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Alternative History

Best Paul McCartney & Wings Albums

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney has had the most impressive solo career of all four members of The Beatles. While critical recognition for his work rarely came easy, McCartney’s solo albums and those made with Wings are ranked highly by those willing to give it a fair shake.

Those impartial music fans will also find plenty of albums on which to spend their time and money. While his discography is not without its flops, McCartney has made several stone-cold classics as a non-Beatle.

That’s why today, I’m finding room in my heart for silly love songs, getting ready to whistle along and choosing the ten best Paul McCartney albums.

“McCartney” (1970)

Paul McCartney may have been opportunistic in coupling the news of The Beatles‘ break-up with those of impending debut. For the most part, however, “McCartney” contained good, low-key garage pop.

It’s the first proper solo Beatles album in order of appearance after the breakup.

But it’s not the grand pop statement that fans were expecting. Instead, it’s practically a light DYI effort. McCartney plays all the instruments and records the sound in a makeshift studio on his farm.

“Teddy Boy” and “Junk” are sweet. Both had floated around as obscure Beatles songs, written but not completed. “That Would Be Something” is a playful blues track.

And “Maybe I’m Amazed,” the only large-scale rocker, is the album’s most famous and enduring track.

McCartney” sold a lot, but much of this had to do with the news of the disappearance of The Beatles. The album then received a fair bit of backlash before finally being reevaluated in recent years.

“Ram” (1971)

“Ram” continues McCartney’s objective of documenting his domestic bliss. His wife, Linda, becomes an important collaborator. The songs are great soft-rock numbers.

John Lennon often said that, out of all The Beatles, he worried the least about McCartney’s ability to get by as a solo performer. Surely, Lennon would’ve expected his former partner to deliver songs a la “Let It Be” or “The Long and Winding Road.”

Instead, McCartney charts his life on the farm with “Heart of the Country” or “Eat at Home.”

Fans were also surprised. They’d seen George Harrison reach his full potential with “All Things Must Pass.” They helped Ringo Starr’s succeed and even encouraged John Lennon‘s intimately confessional songs.

And most of them weren’t very happy. In retrospect, the record has aged well. “Dear Boy” and “Too Many People” bring in some production polish.

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is truly charming, one of Macca’s best tracks. Reportedly it was also the one song from this collection that even John Lennon liked.

“Band on the Run” (1973)

“Band on the Run” turned Paul McCartney’s Wings into one of the biggest bands in the world. It was all due to the excellence of the songs.

By 1973, McCartney had become determined to turn himself back into a pop star and band frontman. The first albums made with Wings hadn’t sparked the public’s imagination. “Wild Life” and “Red Rose Speedway” had big studio productions behind them, but the tunes were largely ignorable.

“Band on the Run,” on the other hand, features an almost perfect collection of songs.

Each tune helps create a unique atmosphere for the record. It gives the setlist a homogenous feel. This is not unlike what The Beatles had managed on “Abbey Road.”

Few things had changed, in fact. The artwork is predictably silly. For all of his merits, McCartney was never known as “the cool Beatle.” But even that doesn’t harm “Band on the Run” from being ranked, by many, as the greatest solo album by a Beatle.

The title track is a playful prog-rock journey. “Jet” and “Mrs. Vandebilt” are arena-ready rockers. “Bluebird” and “Mamunia” are slow numbers equipped with McCartney’s trademark melodies. And “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” proves that an esteemed bass player could still recognize a good groove.

“Band on the Run” is an endlessly enjoyable album. It silenced all of McCartney’s critics, earned Lennon‘s praise and proved a career landmark.

“London Town” (1978)

“London Town” is a poppy soft-rock record, sure. But it came ready with some of the best songs McCartney had written in years.

The former Beatle works best when he is allowed to be gently assisted while at the helm. This is what Linda McCartney and Denny Layne provided.

“I’m Carrying” and “Children Children” sound almost like holiday music. But, at his best, few can beat Macca’s ability to craft memorable singalongs.

“Famous Groupies” and “With a Little Luck” feel a bit cheeky but also old-fashioned and pleasant.

Lennon had once accused McCartney of tending to make “granny music.” Here, the latter embraces this. And there’s no reason you wouldn’t be able to smoke a pipe by the fire while listening to this.

paul and linda mccartney

“McCartney II” (1980)

“McCartney II” sees the singer-songwriter return to work as a one-man band. This time around, he’s taking stock of new technology.

To call it Paul’s new-wave record might be stretching it. However, there’s a distinct influence of electro-fused pop taking over the charts.

This is particularly apparent in the danceable “Coming Up” or “Temporary Secretary.”

The synths are also used to provoke a ghostly atmosphere for ballads like “Summer’s Day Song” or “On the Way.”

Deluxe editions include the slightly cheesy but good-natured hit “Wonderful Christmastime.”

The lyrics tend to be non-sensical, but, for the most part, there’s good energy here.

His three former bandmates were, with exceptions, making less exciting music by this stage. By contrast, the public greeted “McCartney II” as a return to form.

“Tug of War” (1982)

On “Tug of War,” Paul McCartney stakes his claim as a global pop star for the 1980s. While not revolutionary, it’s a very well-crafted album. It was released after Wings had disbanded.

Much of this has to do with McCartney rekindling old acquaintances. The Beatles’ producer George Martin is on board for this one. So is a roster of stars that includes Stevie Wonder and Ringo Starr.

The songs may be bright and overly cute. But there’s no denying Macca’s ability to make a pop record. The title track, “Wanderlust”, or the Wonder duet of “Ebony and Ivory”, are clear radio bait.

McCartney would also use this formula later. He’d duet and co-write songs with Elvis Costello for 1987’s “Flowers in the Dirt,” but the results are surprisingly subdued even by “Ebony and Ivory” standards.

There’s a sense that this is what the singer had wanted to do all along. The majority of his records had been either with The Beatles or Wings. And when they weren’t, they purposely sounded like demos.

“Tug of War” is a pure pop record. And, for the most part, good at doing just that.

“Flaming Pie” (1997)

“Flaming Pie” returns to the musical ideas that made The Beatles great. The result is much better than most would’ve expected.

Paul McCartney spent the 1980s being a pop star. But, in the mid-1990s, he got a taste of being a Beatle again when he reunited with Ringo Starr and George Harrison to complete a couple of John Lennon-penned demos.

While McCartney wanted the reunion to continue, Harrison did not.

On “Flaming Pie,” Macca reimagines what that reunion would’ve sounded like if he’d been in charge. As it turns out, it would’ve been pretty good.

Jeff Lyne (of Electric Light Orchestra) and George Martin, who also worked on The Beatles’ “Anthology” series, co-produce “Flaming Pie”, giving it a sweetly psychedelic vibe.

The singles “Young Boy” and “The World Tonight” are gorgeous and immediate, the kind of pop-rock you’d expect from Britpop bands like Oasis.

“Beautiful Night” and “The Song We Were Singing” are saccharine. But it doesn’t change from the fact that it’s one of McCartney’s best albums.

“Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” (2005)

Paul McCartney always insisted that he was the most psychedelia-oriented of all of The Beatles. “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” is a late-career picture of this inclination.

But it’s hardly an overblown experimental record. There’s a familiar warmth to the songs here, such as on “Freedom” or “Back in the Sunshine Again.”

There’s also some darkness resting underneath the surface. Two tragic events had deeply affected the songwriter. One was the death of Linda McCartney. The other was the terrorist attacks of the 11th of September on U.S. soil.

“Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” is less loose or inspired than “Flaming Pie.” It is, however, an enjoyable pop-rock record.

“Egypt Station” (2018)

McCartney was always the most hard-working and restless of the four members of The Beatles. On “Egypt Station”, he takes a stab at modern indie-pop.

It may seem surprising that someone as established as McCartney would be concerned with modern pop music. But, like Elton John, having hits has never escaped his mind.

“Fuh You” could’ve easily been a Coldplay track. “Come On to Me” sounds like Foo Fighters hit. And “Despite Repeated Warnings” delivers the kind of emotional ballad that made both Macca and Adele worldwide stars.

“Egypt Station” could’ve been an embarrassing modern pop-rock attempt. It occasionally is. But, more often than not, it sounds superior to the artists McCartney is referencing.

“McCartney III” (2021)

On “McCartney III,” the legendary musician has lost little of his drive.

Like the other two albums in this series, both wearing his last name, Paul McCartney recorded it solely (with minor exceptions).

His musical ability and interest in doing this are the most interesting things about it.

The tracks have a dark tone. It’s, perhaps, the first album where McCartney acknowledges his age when he reminisces on songs like “Lavatory Lil” or “Pretty Boys.”

Its release was treated as a grand event. On “McCartney III Imagined”, big-name artists like Beck, Blur’s Damon Albarn, and Phoebe Bridgers cover the songs.

Personally, I don’t find either the original or the covers very enjoyable. However, I have a huge amount of respect for McCartney’s commitment.

“McCartney III” further proves his quality as a musician and songwriter and is a testament to what happens when talent meets hard work.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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