Of the four Beatles, Paul McCartney has been arguably the most versatile and successful solo-artist. Yes, John Lennon had a lot less time since he died in 1980. Who knows what he would have produced hadn’t he been murdered? Of his output as a solo artist, especially his first two albums were great (‘Plastic Ono Band’ and ‘Imagine’), but after that the quality somewhat declined. George Harrison, same story. ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘Living in the Material World’ were brilliant, but the rest of his albums are far less memorable.
McCartney also peaked after the Beatles, but he continued to make great albums right up until his latest gem ‘McCartney III’. Below are the five albums he made post-Beatles that I love the most.
5. Venus and Mars
Recorded in New Orleans and released in 1975, this was the fourth studio-album McCartney released with his band Wings, and his sixth album after the Beatles-break-up. It is a sort of concept-album and features a number of beautiful compositions: the title-track that returns later (much like St. Peppers), ‘Rock Show’, ‘You Gave Me the Answer’, ‘Magneto and Titanium Man’, and ‘Listen to What the Man Said’. The album was a huge success. It reached number 1 in the US, the UK and other countries around the world (as did the single ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ in the US) and sold four million copies worldwide.
His first album after the break-up in 1970 – which had a lot to do with the tension within the disintegrating band – was not received very well. John Lennon was one of the main critics. I think it contains a number of terrific songs, some of Beatles-level greatness. This makes sense since they were written during the band’s golden years: ‘Junk’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Every Night’, ‘That Would Be Something’ are the best. Yes, the album is underproduced, but this gives it some of its charm. McCartney basically performed the whole album by himself and recorded it in secrecy. It is the perfect showcase for his amazing talent.
3. Band on the Run
Generally considered as the highlight of Wings’ output. It opens with the classic title track about McCartney’s search for freedom. ‘Band on the Run’ consists of three parts that form a perfect integrated composition. This is pure McCartney. There are only eight more songs on the album, but they are all beautiful. The album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, by a trio consisting of Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. The rest of the band had left. No matter, the final result was generally praised and it became a huge commercial success. Look out for actors James Coburn and Christopher Lee on the album’s cover.
2. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
This 2005 masterpiece re-establishes McCartney as one of the greatest living musicians/songwriters. It took 18 months to make and Paul once again plays most of the instruments, like he did on his first album McCartney. The 13 songs are unusually reflective and intimate-sounding for the ex-Beatle, which is a good thing. They are all great, but my favorites are: ‘Fine Line’, ‘Jenny Wren’, ‘Friends to Go’ (dedicated to George Harrison), ‘A Certain Softness’ and ‘Follow Me’. The cover is from a photograph of McCartney strumming a guitar in his family’s backyard in Liverpool, taken by Paul’s brother Mike.
‘Ram’ is the only album credited to the husband-and-wife music duo Paul and Linda McCartney. It is a terrific collection of extremely enjoyable songs, like: ‘Too Many People’, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ (Paul’s first number 1 hit in America without the Beatles), ‘Ram On’ and ‘The Back Seat of My Car’. The recording sessions also yielded the terrific non-album single ‘Another Day’. ‘Ram’, very much like Paul’s debut album ‘McCartney’, initially received unfavourable reaction from music journalists, but has since been recognized as one of Paul’s best efforts as a solo musician.
Paul, thanks for all your terrific output. It is impossible for me to describe how much your music means to me personally.