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Sunday, 10 February 2013

You must Press to Play

Whilst I was browsing and Googling, I did pause  upon a blogger blasting the Paul McCartney album, Press to Play. Now this album is, I think, very overlooked and actually one of Macca's best and so below, underneath these words, down the screen a bit, that's it right there,  you will find my deepest thoughts, or thoughts of this particular moment, on the sonic masterpiece that is Press to Play

Stranglehold is a great album opener - a rocker that is best appreciated from behind earphones, as there are so many interesting things going on in the mix that this is the only way to experience the full mix  - the song leads into a McCartney classic in which two similarly themed songs are merged into an astounding single entity. This is Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun - the first section seems to be culled from memory - that was a golden summer, so long ago - while the second half basks in the warmth of the present - feel the sun shining in on you - it don't get much better than that. Then we have a weird but compelling oddity called, Talk more Talk which is actually a classic tune with as much substance as anything Macca did with the Fabs and I'm not kidding. The song oozes rhythm and melody and it doesn't matter that the lyrics are mostly nonsensical. The song is all about the feeling and it's a bloody good feeling - words of a feather are worn in a hat. I hear water going through the pipes. Music is ideas. Then we have one of the Macca's greatest ever ballads - Footprints which starts out with the imagery of an old man gathering wood for a fire. It's a snowy landscape and the lush score helps create this movie in the mind as our attention shifts to other scenes in this winter wonderland. It's almost like wandering around in one of those snow globe thingies - the song also rubbishes claims that Macca is never any good at lyrics. There a wonderful sparse poetry about this piece - snow white blanket, covers the memory of all that used to be. And then we have the richly produced, Beatley number, Only Love Remains. The song is piano led and epic in scale but one of the nicest things is the warm bass line that holds things together as we move into a full blown orchestral sound.This certainly ain't no Silly Love Songs.

On the original album we are now onto side two with the title track, Press to Play - now this to my mind is the weakest track on the album but that's not to say it is bad. It isn't but it's just not as strong as everything else and the 80's pop production on this track sounds far more dated than anything else on the album. Pretty Little Head follows and this is a cosmic experiment that really should be better known. The lead in is infectious with chanted wordplay- Hillmen come down from the lava, Carrying trinkets, silk and precious stones. This is perhaps the most experimental track Macca did up to this point and its simply awesome. Then we have some good old rock and roll with typical Macca whimsey in Move Over Busker - any song that puts Mae West in a sweaty vest in our minds is OK with me.  Angry follows in which the Macca gets all irate and blasts the critics who keep harping on about his silly love songs - what the hell gives you the right to tell you what to do with my life - right on, Macca. However Absurd follows which is another big production number with whimsical lyrics.

When I originally bought the album it was on cassette and However Absurd actually ended the album, but the CD version had other tracks which I didn't experience until I got the album on CD a few years later- the extra tracks are Write Away, It's not True and Tough on a Tightrope. Write Away fits perfectly with the rest of the album, but the other two tracks, whilst good, don't really fit the vibe, so I actually think I prefer the original album, still bonus tracks can be skipped. And to me the album is much more satisying if it ends with However Absurd and then fades into silence, at least until the click of the play button releasing as we run out of tape. Remember that! Time to get up and change the tape!

The current CD version also contains another two bonus tracks - the shite, Spies Like Us which really should have been strangled at birth and the excellent, Once Upon a Time Ago.

Strange that this album was one of the lowest selling of all Macca's albums, and doubly strange that so many fans dislike it, even Macca's rubbished this album in interviews, because I really think it is one of his best. Maybe the reason so many fans don't like this is that they still expect Beatle Paul from a McCartney album, and yet in some ways that is just what you get because when you think about it Beatle Paul never played it safe either...


Davieboy said...

A fine review.
Yesterday was a Macca day for me as your Nilsson piece somwhow drove me to Macca Radio, which I never even knew about. That led me to The Fireman clips on You-tube and finally Paul's meeting with Carl Perkinns in 1993. All fab stuff, esp. enjoyed The Fireman. I've always felt Paul is an absolute genius and it's great to have it re-confirmed from time to time. Even his most obscure stuff is sometimes sensational.
Whilst at it must say I enjoyed GH's "I Remember Jeep" from the ATMP album on Macca Radio as well. Those lads, what talent!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Press to Play is a fine album. One day folks will see that.