Off the Ground (1993)

 
1. Off the Ground 2. Looking for Changes 3. Hope of Deliverance 4. Mistress and Maid 5. I Owe it All to You 6. Biker Like an Icon 7. Peace in the Neighborhood 8. Golden Earth Girl 9. The Lovers That Never Were 10.Get Out of My Way 11.Winedark Open Sea 12.C'mon People

 

One of my favorite Paul McCartney albums that definitely never received the accolades that it should have. This would make it fall under the category of "underrated". During this phase in his career, like The Rolling Stones, for example, people weren't so much interested in hearing new material. They looked at albums that these greats released with anticipation because this meant a forthcoming monster tour was on its way. Such was the case here, although you really can't blame those in charge since Paul had one of the most successful tours ever when he toured for Flowers in the Dirt a few short years ago. Then, you also had the issue of an artist of Paul's stature putting out all kinds of releases so that his label can capitalize on his name. With all of the greatest hits packages, live albums, rock 'n' roll tributes and more live albums, it's very easy for a legitimate release such as this one to get a bit lost.

So most people aren't that familiar with what's here, and that really is too bad. This album has the most consistent set of good, strong songs that are assembled on, arguably, any Paul McCartney album. Paul would quite often "experiment" quite wildly on his solo records, and although most of those experiments were very well received, at times he would leave the listener a bit befuddled and scratching their head - sometimes even during the complete album. So the lack of such experimentation here might seem a bit of having a lack of ambition, or "playing it safe", but the reward here is that all of the songs work well together and the vast majority of them are superb.

This album tends to be a bit more acoustic as opposed to an all out rocker. Very few songs tend to rock the house down, but that was never really Paul's preference anyway. Plus, the fact that he was now in his fifties certainly gave him the blessings of many to tone things down a bit. Usually artists will "frontload" their albums, i.e. put the best songs at the beginning of the record, yet my two favorite songs are easily the very last two. Winedark Open Sea and C'mon People are of the slower, more balladry type, and no one could pull this off better than McCartney. As a matter of fact C'mon People sounds more like "Hey Jude" than any other Beatles or McCartney solo song, so maybe that's why I prefer it so much.

None of this is to say that the "front" of this album is inferior. No, the opening title track is a great song that is much more upbeat in delivery and sets the mood up as being a very positive listening experience, as is the single Hope of Deliverance. The only time he really "tries" to rock is further down the list with Get Out of My Way and he succeeds in this area as well.

There are times when he gets a bit too cute, such as the "story" song Biker Like an Icon, that is easy to snap your fingers to, but is kind of forgettable. He gets preachy in a good way on Mistress and Maid, which would make a good song to listen to in a marriage counseling class, and it really is nice for him to show his heart on his sleeve on a track such as this. Paul would rarely get political on his songs, and the one time he does here, it's a bit of a mistake. Looking for Changes is his animal rights song. It delivers musically, but the lyrics are a bit too sickening. I realize that that was probably the point, but it seems out of place and is uncomfortable - especially when one is preaching to an audience that has no desire to become a convert, it's almost embarrassing.

Overall, this serves as one of his strong, solid, well-put together efforts that, unknown at the time, would start a trend of nothing but very strong albums from McCartney. They would come more seldom than one would wish, but it was a breath of fresh air to note that is "slump" from a decade ago was now gone - maybe for good.

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