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Paul McCartney

      McCartney (Apple/Capitol, 1970)
      Ram (Apple/Capitol 1971)
    McCartney II (Columbia, 1980)
        Tug of War (Columbia, 1982)
    Pipes of Peace (Columbia, 1983)
    Give My Regards to Broad Street (Columbia, 1984)
    Press to Play (Capitol, 1986)
        All the Best! (Capitol, 1987)
        Choba b CCCP (1988; Capitol, 1991)
      Flowers in the Dirt (Capitol, 1989)
      Tripping the Live Fantastic (Capitol, 1990)
        Unplugged (Capitol, 1991)
    Liverpool Oratorio (EMI Classics, 1991)
      Off the Ground (Capitol, 1993)
      Paul Is Live (Capitol, 1993)
      Flaming Pie (Capitol, 1997)
    Standing Stone (EMI Classics, 1997)
        Run Devil Run (Capitol, 1999)
      Driving Rain (Capitol, 2001)
        Back in the U.S.: Live 2002 (Capitol, 2002)
      Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Capitol, 2005)
      Ecce Cor Meum (EMI Classics, 2006)
        Memory Almost Full (Hear Music, 2007)
        Good Evening New York City (Hear Music, 2009)

Wings
    Wild Life (1971; Capitol, 1989)
    Red Rose Speedway (1973; Capitol, 1988)
        Band on the Run (1973; Capitol, 1998)
        Venus and Mars (Capitol, 1975)
      Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976; Capitol, 1996)
        Wings Over America (Capitol, 1977)
    London Town (Capitol, 1978)
        Greatest (Capitol, 1978)
    Back to the Egg (1978; Capitol, 1989)
        Wingspan (Hits and History) (Capitol, 2002)

Paul McCartney was a lot more than the easy¬listening half of the greatest songwriting duo in rock history, but many of his post¬Beatles studio albums are larded with sentimental trifles, half¬finished songs, and effervescent dreck. He's partially redeemed by his live albums, which portray a charming entertainer who hasn't forgotten how to rock, and by his hits collections, which affirm his engaging melodicism.

In contrast to the emancipatory fury of Plastic Ono Band, the first major solo statement by his former partner John Lennon, McCartney is so modest it barely registers. Only the white soul of "Maybe I'm Amazed" distinguishes otherwise unbearably slight confections such as "Lovely Linda." Ram puts the emphasis on frills, finesse, and songs that, superficially at least, sound more substantial than those on the debut. Although Ram boasts the dazzling arrangement "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," the song is little more than an elaborate, inscrutable goof.

McCartney then formed Wings with his wife, Linda, and former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine, and went on to record some of his finest post¬Beatles albums — as well as some of his worst. Although McCartney managed to craft an indelible single or two on just about every Wings album, he too frequently wasted his time on silly trifles. His Wings' career is best summed up in the hit "Silly Love Songs," from Wings at the Speed of Sound, in which McCartney defends his right to be as trivial as he wants to be over a bass line so inescapably perfect that it almost justifies the song's existence.

After the so-so albums Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway (which includes his soggiest hit, the over-orchestrated "My Love"), McCartney redeemed himself with Band on the Run, a near¬perfect blend of pop smoothness and rock grit. Venus and Mars is nearly as accomplished, though Wings at the Speed of Sound took the idea of band democracy too far when McCartney decided to share lead-vocal duties.

London Town and Back to the Egg are pillow soft, and Wings called it a career in 1981. Wings Over America, a document of the band's 1975 arena tour, toughens up the sound — a major improvement over most of their studio albums — while Greatest and Wingspan affirm that Wings were among the most reliable singles bands of the Seventies.

McCartney II launches the singer's post¬Wings career by consciously evoking the do-it¬yourself tone of his first solo album, more a shrug of the shoulders than an emphatic statement of belief renewed. Tug of War is more ambitious; despite a mawkish duet with Stevie Wonder on "Ebony and Ivory," it contains enough high points ("Take It Away," "What's That You're Doing?") to qualify as one of McCartney's most accomplished efforts. Pipes of Peace sinks into blandness on the back of another ill¬advised duet, "Say Say Say," with Michael Jackson.

Give My Regards to Broad Street, a movie soundtrack, and Press to Play are expertly crafted fluff. A songwriting collaboration with Elvis Costello jump¬starts Flowers in the Dirt, but the off-the-cuff rock & roll of the covers¬heavy Choba b CCCP and Unplugged suit McCartney best. On the latter, he brings fresh insight to the familiar: the Brazilian shadings in "And I Love Her," the countryish undertones of "That Would Be Something."

Off the Ground has the usual quota of slight songs and clumsy lyrics, but the animal-rights anthem "Looking for Changes" has McCartney sounding like something more is at stake than mere fun and whimsy, and "Winedark Open Sea" is a hypnotic tone poem. Flaming Pie is yet another back¬to¬basics gambit, with McCartney playing most of the instruments himself. Amid a bunch of songs that sound half finished, he delivers a lovely pair of lullabies ("Little Willow," "Great Day"), a soul¬deep ballad ("Souvenir"), and a chamber¬pop jewel orchestrated by Beatles producer George Martin ("Somedays").

Backed by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, McCartney leaps through a dozen rock & roll oldies and three like¬minded originals on Run Devil Run. Similar in tone and spirit to Unplugged, it's positively bruising compared to much of McCartney's too-precious studio recordings. Great moment: McCartney forgets the words to "Honey Hush," makes up some new ones on the spot, and just keeps tearing it up.

The small¬combo approach also energizes Driving Rain, with McCartney's voluptuous bass¬playing doing the steering. Once again, the songs are mostly forgettable, with a handful of exceptions: "Lonely Road" builds to a growl, while "There Must Have Been Magic" and "From a Lover to a Friend" flirt with introspection.

For Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, McCartney again played most of the instruments himself, arriving at a clean, sweet sound — including flugehorn and harpsichord — with help from Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. "Friends to Go" is Paul's sweet tribute to George, who had died recently; elsewhere, tunes like "English Tea" keep it typically pleasant and melodic.

Memory Almost Full, McCartney's first release on Starbucks' Hear Music label, arrived not long after his divorce from Heather Mills. Mortality is a loose theme, with Paul proclaiming "On the day that I die I'd like jokes to be told" on "The End of the End." Musically, though, much of Memory is bright and lively: Several cuts recall Wings at their most rocking, and first single "Dance Tonight" is a catchy uptempo that could indeed pack a dancefloor. Liverpool Oratorio, Standing Stone and Ecce Cor Meum are pleasant if facile excursions into classical music.

McCartney's arena tours are documented on several live albums, all of which rely heavily on Beatles songs; Back in the U.S. hits the hardest, thanks to the kicking drumming of Abe Laboriel Jr. 2009's Good Evening New York City covers the first ever concert at New York's Citi Field. The setlist is fairly predictable, though McCartney sounds great and he plows through a version of "Day Tripper," which he hadn't played since his Beatles days.

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