Paul McCartney’s ‘Egypt Station’ – A Review

One of Australia’s leading music critics has given Paul McCartney a big thumbs up for Egypt Station, released last Friday.

Veteran music journalist Bernard Zuel writes:

“…this is what you get when a man who was brilliant in his 20s and 30s and stumbled into mediocrity a bit too often in his 40s and 50s, shows [that] the creative rejuvenation of his 60s continues at a fine pace….

It works. But then he’s Paul McCartney, we’re not, and that’s the deal…..”

You can read Bernard’s full, track-by-track review at bernardzuel.com

The respected UK newspaper The Times has also given the album high praise, with a four out of five star rating:

“…..here he is, aged 76, with his most emotionally satisfying work in decades….Egypt Station displays McCartney’s unique ability to write songs that are direct and sophisticated. Who else could construct the minor key piano melody of Hand In Hand from just a few notes nobody thought of arranging that way before, and then set it against words about sharing your life with someone, that are conversational yet poignant?

Likewise with Dominoes, which chugs along with the lighthearted rock’n’roll Wings did so well, but comes with a philosophical message about accepting the here and now. As with so much McCartney material, it is more profound than it seems.” 

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Hey Jude/Revolution – If It’s Re-issued Should This Be The Look?

Loved this Tweet yesterday by Canadian Beatle aficionado and author, Piers Hemmingsen:  

It made us think that if (and it seems to be very likely) there are plans to re-issue a physical ‘HeyJude’/’Revolution’ single as part of the forthcoming Beatles White Album 50th Anniversary, then it really should come in a white sleeve like the 1968 Canadian issue.

What do you think? Does this…..

….look better (and more appropriate) than this…..

Piers Hemmingsen is the author of The Beatles In Canada – The Origin of Beatlemania!

John Lennon ‘Imagine’ – Film, Audio and DVD/BluRay On The Way?

Speculation and rumours that there would be a number of additional elements accompanying the forthcoming Imagine John Yoko book (due on October 9) has had an on again/off again nature over the last few days.

The story so far…..

Officially, all we know is that the book is happening, as is a cinema release of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono film Imagine, announced this week: This is the 1972 film with each of the songs from Imagine portrayed (plus four songs from the Ono LP FLY, recorded at the same time) in between glimpses into the lives of John and Yoko, plus some fun sequences featuring the pair and a host of celebrity mates. It looks like it’s the original 70 minute cut of the film, plus an additional 15 minutes or so of bonus material.

If you’d like to go along and see the movie on the big screen there’s a special site set up find out where it is on near you and you can book tickets. Screenings start from September 17.

We also now know that there will be definitely be a DVD and Blu-ray release of the 1972 Imagine film, coupled on the one disc with Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ Album which dates from 2000 and is directed by Andrew Solt:Gimme Some Truth is a surprisingly good examination of the recording process, a fly-on-the-wall window on Lennon in the studio creating the Imagine album that stands the test of time. The DVD and Blu-ray will be available from October 5, and Amazon is taking pre-orders now. There will be bonus material included, but it has not yet been revealed just what this will be. These two films will be great to have in remixed sound, 5.1 mixes (if that is your thing), and fully restored visual content.

And that leads us to what hasn’t been announced yet regarding the last piece in the puzzle: the audio from the Imagine sessions.

There’s been lots of talk about a super deluxe box set; a single CD; a double CD; and a double LP (with a limited edition in clear vinyl for collectors too). Depending on who you believe this is about to be officially announced (like in the next few days, with an October 9 release date), or this part of the Imagine re-issue project has been delayed and we won’t see it until at least February, 2019. (This courtesy of Lennon producer, Jack Douglas, who apparently stated at the Chicago Fest for Beatles last weekend that the project had been shelved to February next year).

Until something official comes out it all remains speculation, but the big box set (which will be audio only) will likely contain four CDs, plus two Blu-rays of material. On these will be some 140 tracks – which is HUGE!

In the box we’ll get the remixed stereo Imagine album, plus singles and extras; outtakes from the album, singles and extras; the Quadraphonic album remastered; raw studio mixes; plus a host of other audio content. For example, someone well-connected to the project has posted this as the content on CD2:

CD 2 – ELEMENTS & OUTTAKES
Elements Mixes and Album & Single Outtakes
ELEMENTS MIXES
Imagine (Strings only) 
Jealous Guy (Piano, bass & drums)
Oh My Love (Vocals only) 
How? (Strings only) 
ALBUM OUTTAKES
Imagine (Original demo recorded at Ascot) 
Imagine (Take 1) 
Crippled Inside (Take 3) 
Crippled Inside (Take 6 alternate guitar solo)
Jealous Guy (Take 9) 
It’s So Hard (Take 6) 
I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier (Take 25) 
Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)
Oh My Love (Take 6) 
How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2) 
How? (Take 31)

That’s just for one CD. Those two Blu-rays alone will contain a massive amount of additional audio and this release (if it comes about) will set a precedent for the Apple/Universal box set re-issue approach so far. There will be raw studio mixes; “elements” mixes with instruments and voices separated out; documentary content about the evolution of the songs; plus interview material from the time of Imagine with John and Yoko included. To date the breadth of material planned for release is unprecedented.

The promotional music site Ultimate Classic Rock jumped the gun today and published an article called “John Lennon’s Imagine Album Explored in a Six-Disc Box Set“. As you can see if you click through, they’ve subsequently taken that story down, possibly with a big rap across the knuckles form Apple/Universal….

We reckon this big release program WILL happen. It’s just a matter of when.

UPDATE: The official Lennon site has now uploaded a teaser Imagine the Music page and a video (a beautiful short extract of just the isolated vocals from ‘Oh My Love’). Looks like we’ll know exactly what is on offer on August 23, when The Ultimate Deep Listening Experience will be officially announced.

Dreaming The Beatles – Book Review

We’ve been reading a terrific Beatle book called Dreaming The Beatles – The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield. It’s not new. The hardcover first edition was released last year – and won great accolades then. It has though just been re-issued as a  paperback, and it’s recommended that you go get yourself a copy:

Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone magazine and has been writing about music, TV and popular culture since 1997. He’s written a number of other books on music including works on David Bowie and Duran Duran.

Sheffield has a delightful and refreshing writing style and delivers some truly unique insights and observations into The Beatles: as a band, as individuals, as musicians, and as a world-wide pop phenomenon involved in a love affair that persists up to today (and will do well in the future).

The big difference here is that Sheffield’s take on it all is a decidedly fresh one. Given the huge number of words written about this band over many, many years, that is really saying something.

The basic premise of Dreaming The Beatles is to examine why they have remained so loved and so central – not only in the Sixties, but right up to the present day. Sheffield writes: “The Beatles didn’t plan it this way – they couldn’t have. In 1964, their publicist Derek Taylor wrote liner notes for one of their albums predicting it would still sound fine to “the kids of AD 2000”, a bold claim that looks hilariously small potatoes now…..Taylor upped the ante with his 1995 liner notes for Anthology, calling the Beatles’ story “the twentieth century’s greatest romance.” How was he supposed to know that the romance was just beginning?”

The world, it seems, just keeps on falling in love with The Beatles. Sheffield again: “They tried to break the spell they’d cast and were genuinely surprised when they failed. When John Lennon sang “The dream is over” in 1970, he wanted to free his listeners and himself from the dream. But it didn’t work, because the group didn’t belong to these four men anymore. The dream wasn’t theirs to break.” As four individuals they each tried to end it, pursue new paths, and get on with the rest of their lives. Sheffield observes that the world just smiled politely and said, “I think I disagree.”

Through a series of short vignettes and essays Sheffield examines how this came to be and (with lots of detours along the way) picks apart various significant albums, songs and transitional moments and connections in their career to gradually build up a picture of why it all mattered – and why it continues to matter.

Dreaming the Beatles is often funny too, and is always an engrossing read frequently offering up interesting and entertaining opinions. Take for instance the chapter ‘Beatles or Stones?’ where the traditional rivalry between the two bands is delightfully unpacked. “The Stones flourished during the all-to-brief phase when Mick Jagger thought he was Paul McCartney.”, writes Sheffield. “‘Dandelion’ is easily the best faux-McCartney song of the Sixties. Alas, this phase has been underrated through the years, for the admittedly excellent reason that as soon as Mick gave up trying to be Paul he got ten times better at being Mick, which is when the Stones hit their prime.”

If you feel jaded about reading yet another Beatle book, pluck up the courage and seek this one out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by an author who knows his stuff, can look at the time-worn tale in new ways, understands why the story continues on, and in the end just loves the music. Like he says: “Being born on the same planet as the Beatles is one of the 10 best things that’s ever happened to me.”

Dreaming The Beatles – The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World is published by Dey Street Books (Harper Collins)

McCartney Confirms 50th Anniversary Edition of The White Album

While speaking with DIY Magazine (to publicise his new solo project Egypt Stationdue out in September), Paul McCartney confirmed that there will in fact be a 50th Anniversary Edition of the The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album):

Have you finished preparing the 50th anniversary package of that one yet?

It’s all in place, I’ve just got a couple of essays [to approve]. It’s all lined up and it’s really good.

Are there any moments you’d forgotten about when you were trawling back through the archives?

Something sparks another memory, but it’s really nice because we were a great little band – I think we can agree on that. So for me to be a part of that and to be remembering it is great; all these little things remind me of it and I do learn things.

The album itself [‘The White Album’] is very cool and it sounds like you’re in the room; that’s the great thing about doing remasters. But we’ve also got some demos of the songs, so you get things stripped right back to just John’s voice and a guitar. You just think, how fucking good was John?! Amazing. We were just doing it; it was amazing. We were having a good time.

Exact details are scarce, but it looks like on November 22 this year we will definitely see something similar to the 50th Anniversary Edition box set Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from last year – which was beautifully done.

A new mix remastered by Giles Martin and Sam Okell? Definitely some demos and studio outakes, from what Sir Paul said. The mono version of the album included? And maybe some bonus materials, including a new stereo mix of the ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’ single (like they did with ‘Strawberry Fields’/’Penny Lane’ for Pepper)?

Egypt Station – New McCartney Album Officially Announced

After the distraction yesterday that there would be a double A-side “single” released on June 20 (still no info on any physical vinyl or CD as yet), the official and bigger announcement of the new Paul McCartney album quickly followed.

Egypt Station will hit stores on September 7, but there’s not a lot of other detail to hand.

What we do know though is that there will be a bewildering array of options, and slightly different exclusives offered on McCartney’s official store websites in different countries. We’ll try to summarise these for you below:

At present there’s no detail on what differentiates a “standard” or “deluxe” version, but from what we can deduce from the various websites it is all about the packaging.

“Standard” double LPs (black vinyl and coloured vinyl) will most probably come in a regular gatefold cover. “Deluxe” double LPs (black vinyl and coloured vinyl) will come in what is described on the Australian McCartney store website as a limited edition, tri-gatefold “concertina” jacket, with a six panel canvas concertina folder. The exclusive vinyl colour is yet to be announced, but they will be 180 gram vinyl.

Also interesting is that the UK McCartney store site says that Egypt Station will be on the Virgin EMI label. We’d presume that in the USA it will be on Capitol?

For more check out the UK McCartney store, the US McCartney store, and the Australian McCartney store.

Paul McCartney appeared on BBC Radio 2 and talked about Egypt Station here.

Paul McCartney – Teaser Campaign For Latest Solo Album?

Paul McCartney’s social media sites have seen some mysterious images appear.

On Instagram in the last 12 hours we first had this – posted twice (what looks to be just a blank white page):

Many people were speculating it was something to do with an impending announcement about a release for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the The Beatles White Album. However, that post was soon followed with this black and white freehand drawing:

On Facebook it was a similar story. First the blank page was posted as his new cover photo:

Then cam this, with a notification it was his new profile picture:

The story was similar on the official Paul McCartney Twitter account – only this time no blank page, just the same freehand drawing (and notice that McCartney’s avatar image has also been changed to the same drawing):

And at the McCartney Google+ site too: 

So……what can it all mean?

One person on Reddit reckons it looks a bit like the new Apple Airplay2 logo!

We’d take an eductaed guess that it’s very likely McCartney’s rumoured new studio album. He played a track from it live in Liverpool only the other day. Just that rough smart phone recording exists, but it sounds like a pretty good song!

Also, both he and The Beatles have used extensive teaser campaigns in the past.

Remember The Beatles 1 DVD/BluRay? The recent Sgt Pepper 50th Anniversary box coloured images? And Paul McCartney’s own NEW LP and CD from 2013, plus his Pure compilation from 2016 – to name just a few. Each had multiple teasers in the lead-up to their release…..