- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

Paul McCartney

Memory Almost Full

Hear Music

On “Memory Almost Full,” Paul McCartney documents his state of mind perhaps as never before, giving his adoring fans a glimpse of the man behind the mop top. The view isn’t exactly what you’d expect.

The ageless ex-Beatle has always delighted with a jaunty, upbeat pop sensibility, which appears to spring from a jaunty, upbeat attitude toward life. His singing prowess is still nothing short of amazing, with his distinctive pitch and impressive range undiminished by the years. However, as he approaches 65, an ever-so-slightly more shadowed tone has crept into his songwriting. Despite the major-key melodies and toe-tapping rhythms, “Memory Almost Full” shows Mr. McCartney taking stock of his life, imagining his death and evaluating his legacy as an artist and a man.

Even in this context, Mr. McCartney’s signature optimism still rings out. This comes across most starkly on the track “The End of the End.” Fans will hear in the major triads a harmonic echo from the coda of “The End” from “Abbey Road” on which Mr. McCartney sings the still-unproven equation, “And, in the end, the love you take/ Is equal to the love you make.” On “The End of the End,” Mr. McCartney imagines his own final journey with the words, “At the end of the end it’s the start of a journey to a much better place/ And this wasn’t bad, so a much better place would have to be special/ No need to be sad.”

Two songs appear to delve into his failed marriage to model Heather Mills. On “Gratitude,” he sings, “Well I was lonely/ I was living with a memory/ But my cold nights ended/ When you sheltered me.” He seems to assume the blame for the end of the relationship while holding out hope for future attachment on “Ever Present Past” with the lines, “I’ve got too much on my plate/ Don’t have no time to be a decent lover/ I hope it isn’t too late.”

Doubtless, fans who are more intimate with the details of Mr. McCartney’s biography and back catalog will find much, much more to parse here. On “That Was Me,” Mr. McCartney offers a scattershot biography, summing up his childhood and musical career with admirable pith, punctuating each item on his litany with the line, “That was me.” He seems as astonished as anyone else by his own brilliant career, singing, “When I think that all this stuff can make a life, it’s pretty hard to take it in.”

There is a simplistic quality to the sentiments expressed here, but that won’t surprise anyone who has followed Mr. McCartney’s career. The knock on him as compared to John Lennon and other songwriting giants of his era has always been that his lyricism tends toward the saccharine and predictable. But Mr. McCartney isn’t writing for critics or to make new fans. More than anything else, “Memory Almost Full” comes across as a welcome love letter to those who still need him and will continue to feed him, despite his advanced age.

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