Pure McCartney is the fourth compilation of his solo work, and the fourth one that doesn’t offer much to the collector who already has the contents five or more times. It’s sold as a two-disc set, a nearly identical four-LP set, and a four-CD set, which goes deep into the catalog, to extents that will vary depending on the listener, and the one we’ll discuss.
There’s no faulting the songs, since disc one starts with “Maybe I’m Amazed”, and continues through some more of the familiar ‘70s tracks, the first wrench being the underappreciated “Warm And Beautiful”, and then a couple of tracks later with “The Song We Were Singing”. This one, which appeared on his first album after the two-year Anthology blitz, fits so well with what’s come before we have to admit that the staffer that devised this playlist either has a good ear or stumbled upon a particularly effective shuffle. It’s more of a stretch to jump up to “Early Days”, from his most recent full-length of this century, but not as nutty as going to “Big Barn Bed”, from forty years before.
From here it’s a grab bag of the usual expected tracks interspersed with some surprises from the post-Wings era; it’s his own damn fault, because he wanted something to replace the Beatles in his frame of reference, and boy, did they. We hear certain album tracks and are surprised by what doesn’t come next; for instance, “Dear Boy” goes not into “Uncle Albert” (though it does appear two songs later) but “Silly Love Songs”. And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know. Linda permeates the proceedings, which makes sense, since she had been such a prominent figure in his development in those increasing decades. Something tells us wife #3 is okay with that. (But four songs from Ram plus “Another Day” on disc one?)
Everything’s going fine, like a McCartney compilation should, until “Bip Bop” leaps out of the middle of disc two. That’s when you remember that you just bought a Spotify playlist, or could have hooked up your tape deck if your car had one too. Who among us would stick “Calico Skies” between two tracks from Band On The Run, much less the finale and the opener in that order, via “Hi Hi Hi” and “Waterfalls”? Most of these are good songs, but it comes down to personal preference. “Appreciate” was a groaner from the new album, but it’s forgiven by “Sing The Changes” from the last Fireman album. The third disc has the two superstar Motown duets, so one’s tolerance of those can be tempered by such recent joys as “Fine Line”, “Dance Tonight” and “Queenie Eye”, and the Tug Of War gems “Wanderlust” and “Here Today”, but you also have to endure “Girlfriend”, “Press”, and “Pipes Of Peace”. However, we’re fond of “Winedark Open Sea” and “Beautiful Night”, and the set does bring “We All Stand Together” to its first-ever US release.
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that nothing from Flowers In The Dirt, one of his few critical and popular successes from the post-Wings era, was included, and he even admitted that he didn’t want to detract from that album’s upcoming deluxe reissue. Which again begs the question: “Why didn’t you just make a Spotify playlist instead of selling these songs for the umpteenth time?” Because, he’d answer: you pinheads will buy anything I put on the blocks. So we do. And that’s why we’ll endure “Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun”, because there’s no telling when he’ll get around to Press To Play in the Archive series.
Pure McCartney recycles Wings Greatest and All The Best!, but not all of Wingspan. Granted, it had been 15 years since that set, but “Temporary Secretary” hadn’t gained any cred then, so here it is now, setting up “Hope For The Future” from that video game he soundtracked. (Better that than the Rihanna and Kayne tune, right?) The thing is, this guy has recorded so many songs since 1970 that anyone’s version of the best of them will still be pretty damn awesome. We’ve avoided making our own Spotify playlist of our favorites simply to keep him from saying, “I can sell that,” and not even crediting us for including elusive B-sides. But rest assured we’d end with “Singalong Junk”, as opposed to the vocal version that ends the set.
Paul McCartney Pure McCartney (2016)—4