I did not want Paul McCartney’s past or his future to dictate how I listened to "Egypt Station." I didn't think that would be fair to either the fan or the artist. I didn't want to compare it to anything and I didn't want to like it simply because Paul is a Beatle and he is getting old. I just wanted to listen to new music from Paul McCartney. This was not an easy task. Facts are facts.
So what about the music on "Egypt Station?" After three focused passes, I will say that I like it. I really do.
Like most records since the invention of the compact disc, it is too long. But even saying that seems wrong. If I was asked before its release if I wanted a 38 minute version or a 60 minute version, of course I would have opted for the latter. But it is those extra 22 minutes that turn "Egypt Station" from a great record into a good record.
McCartney is finally sounding his age, and on the ballads, like "Hand In Hand" and the gorgeous opener, which was also the first song dropped one month ago, "I Don't Know," it is very effective. "Happy With You" is vying for the same vibe as "Blackbird" or the exquisite "Jenny Wren" from "Chaos & Creation In The Backyard." It is not as good as either, but still a great piece of acoustic Paul, closer to the feel of "Early Days" from his last release, "New."
I said I didn't want to compare this record to anything, but it's just too hard not to. A number of songs feel like modern rewrites of songs that could have appeared on "The White Album" and "Abbey Road." Dominoes," "Do It Now," and "Despite Repeated Warnings" all begin with chords and arrangements that bring to mind late Beatles, and in the case of the latter, Wings. Same with the medley, "Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link." There is a lot happening on Side Four. It will keep you on your toes, for better or worse.
A favorite, "Caesar Rock" sung as "She's A Rock" is a three minute blast with chords lifted from "Temporary Secretary," and a twisted arrangement, with screams and howls and a groove that won't quit.
There is a lot to like on "Egypt Station." The production, as one friend pointed out, is neither looking back nor forward. It is a bullseye. And for the wincing and groaning over "Fuh You," if that song was called "For You," it would be hard not to recognize that Paul McCartney has created a solid radio hit for 2018, on his way to 77 years old. Unfortunately, it is called "Fuh You" and that's that.
As for the filler, "Back In Brazil," is a musical postcard that simply doesn't fit well. "Who Cares"is a typical throwaway rocker that Sir Paul writes while he's writing something else. Even "People Want Peace," another attempt at an anthem, is not bad. It is actually "All You Need Is Love" compared to "Freedom."
How many more times do you think we will be able to ask our friends, “Did you hear the new McCartney record?” A friend said this to me as we both expressed our excitement over the arrival of “Egypt Station." The answer is, not too many more. That is a sad reality.
I am happy with "Egypt Station," but I was hoping to be happier. I feel spoiled. I know many will rake me over the coals for saying that, but that's how I feel after rediscovering "Chaos & Creation" and "Memory Almost Full." And let's not forget, 1995's "Flaming Pie," which I thought was fantastic right out of the gate. And what about "New" from 2013? All of these records, at least after three passes through "Egypt Station," do it for me more than this new one. But "Egypt Station" should not be dismissed. There is a lot to love here.
Paul is not dead. This is an artist who still has plenty to say. Let's listen while we can.