PAUL McCARTNEY -- Flaming Pie (Capitol)

When I first heard that Paul McCartney was releasing a new album, my initial reaction was one of skepticism. All the press reports talked about how he was doing this album strictly 'for the fun of it,' and how he wanted to keep the publicity low-keyed, etc. I was still skeptical. His last few albums have been less than spectacular, and I had no reason to believe this one would be any different. As it turns out, Flaming Pie is the best thing he's done in years. Aside from a few special guests here and there, McCartney plays all the instruments on the CD himself too.

The new songs range from acoustic vignettes to rockers and R&B-influenced tunes. "The Song We Were Singing" starts the CD. An acoustic tune with a great melody, the track practically imbeds itself into your brain from the first time you hear it. The first US single, "The World Tonight," was originally written as a folk song while McCartney was on vacation, and then beefed up by Jeff Lynne. "Somedays" is a poignant, acoustic tune written in a mere two hours. George Martin's orchestration on the song makes it one of the CD's highlights.

The first single in the rest of the world is "Young Boy," one of several songs featuring Steve Miller on vocals and guitar. "It was great to renew my 60's friendship with Steve Miller," said McCartney. "Working with Steve again was like falling into an old habit." After working together on "Young Boy," Miller was anxious to continue the collaboration. He suggested that they do something in a 'Texas blues' vein. He showed up for the next session with "millions of little blues riffs." McCartney got behind the drum kit and they started to jam. This jam eventually became "Used to Be Bad," a duet co-written by the two of them.

McCartney played most of the instruments on "Heaven on a Sunday," but he got his son James to help out on the song's electric guitar solo. McCartney said, "I played the acousticy sort of thing, like an old blues guy, and left the Young Turk to play the hot electric stuff." Another highlight on Flaming Pie is "Souvenir," an R&B-flavored track resembling "Call Me Back Again," a song from his days with Wings. Ringo Starr appears on two songs, and co-wrote one with McCartney. Although the song is nothing spectacular, it's the first time the two ex-Beatles have written a song together.

At Linda's request, Flaming Pie features some of the heaviest guitar playing McCartney has done in years. His songwriting is fresh and inspired, better than it has been since his days in Wings the mid-70's. There are still a few sappy tunes here and there, but the good songs far outnumber the bad. If you're a Beatles fan, or a McCartney fan, don't miss this one.

© 1997 Steve Marshall