Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Shake it. Baby don't break it.

I am an unabashed a fan of the album Band On The Run. There - I said it. It feels good to let it out. Unlike many other 70's LPs that came into my collection back in the day (including several by Wings), this is a record that I still listen to, and always with a big smile on my face. In Geoff Emerick's must-read Here, There, and Everywhere not only does he cover his engineering days with The Beatles from Revolver through Abbey Road but he also includes a chapter on his experiences as producer for BOTR.

One of Paul's crazier ideas was to record his next record in a small EMI studio in a tropical land far away from the UK. Only after he had signed up as producer did Mr. Emerick learn that the studio was in fact in Lagos, Nigeria. Paul had recently ejected Wing's drummer and lead guitarist, leaving only the core of Paul and Linda, and the ever-faithful Denny Laine. Upon arrival in Lagos the hardy travellers were met with hostile locals, flooding monsoon rains, and a recording studio which was - shall we say - something less than modern.

In the process Paul pulled himself together to write what is likely his finest collected batch of post-Beatles songs. No worries about his departed band mates - Paul was more than up to the task of playing drums and guitar along with his vocals and always stellar bass work. And no solo McCartney or Wings record ever sounded as good as this album. Whatever was in the water in Lagos, Paul should go back for another drink.

The album closing track, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five finds Mr. McCartney in a rockier groove with a super fine bass sound. Then there are the lovely vocal harmony sections that weld together all the pieces. When the final buildup occurs at about 3:45, the smile on my face gets so big that my moustache touches the bottom of my reading glasses. Brass, synthesizer, piano, bass, and a final explosion that leads back to a reprise of the Band On The Run chorus. Thank you Paul -- all memory of At The Speed of Sound has been erased.


Holly A Hughes said...

I am SOOOO with you on this. I think it's the best post-Beatles solo record by any of the Fab Four; heresy as it may seem, I'd even say it's equal to many Beatles album. And I bet the exotic setting was a big part of it -- like it supplied a coherent context to set off all Paul's eclectic musical strains. (I've been listening lately to the Parisian cafe sound on "Picasso's Last Days / Drink To Me"). Don't you think there's a little Moroccan twist to Paul's vocal on "No one's ever left alive / In nineteen hundred and eighty five"? The energy, the confidence, the creative freedom of this album is astounding. And you can dance to it!

Alex said...

Absolutely. This is a masterpiece (reminding us of what Paul is capable of and making his sub-par efforts seem all the more disappointing)!

I read somewhere recently that Paul and Linda were mugged shortly after arriving in Lagos and Paul's handwritten notes with lyrics and chord changes were stolen (and likely dumped in some anonymous city garbage can). With studios booked, Paul had to scramble to write new songs to make up for the lost ones he couldn't remember.

Thinking back on how many great Beatle songs were written when they were under the gun and had to produce something, I wish Sir Paul had these kinds of deadlines more often.

tbrough said...

Along with Ram, my favorite of Paul's solo albums.

Mister Pleasant said...

I agree wholeheartedly Tim - Ram and Band and the Run are the peak.

I guess we are both heretics Holly. For me, Band On the Run is as close as any of the ex-Beatles ever got to duplicating the splendor of their group work.