New McCartney, revived Stooges

By Tom Von Malder | Jan 02, 2021
Photo by: Capitol Records Pail McCartney played all the instruments on his new album, "McCartney III."

Owls Head — Paul McCartney: McCartney III (Capitol CD). While hunkering down with family on his daughter’s farm in Sussex, England to wait out the pandemic, Sir Paul McCartney created this, his third solo-recorded album. Like the original “McCartney” (1970) and “Ram” (1971), done with his wife, the late Linda McCartney, this new album reflects life on the farm, especially the closing “Winter Bird/When Winter Comes,” which is about doing chores on the farm and contentment with life.

Interestingly, each of the three “McCartney” albums were released near the start of a decade and followed an intense period in the former Beatles’ life. “McCartney,” which reflected the agrarian aesthetic, was released the month before The Beatles’ final album, “Let It Be,” but was recorded afterwards. “McCartney II” (1980), which saw McCartney getting involved with new wave and early electronic music, came out after the final Wings album, “Back to the Egg” (1979). “McCartney III” now comes out two years after his ambitious triumph, “Egypt Station,” which was his first album to reach number one on the charts since “Tug of War” in 1982. The new album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100 chart this week.

“McCartney III” is a true solo effort, with McCartney playing all the instruments and doing all the singing, including multi-tracking, himself. The album starts off with one of its best numbers, “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” which opens with a couple minutes of folk guitar before he sings the minimal words. The folksy finger-picking is nice, while the percussion sounds like whatever was available. Next is the pleasant “Find My Way,” with multi-tracked vocals. The lyrics reflect the state of a world in a pandemic, as he sings: “You never used to be/Afraid of days like these/But now you’re overwhelmed/By your anxieties.” The warning in “Pretty Boys” is: “Meet the Pretty Boys/A line of bicycles for hire/Objects of desire/Working for the squire/You can look but you better not touch.”

McCartney dips into yacht-rock for the piano ballad “Women and Wives,” while “Lavatory Lil” is a fun ditty that recalls his writing on the “Abbey Road” album. However, Lil too comes with a warning: “You think she’s being friendly/But she’s looking for a Bentley.” “Deep Deep Feeling” stretches to eight-and-a-half minutes, starts as a torch song about lost love and then turns a bit weird with different, random orchestrations. “Slidin’” has a heavier sound, but the wonderful “The Kiss of Venus” turns lighter, with McCartney’s voice struggling to reach a higher register. The track, which uses a harpsichord, recalls “Mother Nature’s Son.”

In “Seize the Day,” McCartney calls love “the greatest prize,” but its silly opening lyrics recall “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” from “Ram.” “Deep Down” has the drum machine going, some horns and lots of synthesizer. The album closes with another highlight, “Winter Bird/When Winter Comes,” his song of farm chores but also contentment. “When Winter Comes” was an unreleased track from the early 1990s, co-produced by the late George Martin, who handled so many great Beatles recordings. McCartney crafted a new passage for the song, giving rise to the album opener, “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” while “Winter Bird” became the new intro for “When Winter Comes.”

Iggy and the Stooges: From KO to Chaos (Skydog International/Jungle, 7 CDs + DVD). This well-worth-having box set includes all the releases over the years of Iggy and the Stooges on Skydog albums and singles. All the material here has been remastered and bonus EP tracks have been added to some of the original releases. The collection starts with the sort-of groundbreaking live album, “Metallic KO” (autumn 1976), that consisted of performances from two shows at the Michigan Palace – Oct. 6, 1973 and Feb. 9, 1974, the latter being this version of the Stooges’ final show. What made the live release unusual was the animosity it captured from some of the audience who threw things onstage, including a bottle near singer Iggy Pop’s head, with Iggy dishing back putdowns of his verbal attackers.

This was version two of the Stooges – the first flamed out after the album “Fun House” in 1970. Joining vocalist/songwriter Iggy Pop were guitarist James Williamson, keyboardist Scott Thurston and original Stooges brothers Scott Asheton on drums and Ron Asheton, demoted from guitar to bass. This was the lineup that recorded “Raw Power” for Columbia Records.

The live album is highlighted by powerful versions of “Raw Power” and “Gimme Danger” from the most recent album. Discs two and three here are complete recordings from the two shows that made up the live album. Notably, the recordings have been speed corrected, fixing the pitch of the recordings which previously had been a little flat. The October show is the only one with “Search and Destroy,” while “Heavy Liquid” is on both show discs, but not the original album. Also exclusive to the October disc is “Open Up and Bleed,” which opens with harmonica. There is a lot of Iggy talking to the audience here, and he even makes up extra lyrics to “Louie Louie” on the spot. The stage talk becomes more confrontational during the February show, which includes a nearly 12-minute version of “Rich B*tch.” Here, Iggy “eggs on” egg-throwers.

Discs four and five are rarities collections, including 10-minute-plus versions of Iggy’s “The Winter of My Discontent” and a combo of the Stooges’ “No Fun” and Lou Reed’s “Waiting for the Man,” plus a just-under-10-minute cover of Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer’s “One for My Baby.” Also covered are “96 Tears,” The Animals’ “I’m Crying,” Sly Stone’s “Family Affair” and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” One disc has three bonus versions of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

A wonderful surprise is the DVD, which includes two short solo shows. The 1993 Sputnik TV show in Barcelona (33 min.) includes nine acoustic songs, but Iggy breaks a string during “Louie Louie,” the second song, and has to play with only four strings for the rest of the show, as he had no replacement strings. From his recent “American Caesar” album, he performs “Mixin’ the Colors,” “Social Life,” “Highway Song” and “Beside You,” as well as “Louie Louie.”  The covers include Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso,” with Iggy making up a verse, and a rough take on Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” The DVD also has a 1990 Paris Megastore appearance (17:45), with Iggy on electric guitar racing through seven songs, including the softer “Brick by Brick.” He plays bare-chested. Bonus video includes a compilation of album and single covers and disc labels; an Iggy monologue about a “Planet of Dogs”; and an in-studio performance of “Miss Argentina” (total 7:05).

There also is an acoustic CD with 10 performances, including “Butt Town” and “Nightclubbing.” The collection ends with another live concert from March 2004 in Japan, with the reunited Stooges consisting of Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton (back on guitars), Scott Asheton (drums), Mike Watt (bass) and Steven Mackay (sax). The 17 songs include Iggy’s David Bowie-era “TV Eye.”

The hard-shell box set comes with a 48-page booklet with excellent photos and a 4,750-word back story by Iggy biographer Paul Trynka.

Iggy and the Stooges: You Think You’re Bad, Man? The Road Tapes ’73 – ’74 (Cherry Red, 5 CDs). This set repeats the Feb. 9, 1974 final show on the fifth disc. However, it starts with the Sept. 16, 1973 show at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles. The sound quality is very low fidelity, but there is no denying all the energy the band puts forth, including on a lengthy cover of “New Orleans.” The band was in its death throes during this tour. That certainly was known to Iggy Pop, who wrote “Death Trip,” as the last song on the “Raw Power” album, and probably to guitarist James Williamson as well. Ron Asheton, who resented being demoted from guitar to bass, was reportedly ready to quit several times.

Iggy’s take on Hollywood, “She Creatures of the Hollywood Hills,” clocks in at 9:50 and “Open Up and Bleed” stretches to 13 minutes. From the Michigan Palace shows, this set includes the Oct. 10 show, rather than the Oct. 6 one used in the other set. It includes three rants by Iggy. Previously released as two volumes of “Double Danger” are shows from November at the Latin Casino in Baltimore and a New Year’s Eve show at The Academy of Music in New York City.

The hard-shell set comes with a 20-page booklet with photos and an essay by Kris Needs from August.

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