Paul McCartney Struggles To Churn Out Silly Love Songs On McCartney III

Forty years have come and gone since the release of the second entry within the self-produced McCartney series. One may wonder why a wait equivalent to a fourteenth century human lifespan was necessary. Or… one could let the feeling of gratitude wash over as at age seventy-eight, Paul McCartney continues to grace our lives with his music. Being my age, I lucked out in only living sixteen years in this world where the McCartney albums existed as a duology, or so I thought.

Upon discovering that McCartney III was to be released on December 11th (later delayed to the 18th), I was nothing short of ecstatic. With forty years in the making, this album will surely be some of, if not, McCartney’s finest work, right? Well, yes and no. I was correct in assuming that tracks on the album were written over a larger course of time. In fact, in a certain case roughly three decades ago. I was gravely mistaken in convincing myself that this would be his best work. As said by the man himself, McCartney III is a collection of until recently unfinished music, and it shows.

The album commences with “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” an acoustic driven folk tune devised to “warm up” the listener for what’s to come. It initially succeeds in doing so, but soon finds itself recycling over a grueling five minute span the same riff. That’s not to say five minutes is too much for a song, oh heavens no. It is however too much time allotted to one single riff. Subtle references to past accomplishments seem desperate, specifically the sporadic recorders tying back to The Beatles’ “Fool On The Hill.” What could have potentially been a zestful beginning has now shot itself in the foot, and we’re led into the second track, “Find My Way.” As I write these very words, I still wonder what it was that McCartney was hyping up in the first track. “Find My Way” appears to be nothing more than mediocre lyrics, overused chords, and predictable progressions. I can’t find enjoyment in hearing a Beatle, underneath downright weak lines, alternate between F and C major chords and I doubt you’ll be able to either.

Moving on we have “Pretty Boys,” a heartfelt piece that seems to reflect on McCartney’s past. When McCartney labels the pretty boys as “objects of desire,” following that with a guideline like “you can look, but you’d better not touch,” I can’t help but imagine this song was written with Beatlemania in mind.

Though it carries a wholesome message, “Women and Wives” is in nearly every aspect predictable. McCartney clearly wrote this to act as a guide for those living blissfully unaware of their effect on others. Despite that, I cannot get past this awkward and borderline embarrassing inclusion.

“Lavatory Lil” is a silly rocker that, while rather unoriginal, with its playfully old-school nature manages to provide a glimmer of hope for the remaining songs. “Slidin’,” McCartney’s exploration into more grungy territory, proves itself worthy of being featured on an Electronics Arts NHL title, but doesn’t even approach the bar set by McCartney in the past.

Opening the second side, we have the centerpiece of McCartney III, “Deep Deep Feeling.” Similar to McCartney III’s very first track, this is a well-crafted piece completely sabotaged by its running length. McCartney makes a valiant effort with this track as he explores the highs and lows brought upon us by our emotions. It’s a shame this nine-minute emotional slump couldn’t have been kept to a tame four or five minutes.

“The Kiss of Venus” may be my favorite selection off the album. It definitely places Paul’s aging voice at center stage, requiring the elderly rock legend to sing in a register that even I can’t touch. It should also be noted that this flows lyrically more than anything else on the album, though don’t let that wonderful feeling carry on for too long. “Seize The Day” comes from a wise place in McCartney’s mind but still fails to depart from the awkward theme this album carries. “Deep Down” escapes that theme yet fails to establish its own. I’m clueless in trying to find real deep meaning here. It’s unfortunately a bore.

“Winter Bird/When Winter Comes” closes the back and forth battle between quality and inadequacy that is McCartney III. The already overused riff present on the opening track returns here, albeit briefly before we’re led into the album’s only McCartney-esque track. Being recorded in 1992 with the late George Martin, McCartney’s voice shows no signs of age here. Though he sings of farm-keeping in a manner that seems to have no metaphorical value, a pleasant ditty is welcome in my heart.

Being from a time where vinyl acted as the main format for music, I’m not shocked to find that McCartney ensured a vinyl release for his fans. With this being pressed at Optimal Media in Germany, the vinyl pathway is one of great pleasantries. I expected this release to meet the advertised 180 gram claim, but I never figured it would make it up to 202 grams. Through its heft you can feel confident that the possibility of warpage is diminished, and worry not about wow and flutter as the spindle hole is perfectly centered. Not even an inaudible mark can be seen on either side. Bravo, Optimal Media, you’ve outdone yourselves once again.

The choice to release McCartney III as a gatefold was very correct. It’s a real treat to examine the photos found on the inner parts of the gatefold, all taken by the McCartney family. Only the paper inner sleeve left me dissatisfied. Don’t be fooled, the printing of lyrics and credits on paper inner sleeves does not change the fact that paper will realistically leave dozens of surface scratches.

I don’t believe that Paul’s lost his touch as he’s grown older, not even for a minute. Egypt Station, the 2018 concept album that came before McCartney III, was very enjoyable to me. It’s that which has convinced me that this album is but a blip in McCartney’s catalogue. Throughout roughly sixty years this man has given the world some of the finest music. At minimum we’ve all got one McCartney tune we cherish. I then find it rather ironic, that with an album titled after the artist’s name, he fails to sound like himself.

(Nathan Zeller is a music-adoring Beatles fanatic from the chilling lands of Western Canada. Born with a piano teacher for a father, and a teacher at a music-oriented elementary school for a mother, you could say he didn’t choose this life, rather it chose him. Currently he’s found himself consumed by schoolwork… not fun. Follow Nathan on Instagram @nathanmzeller)


DaveB's picture

Agree. Some people just don't know when to call it a day. There are blues legends who can carry on performing into the late years but they're not trying to create what is no longer inside them.

Nathan Zeller's picture

The thing is, it was just under three years ago when McCartney released Egypt Station. I didn't think he'd lost anything there. It's not as if he's been putting out mediocre albums one after the other. I feel that with the world's state leaving him unable to tour, he needed to fill his time up. I'm not sure if this album would exist if it weren't for COVID actually...

DaveB's picture

I haven't been a big fan of most of what he's done since Flaming Pie. But to each their own. I realize hard-core fans will always give him the benefit of the doubt but let us not forget he had set some lofty songwriting standards during his career.

ivansbacon's picture

This critique is measured, or colored, by the history of his past songs that are at the level of artistic masterpiece. How would one critique this album if that knowledge was absent, or if this was a debut album? Hmmm.

Should we expect every song to be great, or every album to be a masterpiece. Very few albums by any artist have every song on the album having us proclaiming the work as a whole is a masterpiece, Paul and company is/are on the short list of those that can claim to have one Masterpiece album. (Arguably more than one)

It is difficult to have our expectations met when our expectations are so high. If we set them so high then We should be open minded enough to be understanding, not be disappointed, when they are not met.

I understand that if a song is not great, or even good, then it is not great or good and critiquing it as such is justified. Just food for thought.

Nathan Zeller's picture

It may have seemed as if my verdict was based off of McCartney III being compared to past work. That was not intended. I more used the tool of comparison to help readers get an idea of how much they might enjoy this album.

After listening I can truthfully say that this album is one I wouldn't revisit, but wouldn't cover my ears if someone were to play it around me. My scoring was derived from how I found the album to stand on its own, not in comparison to the rest of McCartney's catalogue.

ivansbacon's picture

I was not saying your critique was wrong or right or unjustified, I appreciate its candor. Just food for thought.

Lazer's picture

If one has a good track record, the bar is set. If I were to do a poor job on an assignment at work, I would be asked, “what’s up with this? we know you are better because we are use to so much better from you.”

mraudioguru's picture

...really like it.

Tom L's picture

is still better than 98% of the new pop music I hear.

M1chael's picture

There’s probably not many bigger Beatles or McCartney fans than me out there, but I’m a lover of music first. Paul’ first 5 solo albums were his finest, very good but no great. That greatness left with Lennon. By Venus & Mars there were cracks in the armor and it was pretty much down hill from there. With the possible exception of Tug of War & Flowers in the Dirt I don’t listen to anything after Venus. There’s a lot of good songs on most of the albums I bothered to listen to, he should have relegated himself to singles and EP’s or less albums. Let’s face it, a large part of his appeal was his great voice, which barely hung in there though Flowers. So even if this was his best song writing I wouldn’t listen because of his voice, give the songs to someone who can sing. There’s too much great music made in the last 100 years to listen to mediocre albums. I hope I’m not being to harsh or hurting anyone’s feelings, but every artist seems to go though the same damn thing.
Thanks Mike R.

Lazer's picture

Do go through the same damn thing. And then bounce back the way Dylan did this past year with “Rough and Rowdy ways.” I love that album.

PeterPani's picture

doing this record. Seems, he sat in his studo and played around with all possibilities and due to COVID had nothing else to do. Being with himself the music is different from all his output since 2000.
I played the vinyl already several times and it did not land in the rubbish bin yet. So that is a good sign (8 out of 10 vinyl records I buy go into the rubbish bin, I guess - I free the space from bad vinyl... it feels good to own good records only).
I would buy this one again (and yes, everything else of McCartney since 2000 I throw away, I have to admit).

Zardoz's picture

how about sending those to me, so that I can hear them without losing a fortune.

PeterPani's picture

I could sell the records, too. But the effort for posting the parcels is too much.

Tom L's picture

If you don't have any used record stores in your area you could at least donate them to Goodwill or another charity. Throwing away playable LPs that would be useful to a charity and that someone else might enjoy is a terrible thing to do. Please rethink your wasteful and irrational behavior.

PeterPani's picture

there are no shops around for giving away of used records. The few we have are happy if I do not bring new records, because they are small and out of space, otherwise I would.

Tom L's picture

but it still seems strange that nobody wants to accept your LPs for free as they take up virtually no space. A pretty sad situation all around.

Analogue+Fan's picture

If this recording is digital and compressed, why in Analog-Planet.

Nathan Zeller's picture

You're right, this record is digitally sourced. It is also compressed, although to my knowledge basically every recording needs to be at least a little compressed to fit onto a vinyl record, even analogue recordings.

Despite that, vinyl is still technically an analogue format. There is no conversion from digital during playback, the music is still engraved into PVC like it always was. If we were to stop reviewing albums that had digitization along the way (or the whole way), there'd be a lot less to read. We live in a digital world, and that includes our recording technology, but vinyl is still an analogue format regardless.

Analogue+Fan's picture

Okay, those who support digital recordings, and digital playbacks, are interesting in 2021 (using the Super Master Clocks Generators)
But the world is not totally digital.
In the end, the misconception remains that there are no analogue recording studios.

Michael Fremer's picture
I wish I'd first published this but I didn't. Mastering engineer Dave McNair's piece is something you ought to read. We publish reviews of records sourced both from analog and digital and even those that are compressed. Music first. Sound second but there are many great vinyl records digitally sourced that sound better than the file from which it's made just as many records sourced from tape sound better than the tape...."accuracy" is a load of bologna.
xtcfan80's picture

Instead of waiting and hoping Paul comes up with another Let It Be or Yesterday, and degrading his work of the past 50 years, maybe it would be a good idea to celebrate some of great songwriters who have filled the void....John Prine, Andy Partridge and Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell and Anaïs Mitchell all are revered around my house.

Anton D's picture

I miss my review blasts!

PeterPani's picture

we need him!

Michael Fremer's picture
He did not retire...but he's taking some time off to seriously concentrate on school and he's expected back here, hopefully in a few weeks. Meanwhile I think young Nathan Zeller is doing great work!
Anton D's picture

I should have mentioned in the same breath that I enjoy Nathan's work, as well.

WesHeadley's picture

I've been listening to McCartney's music my entire life starting with the Beatles. I understood early on that the solo careers of each of the Beatles would probably never exceed or even match the genius level of their output as a group-- so I never looked for that in their solo work. I just took it in as new music, occasionally acknowledging that some of the songs were "good enough" IMO to have made the cut for a Beatles album. For example, a song like 'Dominos' from Egypt Station could have easily appeared on any number of Beatles albums and it would have not felt at all out of place.

Now here I am listening to McCartney III in 2020, all these years later, still trying to listen without prejudice, to just experience this work for what it is. It is a beautiful solo record made with skill, love, passion, and a wisdom that this artist has acquired over all of these years. Time is reflected in art. Bent and folded, hammered and polished into the timeless, but always connected to the times from which it came.

There is power in this work that comes from the long arc of McCartney's life as an artist. It's hard to put this feeling to words, but I feel it.

I would never judge a work of art like this by comparing the singing of anyone today with how they sounded more than half a century ago. Why bother? Paul sings beautifully as a 79 year old man, and that singing works with this collection of songs. It just feels right.

I've listened to this album maybe 4-5 times now. I find I enjoy it more with each play. Maybe I'm not totally amazed, but I am definitely appreciative and grateful that we got this excellent album-- released during the darkest period of my lifetime-- it has helped me to find a little peace and a little joy. Things that are worth a hell of a lot to me right now.

It is a beautiful work of art from, clearly, one of the best songwriters that has ever lived-- and I am not an obsessive collector or a fanboy to anyone.

Gratitude, that what I feel when I think about this record. Gratitude.

Nathan Zeller's picture

At the end of the day, music is all about emotional connection. The fact that this album is acting as a crutch through some tough times is nothing short of amazing! I hope things begin to get better for you and those you love, hang in there.

WesHeadley's picture

This has been a one hell of a year. My hope is that our country can heal and come together again. That people can come to believe in our country again. That we REALLY deal with the multi-front-crisis we're facing, and learn to respect each other again.

We've been divided for a long time. We have to get past that somehow. No matter who won the election, in this case Biden, my deepest wish is that they, with our help, will succeed in breaking the back of this pandemic and rebuilding, together, our country-- each, according to his or her means.

We can walk backwards into the future, reacting to what's happened, or we can turn around and face it, and walk into it together. To me, this is the difference between hope and despair.

I don't like to complain about my hardships because other people are burdened with so much more.

I want to live in a country where we have each other's backs again. Where we can ALL be Americans again. Where we can all be proud of our country again. That was where we were when my life began and it's what I hope to see again before it's over.

ravenacustic's picture

I never got past the first track. Actually I never got through the first track, Talk about being out of gas.

Anton D's picture

Hope you get better and don't feel so out of gas!

Not getting through the first song can also be a sign of audiophila.

WesHeadley's picture

No. It does not. I have a fairly decent front end, with a couple of good turntables (SOTA Star Sapphire series VI, & a MoFi Ultradeck) and cartridges that range from $500 to about $9,000 (Soundsmith Hyperion, Soundsmith Paua, MoFi MasterTracker)-- and in every case the record sounds clear, warm, and dynamic enough that I never think about compression while listening to it. It just sounds good. The pressing quality (the green vinyl release in my case) is excellent. Flat, clean, and quiet. I really don't get all the nitpicking-- and I'm a pretty OCD kind of guy when it comes to vinyl.

Nathan Zeller's picture

It's always refreshing to see someone else with MoFi electronics on here. They make some excellent stuff.

How have you found the MasterTracker? I've heard it's outstanding for a moving magnet cartridge and even compares to some moving coils that are double and even triple the price.

WesHeadley's picture

When I listen to music I try to ignore the gear and just "be there" as much as I can. All I can say about the MasterTracker is that it makes the music sound engaging and fun. I miss nothing. I can hear the nuanced differences and micro-detail that the Soundsmith Hyperion delivers, and it certainly is an amazing cartridge, a real joy to listen to, but when I'm listening with the MasterTracker, I just don't care. Both of those cartridges connect me to the moment, to the music, and I'm happy. There is a certain drive and forcefulness that seems to come a bit more from the moving magnet design that I find very appealing. I like them both about equally. The Soundsmith Paua is also wonderful, a tiny bit warmer than the Hyperion, and also a joy to listen to, but I'm happy enough with the other two that I don't find myself using that cartridge as much. There really isn't a damn thing wrong with any of them. Did you read the Stereophile article on several inexpensive cartridges last month (the ATI in particular)? That was a real eye-opener for me.

Lazer's picture

By Herb Reichert. I bought the Audio-Technica based on his review and have been enjoying it now for a couple of weeks. Very good indeed. His review of the diy phono preamp the month before also is on my wish list.

Nathan Zeller's picture

No, I haven't read that one, which is strange because I visit that site quite often. Could you share a link to it? I'd be very interested to check it out.

WesHeadley's picture


It's a really good article.


M1chael's picture

Gratitude is what I feel when I think of this record too, I’m grateful it’s not a double album. As for ALL being Americans again, that’s in the hands of the corrupt politicians and the corrupt media. Being American means voicing your opinion without being ostracized, a dictator’s tactic is to stifle his opposition. Paul sings beautiful at age 79, imagine how good he’ll sound twenty years from now. Each to his own, enjoy the album.
Regards, Mike R

Lazer's picture

You just lost all credibility.

Ethan's picture

After this many years of producing what, at least I believe, are some profound works, I really don't believe it's fair to let any one negative mark change our opinions on Mr. McCartney.

Though I most definitely share in your opinion of the songs on McCartney III showing more resemblance to what could be best be described as an elementary love devotion in the form of a song, when you look back on his other works such as Band On the Run, he's clearly a skilled man as we all know.

Perhaps this is a fluke, maybe he's used up his fuel in his 78 long years of life. We can't know until we get to hear more of the work he's capable of in his "golden years."

madfloyd's picture

I really enjoyed this album, more more so than Egypt. I would never say it's his best, but it doesn't deserve the bashing that Nathan has given.

Andy Tebbe's picture

Regarding Find My Way, the review says: "I can’t find enjoyment in hearing a Beatle, underneath downright weak lines, alternate between F and C major chords".
Wow. I mean, just F and C chords... that truly would be lazy.
So I checked.
Listening to Find My Way, we hear:
Fmajor, Cmajor, Dminor, Cmajor
Fmajor, Cmajor, Dminor, Cmajor
E-flat major, D minor
E-flat major, D minor
Db major
C major
Near the end, we hear an F-6 with an added 9. Nice.
That's a lot more than just F and C.
To be fair: is this review of McCartney III essentially insightful and correct? Maybe.
But does the criticism about chords apply here? No. It’s bullshit.

Michael Fremer's picture
It's "mistaken"?