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Paul McCartney: Best of the Solo Years

Four decades of hits and near misses

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Michael Putland/Getty Images

Paul McCartney’s 15th studio album, Kisses on the Bottom, is a collection of covers of Hit Parade-era songs that he loved while growing up. McCartney, of course, has compiled an incredible songbook of his own, and not just with his little band called the Beatles: 34 of his solo singles have made the U.S. Top 40. Some of them – “Band on the Run,” “Live and Let Die” – are as ubiquitous as his greatest work with the old band. Following is a selection of the highest highs of McCartney’s four-decade solo career, including some of his biggest hits and best album tracks. 

By James Sullivan

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‘Great Day’

After detours into symphonic and electronic music, McCartney returned to Beatlesque form yet again with the 1997 album Flaming Pie, which featured help from Ringo, a tribute to John and typically shimmering production from Beatles fanatic Jeff Lynne. "Great Day" is the kind of back-to-the-land acoustic number that McCartney has made one of his many specialties over the years.   

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‘Jenny Wren’

McCartney's 13th solo studio album, 2005's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, was produced by Radiohead regular Nigel Godrich. The cover photo shows a very young McCartney practicing guitar in his family's Liverpool backyard under their clothesline. Likewise, "Jenny Wren" distinctly recalls two classics from a much-younger McCartney: "Blackbird," with its delicate acoustic finger-picking, and the deft character study of "Eleanor Rigby."

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‘Only Mama Knows’

No, he's not going quietly. The aching strings that open this standout from McCartney's last studio album, Memory Almost Full (2007), are soon trampled by the feisty garage spirit of his excellent recent touring band.

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