Sir Paul McCartney at 76 years of age, a superstar since he was 20, shows no signs of slowing down on his ‘long and winding road’. He has just released his 18th solo album titled Egypt Station and we’re going to take a look and a listen.
When you’ve achieved as much as “Macca” (McCartney) in music over the decades, and have basically co-written what rock n roll is, when you’re quite likely the biggest living rock God on Earth, what more is there to prove? You could relive past glories and pull the oldies out, you could hook up with some young talent and stay relevant, or you could rely on your surest card and play ‘newish’ traditional rock. On this new album, he seems to put all three options at work.
The album houses 16 tracks, two of which are instrumentals Open Station and Station II, which are reminiscent of Sgt. Peppers with ambient background sounds of a bustling station and people coming and going. He says it is a ‘concept album’ and describes it this way, “I liked the words ‘Egypt Station’. It reminded me of the ‘album’ albums we used to make…’Egypt Station’ starts off at a station on the first song and then each song is like a different station. So it gave us some idea to base all the songs around that. I think of it as a dream location that the music emanates from”.
Much of the record is ’poptimistic’, not unlike much of the Beatles melodies back in the day such as Penny Lane or Ob-la-Di Ob-la-Da…”life goes on brahhh”. It offers sweet bromides to soothe the passage of time with all its diversity, like the wistful panpipe touch in Hand in Hand and Dominoes, where you can hear his Hofner bass push this number along nicely. But it also admits things don’t always get better with age on I Don’t Know, a lovely piano ballad and (typical McCartney) Happy With You, admitting a life getting “wasted”, but now he enjoys the sober life just as much, “I used to drink too much/Forgot to come home/I lied to my doctor/But these days I don’t/’Cause I’m happy with you”, says it all. Who Cares talks about bullying, asking “Who cares?...I Do”, which is noble, but the jolly music seems at odds with the ever-simplistic McCartney lyrics.
Macca has been preaching about peace and love from psychedelic Penny Lane to Silly Love Songs, to Ebony and Ivory, and here he touches base with People Want Peace, a polite protest, Despite Repeated Warnings, a swipe at the political tempest which some say is Trump, Brexit, or both, and climate change as well.
Things get a bit creepy with Fuh You (produced by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder) and Come On to Me, not only two lusty numbers that sound cheesy coming from an septuagenarian,perhaps better suited for young sexy pop stars, but also for their light-handed composition. Another area where he ventures off the beaten path is Back in Brazil, taking a go at samba bop, borrowing from other cultures you see, but he should give it back: leave the samba licks to the pros Sir Paul. The anthemic Do It Now is built around what Paul's father used to tell him, basically ‘don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today’. Confidante is a touching piece about a guitar as he points out, “It’s a love song to the guitar. Tell your troubles to your guitar...A symbol of the guitar as a mate, a friend, a confidante”; we don’t know if he’s talking about his beloved 1960 Les Paul, the one he’s holding in one of the promotional pictures of the album, or his 1964 Epiphone Texan, but it’s music to our ears here at Guitars Exchange!
In this writer’s view, the best cut on the record is the medley Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link, an exciting rocker at the outset, hooks into neo-doo-wop, then slides into a bluesy orchestral coda as the cherry on top. Touché Macca.
The album was crafted by producer-savant Greg Kurstin, best known for his work with Adele’s Grammy-winning 25. This is a very satisfying Paul McCartney record, his first in 5 years.
After more than 50 years since Beatlemania, ‘the cute one’ still brings it, still has those rich enduring creative juices flowing, and it’s a pure pleasure to hear it.