‘Waterfalls’ are classic McCartney ballads that could have been on any album, ‘On The Way’ is guitar-led blues number and ‘Nobody Knows’ is a loose crate-banging, shouty singalong. The album does include two instrumentals, in ‘Front Parlour’ and ‘Frozen Jap’, so I think we can say with confidence that instrumentals are also part of the core offering of a ‘McCartney’ album. The casual music fan will know the hit ‘Coming Up’ but will likely either not own the album or if they do, may not be endeared to tracks like ‘Temporary Secretary’, ‘Darkroom’ or the hard-to-forgive ‘Bogey Music’.

To sum up, if McCartney III is going to earn its stripes as the third in the series, it should definitely embody that sense of Paul going Off Piste; some instrumentals should be on the menu; it might well have some ‘slight’ numbers that sound rubbish at first but that you end up grudgingly quite liking, but most importantly, it really should include a ‘classic’ in the mould of ‘Coming Up’ or ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ (cue a red warning light flashing on the SDE dashboard-of-expectation).

So enough of the preamble and scene-setting. Let’s get on with it. We’ll go through McCartney III track-by-track offering scores out of five for each song:

The album opens with Long Tailed Winter Bird and it’s a good start. It’s largely an instrumental (‘tick’) with Paul playing lead figures on a peppery acoustic guitar with some percussive muted electric keeping the rhythm going. Layers come in as the track progresses with drums and some occasional vocals keeping things interesting. At over five minutes it probably outstays its welcome, but it’s a strong opener. 4/5


Find My Way is the lead single and Paul has even made a video for it. It’s a fluid, likeable fast-paced number which has an excellent and catchy arrangement with some Vampire Weekend-style guitar-y bits sprinkled around. Everything about this track is great, except the verse vocal which is not good. It’s a monotonous melody and Paul only half sings it. Curiously, when he reaches for the higher end of his range in this song, in the break (“You never used to be / afraid of days like these), he really delivers it well. If Paul had just reworked – or even scrubbed – the verse, ‘Find My Way’ could have been a cracker, but as it stands it’s two-thirds of a good song. 3/5


‘Pretty Boys’ is an acoustic number not dissimilar in tone to New’s ‘Early Days’. Paul can surely knock out these finger-picked numbers with one hand tied behind his back and while the sparse arrangement leaves his voice fairly exposed, ‘Pretty Boys’ does get the job done without any risks or surprises. He’s done this way better many times before, and indeed later on this very album ‘The Kiss of Venus’ has a magic that this song lacks. 2/5


One of the highlights of McCartney III is ‘Woman and Wives’. It has satisfyingly dark hues, with Paul on piano singing in his ‘Lady Madonna’ voice (which works really well). He sings of “chasing tomorrow” and tells us to “get ready to run”. The song is mysterious, beguiling and over in less than three minutes. This is more like it! 4/5


The face-palm moment on the album is Lavatory Lil, which is the ‘Bogey Music’ of McCartney III. It’s one of Paul’s ‘comedy’ songs along the lines of ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, without the catchiness or the word ’pataphysical’. McCartney clearly gets a kick out of these kinds of ditties, but what I find most frustrating is that one assumes he’s trying to make the best album he can and if, by chance, McCartney III had been a masterpiece (spoiler: it’s not) Paul has just gone and ruined it by trying to be quirky; having a bit of a laff. I’d still be offended if this was an extra track on a 12-inch, not slap-bang in the middle of the album, following the excellent ‘Woman and Wives’. This should have been flushed away. 1/5


Nip to the loo, buy an ice cream and settle down because ‘Deep Deep Feeling’ is McCartney III’s feature presentation. This eight-minute track ticks all the boxes. It starts off acapella, with some call and response vocals, before sparse instrumentation enters the fray. This song is experimental, jazzy, weird, surprising and rather beautiful. It has an almost dreamlike quality. Traditional song structure is treated with disdain and you are never quite sure where you are or which direction you’re facing. It blindfolds you and spins you round and pushes you on your way. This track’s ambition is admirable and it is all executed brilliantly. This is 2020 McCartney on top of his game. That fact that this is so good makes me all the more annoyed about the risible ‘Lavatory Lil’. 5/5


The Wings-like opening to Slidin’ is tantalising and it certainly has a ballsy, rocking appeal but the echoey and low-in-the-mix vocal, the flat verses are something of a handicap. It’s a shame, because the chorus is really quite exciting. Structurally, this track isn’t far away from ‘About You’, another Wings-y track from 2001’s Driving Rain. Ironically, for a song on a one-man-band album, Slidin’ would really have benefited from collaboration – you can easily imagine McCartney’s mate Dave Grohl killing it on drums and sharing vocal duties. Things pick up for the second half of the track, which is largely instrumental, bar a few choruses. 2/5


Prepare the bailiffs, since ‘The Kiss of Venus’ is an ‘earworm’ of the highest order. Paul’s simple five-note melody on acoustic guitar turns into the lead line on The Kiss of Venus and it’s lovely. Macca’s fingerpicking and strumming style on acoustic guitar is so distinctive and this song has a wonderful yearning quality and the lyric is full of great images. McCartney is very much at the top of his range here, which could be cause for concern, but it works because it’s a great melody. Better to stretch for a great tune than stay within your comfort zone for the rather flat ‘Pretty Boys’. Some harpsichord-type keyboard comes in towards the end and it’s all over by the three minute mark. I love this song. 5/5


‘Seize the Day’ is a brilliant chorus – with a classic feel good McCartney-esque descending chord progression – in search of a good song. It’s a frustrating situation but the rest of the track is forgettable and the lyric is one of platitudes and flat lines like ‘it’s still alright to be nice”. 2/5


McCartney III is all over the place in terms of tone, structure and style and ‘Deep Down’ is driven by regretful minor chord organ and with some occasional keyboard horns. There’s not a whole lot to it, with Paul largely repeating the same phrases time and time again to surprisingly good effect (think ‘Ou Est Le Soleil’). It’s goes on a bit as Paul tries out different ways of singing “I’m gonna get deep down” but I throughly enjoyed this track. Like the other ‘deep’ on the album (‘Deep Deep Feeling’) it’s gives the finger to traditional song structure and is therefore feels at home on a ‘McCartney’ album. 4/5


The last track on the album, ‘When Winter Comes’, is preceded by a brief reprise of Long Tailed Winter Bird, which is why the full title is Winter Bird / When Winter Comes. At first, I was confused as to why Paul’s voice sounded more youthful on this song but the answer lies in the fact that this was actually recorded at the same sessions as ‘Calico Skies’ in 1992. In some ways, it’s a brave decision to include this on McCartney III since it’s pretty easy to contrast and compare vocal performances which are separated by 28 years, but it’s a lovely tune with Paul playing acoustic guitar and singing of little jobs that need doing on the farm (“I must find the time to plant some trees”). It’s pure ‘Heart of the Country’ Macca, with Paul recalling life with Linda and the kids in Scotland. ‘When Winter Comes’ was nearly a bonus track on the recent Flaming Pie reissue (which would have made sense) but Paul decided it deserved more prominence and I don’t disagree. This song is perfect, it’s from the heart and it’s pure McCartney. 5/5


In summary, McCartney III is in many ways a typical Paul McCartney album. There are great tracks, some average numbers and a duffer or two. It’s not a masterpiece but neither is it terrible. Paul rarely makes flawless long-players; the last was probably Chaos and Creation in the Backyard from 2005, and that benefitted from Nigel Godrich refusing to be a yes man and really challenging Paul over some of the material. McCartney III isn’t even as good as his last album, Egypt Station. That 2018 record wasn’t perfect, but there’s nothing on McCartney III as good as ‘Hand in Hand’ or ‘Dominoes’. And in terms of heavy rock, ‘Hunt You Down’ is better than ‘Slidin’’, for example. One feels that Greg Kurstin, like Godrich, was a great influence.

But as has been discussed, ‘McCartney’ albums are about doing something a bit different and are always interesting, if uneven, diversions. McCartney III maintains this tradition and so can be broadly regarded as a success. It delivers Paul’s musical personality on a plate; a McCartney tasting menu, if you will. Some dishes put in front of us are less appealing than others, but the experience is one to be remembered, even cherished, especially since we don’t know when, or if, we will dine at this establishment again.

McCartney III is out now. SDE’s overall album rating: 3/5.

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1. Long Tailed Winter Bird (5.17)
2. Find My Way (3.55)
3. Pretty Boys (3.01)
4. Women and Wives (2.53)
5. Lavatory Lil (2.23)
6. Deep Deep Feeling (8.27)
7. Slidin’ (3.25)
8. The Kiss of Venus (3.09)
9. Seize The Day (3.23)
10. Deep Down (5.55)
11. Winter Bird/When Winter Comes (3.13)

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187 Comments

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wayne klein
SDE Fanatic

Nearly 4 months later, it’s still a strong album and continues Macca’s late career renaissance. I have rhe Janapese edition with the bonus tracks (I streamed it for a while before buying uncertain as to the quality at first)

Wil

Masterpiece!! It’s clearly McCartney , Nice textures of ballads, rockers Some heavier numbers like sliden, deep deep feeling. If any ones ever really listen to McCartney from Beatle days to wings to present. It’s all here on this album. I do not agree with most of mr Sinclair’s critique. Clearly he’s young and listening doesn’t go beyond “Chaos and creation. Step into some Ram, Venus and Mars. Abby road. Broaden your horizons. Just my opinion and critique.

‘The Kiss of Venus’

I felt the same way when I first heard ‘Long Tailed Winter Bird’ confused, especially after hearing the surprise NYC concert recently. His vocal chops are sadly waning, especially live, but he can still pull off a song like ‘The Kiss of Venus’ in the studio, which is amazing. I like the album. I like Egypt Station more.

RG

Regarding Paul’s voice, frankly, I found it better than I expected.
By the way, has anybody listened to Bob Dylan’s voice over the past
20 years? Now THERE’s some serious deterioration.

Watch out Jagger. You’re next!

Stephen

Well, he got his number one!

Harald

It actually starts growing on one if listened a few times. But like with most of his albums 2 or 3 tracks are just unbearable. And the fun thing is that these songs some like and some hate. I also think that with a nice production it could be made better and the album could be really bettered. Even in this difficult times this wouldnt have been much of a problem sending files around and making a better record out of it. Probably forgetting the III title and making a nice record with some guests and a producer overseeing everything. It doesnt justifiy all that variations, money spending and fuzz that is made about it.

Mauricio

I agree with nearly all you say.

LOOOOVE Deep Deep Felling, it’s exciting to hear Paul taking risks and as you say, it’s a trademark from this Mccartney series. But I didn’t like Deep Down, I found it repetitive and maybe too long.

I liked Lavatory Lil. Love the chorus voices and I repeated it a few times to get those different Macca voices in it. I found it catchy.

The rest, agreed 100%

Oh, and the sound of drums on this album is excellent. Paul always give his drums a strong, clean beat, ever since Dear Prudence. I just missed some fills there and then.

Chris Woods

McCartney III follows in the trend of it’s two predecessors (McCartney & McCartney II) and has left me unimpressed. I love my McCartney music symphonic, tuneful and polished (Tug of War, Flaming Pie, Egypt Station). I can’t be bothered when he’s trying to be pretentious and avant garde, for the sake of it. Parts of this remind me of Driving Rain, my absolute least favourite McCartney album.

Paul Fraser

Considered review, from a true McCartney fan, and it was fun listening to the tracks and then seeing what you wrote. Although I think you’ve been a little harsh on Slidin’.

John MC cann

Do any of the songs surpass your all time favourite,,” freedom,”” in their poorness? Or are they all marginally better?

wayne klein
SDE Fanatic

Agreed. Sentiment is great but the lyrics and lack of a developed melody are horrible.

SimonP2

Just throwing a few observations out there…
The fact that liberties have been taken on production number is undeniable. To advertise something as limited to 3000 WORLDWIDE and then ship 9200 of them is definately more than a bit naughty.
However, there’s possibly more.
The RED vinyl was advertised as 180g (all other colours were advertised at 130g) . I havent physicaly weighed it but it just feels like normal vinyl to me. Can anyone confirm?
Trivia – it’s also a bit odd that the back sleeve of the WHITE version has the copyright date as 2021 (other colours have 2020). Insignificant but odd..

Ben

I got the red vinyl (from Udiscover Germany) and my copy is No. 6689 out of 9200. It is 180g, by the way.

Mark

Mine was 8,640/9,200. I have sent a strongly worded email to the McCartney store. Let’s see what they have to say.

Steve

This info came from an online record store when I asked about the numbers of red vinyl, I would take issue with his line about the McCartney’s website stating the U.K. had a ‘share’ I never saw that. Anyway, make of this what you will…
The Paul McCartnety Website have said that 3000 was the UK’s ‘share’ of what was actually 9200 copies worldwide. (i.e. released on Capitol Records, MPL Communications and Third Man Records.) They are Hand-numbered on back cover as follows (for USA `3201 – 6200` – for UK `6201 – 9200`) However, it does not explain the missing 0001 – 3200 ! Some google comments have suggested the missing numbers are the ‘Violet’ edition, but no official confirmation as yet!

Simonp2

Interesting. I have the violet edition. This is definitely NOT numbered. I haven’t seen a Spotify. Anybody got one of those yet?

Paul Taylor

What rule says numbering of albums has to start at 0001? ;-)
Maybe it’s been deliberately started at 3201? Might be a cheeky wee joke on Paul’s part to upset the elitists!

Andy

My TMR printed red vinyl arrived today, hand numbered 111/3000.

wayne klein
SDE Fanatic

I was pretty sure this was 3000 per country (UK and US).

Andrew Hall

My brief thoughts… it’s a decent enough album, and pretty remarkable as a ‘bonus’ extra album from an old man. I really like the Calico Skies session track at the end and that makes me sad how far his voice has deteriorated. Back to the first track – pretty much the signature tune for the LP and it’s a real grower. I also rate Seize the Day as the most typical “Macca solo” of the lot of them, dodgy lyrics combining with hooky chorus.

But what IS going on with the limited editions and numbering? Apparently limited to 3,000 and they turn up with either /9,000 or /11,200. However, they are nicely put together releases and the different pictures/colours make it nice to have more than one.

Now where’s that London Town remaster?

[…] the finished cut present in this version. In fact, although I was damning about this song in the McCartney III review, I think this solo Paul-and-acoustic-guitar rendition gives it some much needed charm. It feels […]

Richard Anderson

Really annoyed about the McCartney III red vinyls. Firstly the one I ordered from the UK store is hand numbered up to 9200 so certainly not limited to 3000. I have been emailed that the Third Man Records red vinyl I ordered from the US Store does not have the yellow third man logo in the front right corner as originally advertised. It will be interesting to see if the one I get from the US is exactly the same as the UK one (the UK one has a small third man records logo on the back of the sleeve) or whether the US one will be hand numbered to 3000 as originally advertised.

Steve

Richard, what do you have etched into the runout groove? Might be interesting to compare pressings?

Steve

I just got an email about my Third Man records red pressing, for anyone who’s interested:
We wanted to give you the heads up that, unfortunately, the original product image for this item was incorrect. The Third Man Records logo will not appear on the cover of this vinyl as previously displayed.
Curiouser and curiouser.

Steve

There should have been 3000 red worldwide. That is what it still says on the McCartney website.
The assumption I made is that the U.K. and US were ThirdMan.
It also worth noting that the German uDiscover website is the only place I’ve seen the red vinyl listed as hand numbered (but gave no mention of the run).
I rather not know the numbers than be lied to.
And when they realised the demand, it’s not like they couldn’t have just have stopped the red at 3000 and pressed another colour :D

Beechlander

Excellent write-up, really enjoyed that and found myself agreeing with most of it. Have listened to the album a few times now and it’s better than I expected. Highlights for me are the opening track, Slidin’ and Deep Deep Feeling.

Robert

I’ve always been harsh with McCartney.
The Beatles were my first musical love and Paul was just hitting his solo
stride with Band On The Run when I started buying records as a 7-8 yr old .
In the 1980’s I lost interest in McCartney. I felt too many of his albums had one or two
great songs and the rest was just filler, although I also felt this way about many great classic rockers in the 1980’s like Dylan and Elton John. That all being said it seems I’ve missed out on some of his better work, like Flaming Pie, so I’ve been going back and listening to more of his output from that period. Ill check this out as well and thank you for the review.

Gerry Hassan

Thank you for a terrific and nuanced and informative review Paul. A review worthy of McCartney and his latest release.

All of the comments are illuminating. First thing – apart from the obvious of what a talent Macca is and genuine, grounded person he is who can even give good interview when questioned by a celeb like Idris Elba who knows nothing abt interviewing is the arc of aging and being 78. As long as Macca isn’t releasing albums every five mins like Neil Young there is a fascination and added pathos in total musical talents releasing music into their twilight years – even as their voices go. Am thinking of Sinatra or Ella – who as they lost their vocal chops still held timing and interpretation and a degree of insight into the music they were creating.

My main thoughts abt McCartney 3 are I am overjoyed it has come out. McCartney has not over-thought this or over-cooked it the way he has so much of his solo material. Examples being lots of lesser material: Red Rose Speedway and London Town spring to mind which are characterised by elaborate production which much of the material doesn’t warrant (and I happen to like those albums!).

I have been listening to Macca since the end of the Wings years and there is something potent about his more basic and less polished musical releases. It isn’t just McCartney 1 & 2 and Ram, but the charm of Wild Life which even beyond Dear Friend abt his relationship with John Lennon has some really stark and loose sounding songs which have charm, authenticity and a certain vulnerability.

What I feel abt this album is that in places not only do I love some of the songs such as Deep Deep Feeling and Long Tailed Winter Bird, but the texture and sound of them is fascinating, intimate and a bit indie. And not elaborately over-produced and over-cooked. I think in this it might not be a classic but it is a very decent to good album and a fascinating one – and one much better than those over-produced albums of late: ‘New’ and ‘Egypt Station’ which were trying in typical Macca fashion to do too much: be contemporary, sound now and relevant, and please so many people.

So thanks for McCartney 3 and fifty years of a solo career and a life lived exploring and being creative and generous. And thank you to SDE and Paul for this review. Now I am away to listen to that album again; followed by some of the new sounds of 2020 by more now artists.

Chris Thomas

A very good review Paul, thank you.

The comments thread shows how polarised we have become as a music listening society.

View 1. John and George are dead. Paul is still here, and we should cherish that. For many of us, he is almost the last remaining cultural link to our parents generation and gives us a sense of warm nostalgia. It’s been the worst year for the planet since 1945. Let’s be thankful that we have a chance to kick back for 40 minutes and listen to what he’s come up with. He shouldn’t get a free pass, but where it ranks with his previous work is almost irrelevant.

View 2. 78 year old man isn’t releasing as good an album as some other singer songwriters from the 1960’s. He’s still a good guitar player and drummer. There are some duff tracks and a few OK ones. Perhaps he should have taken more time and recorded some more songs to choose from. His voice isn’t what it used to be. His marketing department have gone to town and have successfully topped up the artists not inconsiderable fortune.

“Opinions are like a**holes, everone’s got one but they think each others stink”.

Randy Metro

Replace Paul’s name with Elton John, and I have the same sentiments. I was shocked when I heard Wonderful Crazy Night. Didn’t sound like Elton, and it wasn’t wonderful. If I could only take one Elton to my desert island it would be “To Be Continued…”

Werner

While I´ll take the croaky voice over mostly anything auto-tuned and melo-dyned, my problem lies elsewhere.
Paul McCartney albums (whether just McCartney, other “solo”, Wings) used to have great songs, not so great songs, sometimes awful songs.
Nowadays, the great have been diminished to good and are fewer, with much not so good material and a tendency to the average throughout.
This is not a problem as such, because how many great songs can one man write? But if
you´re still writing new songs at old age, be prepared to be measured against past glories.
For me, the whole NEW album could´ve been scrapped bar Appreciate, something that for Macca really sounded “new”.
I have a feeling, though, that Paul McCartney never really made a difference between his great and his awful, and he still may think his good is good enough, at work with undiminished joy. And if that makes him happy, then so be it.

Stephen Ferrelly

BREAKING NEWS: 78 year old gent cannot sing as well as he did at 22! Of course he can’t but it doesn’t mean he can’t be expressive or creative. Johnny Cash made a good fist of his American albums and as is well documented, he was in ailing health; not just his voice. Which brings me to Macca’s next move. Give Rick Rubin a call, revisit a songbook of 60 years (the best songbook of the late 20th century and beyond). Just Paul and an acoustic and/or piano and let the tapes roll. A few moody b&w shots of a seriously craggy looking Paul around Liverpool and the artwork will add another stack load of sales. As for a titles: The Liverpool series starting with ‘Liverpool One’. Has a bit of a ring to it, surprising no-one has thought of it yet!

Stephen Ferrelly

I take your point, Paul, that Macca’s primary motivation for melody writing is to sing them, and that his diminishing vocal range limits his melodic potential. However, a great composer is a great composer and there are plenty examples of them composing successful pieces into old age (Vaughan Williams, Messiaen for example). If push comes to shove I am sure (as you allude to in a previous post), that Paul could write a great melody for piano or orchestra (he made a pretty good job of this IMHO, in the 90s), but I guess the commercial appeal would not be as widespread as releasing a song based album. For what it’s worth I tend to agree with you about your commentaries on ‘3’; I would perhaps give ‘Seize the Day’ a 3 or 4 but that’s just me being a sucker for the great chorus outweighing the weaker verses!

Stan Butler

Brian Wilson did this to an extent with No Pier Pressure in 2015, where he used multiple guest vocalists, usually in duets. Brian’s voice has long deteriorated, but I thought the album worked very well. Undoubtedly a large degree of studio trickery was used as well.
I can’t see Paul taking a back seat on his own album though, even at this stage.

DiscoDave2000

3/5 feels a bit harsh. I’d say at least 3.5/5 ;-)

Listened end to end and found it surprising and enjoyable. The voice has changed no doubt, but it felt like Paul was having fun throughout this album. Good for him at his age! Thanks for the pandemic treat Paul.

Stan Stanton

I think the most depressing thing here is not the extremely low quality of the songs but the huge amount of publicity and product surrounding the release. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much hype around one record. Macca is literally everywhere plugging this thing, from photo shoots with Taylor Swift to the front cover of the tabloids urging people to get the vaccine, ‘Get Vax’ I believe was the headline… All in an attempt to get to the top of the charts.. It’s rather like someone’s aged uncle trying too hard to win a Christmas game of monopoly. All rather embarrassing considering the poor quality of the product. Ultimately, if this were an album made by anyone else it would receive very little attention and disappear without trace. Many people are going to have a whole bunch of multicoloured vinyl taking up space which will be played very little in the future.

mark browne

Paul,

Fair honest and balanced review.

In regards to the voice and im not defending him, he has been on permanent world tours for the best part of the last 15 years at least so that mixed in with his aging voice cant be good…his performances at both the Olympics and jubilee celebrations were both pretty poor in my opinion because this I’ve seen Paul live twice in the last 6 years. And I could literally here the cracks…but because of a strained overworked voice, not his age. My best show will always be 2003 on the banks of the Mersey King’s dock.

In terms of MC3 my yellow vinyl was dispatched last week, still hasn’t turned up. My Spotify vinyl has been delayed.

People who comparing this album to his other albums and the beatles are expecting too much and are coming from the wrong perspective. It should be just appraised taking into account all of the above, ( the points you made in your review Paul ) and add a pinch of salt… Ive heard a number tracks and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results after taking my rise tinted glasses off…sure its not perfect…but its still macca…and has some interesting ideas and sounds in there..im guessing with repeated listens it will get better but never be the final Swan song everyone wants…im convinced he so desperately wants that No1 as it may be his last album? Just a hunch. Go out on top..and spend his twilight years with his family….

The FAQs

Has anyone listened to the lyrics? Or should I say excuse for lyrics. OK that has never been his strong suit but these are extremely weak in places. I have adored McCartney and reckon that Egypt Station and Memory Almost Full were great. It’s not only his voice but his sense of melody is pretty poor now days. They feel clunky and under developed. Not even sketchy like the great ones on Wildlife that I love. Just lacklustre and dare I say, lazy. In fact there’s a smugness to some of this album where you can almost hear him saying “that’ll do I’m Paul McCartney no one will notice”. I do struggle a bit with 60s icons making music in the 2000s. Never even got through The Who’s last one. At least Paul Simon did the right thing and retired gracefully after a trio of excellent studio albums. Wish he hadn’t done that Blue Light re-works album but I’ll forgive him that. Me, I’ll give McCartney III another go but I’m sure it will eventually join New, Chaos & Creation, Driving Rain as one of the less played albums in my collection.

Tim Barton

Upon first listen, I enjoyed it. It’s not Egypt Station or New-both solid albums for me, but as you say, Paul-a McCartney solo record should have its quirks and challenging moments. Overall, I like it enough to let it grow on me more and more as I listen.

I did pick up the Japanese deluxe with for bonus tracks-demos and outtakes. Worth it for the curiosity, I think.

Ant Prr

Has anybody received either the red or the green Spotify vinyl from the official UK store?
Ordered both in one order and it still says “Pending”.
Had so many issues with Digital Stores this year I could write a book, not least of which was missing out on an artist store exclusive earlier this year despite pre-ordering I suspect because of a supply issue with the other format I ordered by which time the other format had gone out of stock so a bit concerned…

Ant Prr

Cheers Paul, that is reassuring!

R.naud

I like this honest review. Very few music journalists these days dare say what they really think and go overboard with praises while being very vague about the work. Indeed, McCartney can’t sing like he used to and this has been going on since after Flaming Pie, although there were signs already on that album… McCartney III is not a great record but remains a fairly decent piece of work. But there’s something about the whole album that shows he tried to build something, by and large, out of left-overs, which is probably why it’s not a great album, but a partially good album. I consider it more like a sequel to the last Fireman album than the third instalment of the “McCartney” albums to be honest, however like this review says, it has a few tracks that tick the right boxes, notably the three best tracks Long Tailed Winter Bird, Deep Deep Feeling and Deep Down… and maybe Seize the Day. My views differ, however, on two or three tracks. As much as I hated the idea of a song like Lavatory Lil on paper, I was actually nicely surprised and I think it is one of the better songs on the album whereas I find Women & Wives one of the least interesting tracks. The Kiss of Venus was the big disappointment for me. While a great song, as it is, it’s simply unlistenable. McCartney’s voice on it is just shocking and makes me cringe. As for the rest, Slidin’ is a filler, Pretty Boys is just meh and might have been better developed as another instrumental, and Find My Way is very ordinary. I wonder if we’ll get to hear what was left unreleased, as McCartney did say he worked on 25 songs. I bet there are some tracks there that didn’t make the album that are actually better than what was selected… I do hope it won’t be his last album but then what voice will he have left for the next one?

Musicmacca

I somehow think John is somewhere giving his nod of approval to Deep Deep Feeling as he did with Coming up off McCartney ii

Wayne Olsen

I got the green vinyl version at Target, and the yellow indie version. I noticed that the guitars are mixed much louder on the Target version, and “Deep Down” has a longer coda.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wayne Olsen

No. Just some Yuletide merriment.

Simon Curtiss

I think it’s a great little album, and so was McCartney I. Much more fun than some of his “proper” albums. This will become one of his more played for me. I could not give a toss about his voice getting older (so has mine) and all the versions being released either for that matter. 5/5 and that included ol’ Lavatory Lil.

Steve

Enjoying listening on streaming, while I wait for my McCartney store exclusive red vinyl ltd to 3000 units worldwide. (Still says that on the website) Anyone know why they’re on eBay as editions of 9200? Anyone else got there’s yet and can confirm this?

andrew r

Red one is numbered by hand to 9200. By who and why ?

Andrew r

Thanks Paul S . Still think it’s a strange idea . How is the 9200 made up ? Does it include third man press etc?

Stan

Mines 8063/9200, Are MPL breaking the Trades Description Act with there 3000 worldwide hype?

Steve

How do they think they’re getting away with describing it as 3000 worldwide and then numbering it 9200! I rather not have known. I’ll send a strongly worded email for them to ignore.
On a lighter note (one that Macca can’t reach) thanks for the review Paul and thank you for everything this year. By far my most visited website and a bright light in a bleak year.
Thank you.

kenneth tilley

mmmmm. i’ve tried with this album to listen to it impartially, but it’s a bit anti climax.
After all the sales hype it just doesn’t live up to it. The processing and enhancing on his vocals
are all over this album. Not one track stands out. If it is his last album, it’s a shame to bow out like this.

Danko Crljen

Takes a few listens to get into the album but your spent time will be well rewarded.
Paul’s voice has aged but the music and the melody and overall feel and atmopshere + musicianship is really good. Four out five stars from me.

What? McCartney? Worry!

Will this be his last album? Start the solo career with a McCartney album and possibly end it with a McCartney album?

peter chrisp

Paul all the best for Christmas & The New Year just around the corner. I do apologize for the Zeppelin reference, your “page” is one of the finest on the net. You don’t mess around with your thoughts & ideas on literally everything that’s due & released absolutely love it!
Just a quick note found out the other day you can find details of the box set of the 50th anniversary the Band”s “Stage Fright” due February 21st. Celebrate well too all the best.

Craig Hedges

Basically Paul McCartney is a unique human being, he is 78 and still has the passion he had at 18 to make new music. There are not many people who are like that, most lose their drive or just give up.
This man has change the world. He can do what ever the bloody hell he likes and I’m glad he has cause I love this album, I didn’t care much for Egypt Station, too much interference from his advisers, trying to make him trendy and sonically there’s not much difference with this and that album, which shows he didn’t need those so called producers other than use their names as a marketing gimmick. This album is a lot more produced that the previous 2 and that’s the difference with this album which I’ve not seen mentioned. Parts of McCartney and all of McCartney II were recorded directly to tape without a mixing board. Paul plugged mics directly into the back of the multitrack recorders and had to get the sound levels right as the sounds went to tape. Did he use this technique at all on this album? His studio in Surrey is fully fitted and some of the promo footage shows him sat at the mixing console.
I’m curious as well to know if Paul still has Replica studios still set up in the basement of his London office? I think it was built in the late 70s when he couldn’t get into Abbey Road, so he built a replica. does anyone know if there are any photos anywhere of the studio as I’d like to see how exact he got it.

Gisabun

Is there a complete list of “bonus” tracks?

Paul E.

Bonus tracks from the Japanese CD pressing…track number/song:

12 Women And Wives (Studio Outtake)
13 Lavatory Lil (Studio Outtake)
14 The Kiss Of Venus (Phone Demo)
15 Slidin’ (Düsseldorf Jam)

Gisabun

E:
That’s it? I guess with all the variations to the album, he would of had more….

Paul E.

@Gisabun…as Yoda once said “Patience you must have my young Padawan.” This is Macca after all and the “bonus track force” is strong with this one.

Guy.S

My White vinyl version arrived, played a few times now and liking it as a whole, but one thing is confusing. When this was ordered the White vinyl was supposed to be limited (numbered) to 7000 with the U.S taking the first 4000 and then Europe taking the rest. Mine is numbered on the back out of 11,000 I haven’t seen any update stating that they increased the edition. I have also heard reports of the Red version having extra added to the supposed ‘3000 strictly limited’ I am not including the Third Man Records version in this but the Europe release. I did think when his official site and Bravado + uDiscover were selling the Red variant that it might be 3000 from each company so in reality Red vinyl limited to 9000.

Paul Taylor

I think it was 4000 in the States & 7000 elsewhere. Kind of accounts for the /11000. That’s a biggish run for a vinyl version but it seems to be selling. I think mine is 6336/11000

Guy.S

Hi Paul, a few independent record shops in the uk Norman Records/Rough Trade/Horizonsmusic/waxandbeans all listed this as having a total of 7000. numbered from 4001 to 7000 for UK/Europe. It even mentions this on the Beatlesblogger.com and beatlesbible.com websites, a bit strange, but as you say these sites are sold out now even with that run. : )

Dean

Mine turned up from the official store numbered 7140/9200

Guy.S

I got a reply from an independent record store regarding the numbering and they said they weren’t surprised as Universal in their opinion ‘are well shady!’ : ) I think I will keep this in mind in the future and put them with Warner Music for the hassle of trying (still!!!) to get a refund on the Neil Young Box Set that THEY cancelled.

DaveM

Superb write up and review, which having listened to the album for the first time I by-an-large agree with although Long Tailed Winter Bird would have been a 5 for me. The album is more or less what expected, the clue being in the fact there was no lead off single. Eclectic, jaunty and quirky is how I would describe it, fitting with the other two volumes.
Must admit I don’t get the chasing of a number one spot / promotion for this album. For example someone watches last nights interview and picks it up in Morrison’s, then gets it home and WTF? Not say like ES where there was lots for normal Joe to like (I know it’s all sales).
Reading the comments below made me think about Macca / Wings / Fireman albums and which are totally flawless and maybe not totally, but a lot come near. For me it would be:
Ram
RRS
BOTR
V&M
SOS
London Town
BTTE
TOW
FITD
Flaming Pie
Rushes
Electric Arguments
Chaos
ES
Not bad really, as I don’t consider many Beatles albums totally flawless either.

Gerry Hassan

Everyone is entitled to a view on Macca and his back catalogue. But no one can regard the cringe worthy and thin sounding production of ‘Speed of Sound’ as flawless or near to flawless. Apart from the singles & ‘Beware My Love’ it creaks and sounds like what critics of Paul say he sounds like. ‘Cook of the House’ mist be in running for worst Macca solo track; along with ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’.

DaveM

@Gerry, agree about Cook in the House, but I honestly love the rest of the album. As for the sound, I found the last remaster a huge improvement.

Yani P

Not a big fan of Macca by any stretch of the imagination but have listened to the album a few times now just to give it a chance. Sadly it just isn’t very good. I get he is old etc etc and has been a stalwart of the business for decades but he is selling this as a piece of musical art same as every other musician and on that basis alone it really falls pretty flat.
I know he has a legion of dedicated fans who will defend it to the hilt because its macca but I Really can’t call out any track as a really strong piece. Some are listenable but easily forgettable.
It smacks a little bit of Emperors New Clothes.

Martin

Totally agree with you on this one – Have always been a sort of fan but this one leaves me a little bit puzzled (I wouldnt say cold but not far off). Compare this to the Dylan release of Rough and Rowdy Ways – Again not a massive fan but a real joy to listen to

This for me feels like an album release just to release another album. It is funny I saw a documentary with Idris Elba and McCartney says that he recorded the songs then wondered what to do with them and this probably answers most of the questions

David C

Yes, I must say I agree with Yani P. Love The Beatles, love much of his solo stuff. But if anyone else had made this record, it would be forgotten about in no time. Maybe that’s what he has so many formats available – so people bought it before they heard it.

Michael

When it comes to melody, harmonics and acoustics, Sir Paul McCartney is ‘spot on’ with every track he lays down. His wonderful fanaticism about song structure, musicianship and arrangements have been MC’s trademark for all his recording life. Again, Paul McCartney demonstrates this talent on his latest album. But aside from that, and now after sampling some of the songs on-line from McCartney III, I can’t say I’m really thrilled with this album. It’s not the music, and it’s not that I don’t accept MC’s older singing voice — it’s the lack of inspiration of the songs themselves.

I was hoping Sir Paul McCartney, during the period he was sheltering in place because of the Covid pandemic, would have taken advantage of the creative quietude to reflect and ultimately express a more profound and insightful set of songs. But instead McCartney III is a retread of his musical stylings and nursery-rhyme-like lyrics from the late 1970s — more songs that sadly are rather devoid of revelation or catharsis. McCartney III is a pleasant album, but not really anything I feel compelled to add to my Paul McCartney collection.

Guy Vitti

I find the album to be an enjoyable listen. The songs are expertly constructed with the layering process. I do feel a touch of sadness by the enormous vocal contrast that is clearly heard when the last track is played. I was left with a touch of sadness knowing that the passage of time has forever altered his vocal range and we are poorer for it. At this point we should just be thankful that Paul appears to be healthy and willing to create new music for us to enjoy.

paul cutts

I find it so sad that many people deride McCartney III because his voice has aged, he is 78 years old what do you expect. He could use studio trickery but do we really need that, let the man age gracefully as all of us would desire. I can’t do things that I could easily do 30 years ago so why expect this from someone who has proven time and time again his worth. It is the listener that has the problem not the artist.
This album is a knock off, one off for just fun and let it be judged like that. Not all of it is great by any means and funnily enough the song everyone seems to like ‘The Kiss of Venus’ is for me the worst track, McCartney at his most saccharine and mawkishness.
Since Christmas 1964 when I had as presents a red plastic Beatles guitar and a Beatle wig Paul McCartney and the Beatles have always been number one for me above everyone else ever that is a long long time and I for one are happy to have this album in my collection.

David M

There is a podcast called The Beatles Naked. In one of the episodes they go into incredible detail about his voice, even talking to voice coaches about what he could do better.

The truth is he has not looked after his voice very well at all. If you compare with e.g. a similar aged Mick Jagger there is a huge difference in current ability. Of course Mick never had Macca’s range to begin with, but he has really looked after his voice and still performs at a very high level.

nneptune5

I listened to that episode last night, and was shocked that THREE different vocal coaches said that it would be easy to fix Paul’s voice, and restore it!
However, even though Ringo goes to a vocal coach, you know Paul would not do so, which is a shame.
A lot of people saying the voice change doesn’t bother them, but his voice is a major part of his music.
In that same episode they talk about all of the different ‘character’ voices he used. I miss the sound of his voice. And knowing that it can be easily fixed, and that he would never do it is a mistake on his part. Even Ray Charles went in when he couldn’t reach the high notes, and got his voice back to what it was. Come on, Paul!

Blakey

Wouldn’t it be a turn up if John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth compilation outsold McCartney III this Christmas?

Thanks for this well thought out and unbiased review, Paul. I agree about Lavatory Lil, it’s crap. Rest of ‘Macca III’ is pretty decent though,

Adrian

Personally I find the CD close to unlistenable due to the loudness/compression/limiting. Real shame as I think it is a pretty good album. Can anybody who has both the CD and vinyl confirm (or otherwise) that the vinyl is a superior listening. Thanks.

Ben Williams

Both CD and Vinyl sound fantastic to my ears.

FRED thebeatleguyofblacksburgva LARK

…like a few other McCa commentors, I’m waiting for the Japanese import and not messing ’bout with all that colored dice claptrap (yes, used to be a collector) Very pleasant, nice and sweet review (a breeze to read), and as I hopscotch over FB, You Tube and The Beatles Channel, am realizing that as always a few multiple listens will be in order to fully appreciate. In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to the fourth ‘Fireman’! Cheers & Xmascrackers to all, and to all a warm fuzzy nite…

Stan Stanton

I think it’s a quite awful record that a whole bunch of people are trying to like because they like Paul. I like Paul too. But this album is not Ram or McCartney 1. Far from it. Find my way has to be one of the worst things he’s ever done. And it’s the single! Non – existant melody with lyrics seemingly made up on the spot. The accompanying soft focus video only compounds the misery. Dylan’s masterpiece from this year or Neil Young’s excellent Colorado show that 70 somethings can make great, great records but this effort from Macca seems to show he would have been better off spending lockdown baking bread or watching Netflix.

Pete Stanton

From one Stanton to another, I’m 100% with you Stan. Bob and Neil’s records are excellent, this is awful. I haven’t liked anything he has done for years, but this is even worse.

Thierry

This LP is so much better than New & Egypt Station…
It’s so good to listen again to McCartney !!!

Steve Benson

Finally, after all the hype about all the different versions and different colours we get to hear about the songs, and um, as per most McCartney albums it’s the same mixed bag with some OK tracks being hailed as really quite good. I’ll stick with Ram.

Paul Gray

Haven’t got the album and only lasted about 2 minutes into the Find My Way video. Excruciatingly bad. Pure McCartney is the only solo stuff you need, I even find RAM irritating. And The Beatles are my favourite band!