Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005)

 
1. Fine Line 2. How Kind of You 3. Jenny Wren 4. At the Mercy 5. Friends to Go 6. English Tea 7. Too Much Rain 8. A Certain Softness 9. Riding to Vanity Fair 10.Follow Me 11.Promise to You Girl 12.This Never Happened Before 13.Anyway

 

This is one of those records where everything seems to work as flawlessly as intended. Paul McCartney had been enjoying the greatest string of his success during the early twenty-first century - going all the way back to the earliest post-Beatles days. No, you didn't hear many of his new songs anywhere, but that was a sign of the changing times, not a reflection on the quality of his work. Most top 40 radio stations didn't feature songs by anyone over 40 years of age, and believe it or not, McCartney was 63 when this album came out. This is mostly one of his "homemade" albums like McCartney and McCartney II in that Paul plays most of the instruments himself.

The key difference here is that he brings in an outside producer, Nigel Godrich, mostly known for his work with Radiohead. That may seem like an odd choice, but give Godrich credit for taking some very good ideas that McCartney comes up with and turning them into well crafted songs without losing any of that homespun feel. This was something that the first two solo "McCartney" albums lacked - they had some good songs, but they were muddled down with a lot of instrumentation that you really couldn't even call "filler" let alone songs.

What ends up being produced is an album that sounds so fresh, so simple and so close to the heart, that it's very possible to fall immediately in love with it only after a few listens. And each new listen brings out more and more of the albums qualities. This is a difficult album to "label". It's definitely not a rocker - the only thing close with a beat is Promise to You Girl although Friends to Go sounds a lot like it's written by a talented 16 year old instead of a 63 year old . I wouldn't have been surprised if Mac had stated he had written this song when he was only a kid. It's such a charming piece that sounds like adolescent angst that we've all experienced.

He shows his vulnerability as he never has before on songs such as Too Much Rain and the very strange but brilliant How Kind of You. I'm still trying to figure out exactly why I love this song so much. Really that sums up a lot of sentiments about this album. You just can't exactly pinpoint why the songs are so infectious.

Some songs are obviously winners. The first song Fine Line was the first "single" (whatever that means anymore) and was an immediate toe-tapper. The closing song Anyway is the perfect, majestic, sentimental closer for the album. Listening to songs such as these make you wish the album had been released in his "prime" so that more people could have heard and fallen in love with them. Even some of the somewhat silly songs hold up well. English Tea does sound a bit like it was written by a senior citizen, but it has such a breezy, catchy feel, that you don't feel embarrassed to fall in love with it. It reminds me slightly of "Eleanor Rigby" from his Beatle days.

One of Paul's very very best records, and one hopes that he has more of these somewhere in his creative genes that we'll be able to hear again someday.

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