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Now he's 64

Memory Almost Full
Memory Almost Full
By Paul McCartney

Hear / Concord: 2007

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This review first appeared in Turbula in June 2007.

So now he is 64, and here he is still making music. The thing about listening to a new record from Paul McCartney, though, is that we've been so spoiled by him through the years that our expectations are ridiculously unrealistic. We expect every song to be "Michelle" or "Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey," every album to be "Band on the Run" or "Abbey Road." The fact remains, though, that an average Paul McCartney record is light years better than most anything else that will be released in the same year. He remains a master songwriter, an expressive singer, and one of the best electric bass players in rock history.

And so Sir Paul's newest release, "Memory Almost Full," isn't his best solo album, but it is a very good album, with several gems of songs, stellar playing throughout and the ever-present sense of humor that has always colored his best material.

It's also an intriguing collection of McCartney's trademark hooks and flourishes – the vocal harmonies that haven't changed in 37 years, the little figures he uses to bridge passages.

The album opens with "Dance Tonight," a slowish pop song that sounds like a cross between an outtake from "Band on the Run" and his 1989 collaboration with Elvis Costello, "Flowers in the Dirt."

"Ever Present Past" is reminiscent of McCartney's mid-'70s Wings material, and would fit comfortably on "Band on the Run" or "Venus and Mars" – although there is also an electronica element to it similar to his two 1990s' Fireman recordings. The electronica influences percolate throughout, most notably on the opening to "You Tell Me."

"See Your Sunshine" is a bright pop song along the lines of "Silly Love Songs," while "Only Mama Knows" shows McCartney can still rock when he wants to.

"Vintage Clothes" is a classic McCartney song: intriguing construction built around a hypnotic melody with some imaginative playing and arrangements. It's the start of a five-song medley that looks back on his childhood and young adulthood, and feels like a natural, organic extension of everything he's done musically. There is a passage during "Feet in the Clouds" that even brings in some threads of the classical music he's worked on periodically over the past two decades.

Perhaps his songwriting is growing deeper with age – a first listen to this album leaves a bit of disappointment: There are no immediately apparent hit songs, nothing that reaches out and grabs you right away.

But subsequent times playing the CD bring a greater appreciation for the songcraft found on "Memory Almost Full" – each listening to the songs reveals new facets, different colors and textures.

He may no longer be the hitmaking machine he once was, but Paul McCartney's latest release shows he surely hasn't lost his touch at writing wonderful songs you can't get out of your head.