Paul McCartney is one of those rare performers that have seeds of greatness within him; whether they sprout in any one album of his or not, they’re there. With his contributions to The Beatles and to Wings, and within the span of his solo careers, Paul McCartney has much to be proud of. Music being what it is today, it is already a difficult thing to find an audience. McCartney’s real audience is an aged one, despite the many young folks who claims that they understand the music. The fact is, many of the aged crowds have checked out where music is concerned even if it is created by one as old as they are. It is a sad but immutable truth. Go ahead, argue away…but if you do, think real hard on how much music you actually listen to today including your old stuff. And so, even if Paul McCartney brings us back to the genius of his classic melodies in any of his new albums, we may not recognize them.
Memory Almost Full is not a bad album…but it isn’t classic Paul McCartney in any sense of the word. However, there are touches of the past in this album, musically speaking, including one ‘stay-with-it’ song in “Only Mama Knows.” It begins with a string arrangement that runs for 46-seconds (yes, I counted) before it turns into a Wings-like “Junior’s Farm” tune. And yes, it is quite good. But three songs before this one are interesting tunes in different ways.
The album opens with “Dance Tonight,” a simple arrangement that uses familiar McCartney “…jailer man/sailor sam…” lyrics with a chorus that offers, “…you can come over to my place if you want to/You can do anything you wanna do…,” catchy but not lasting. The second song, “Ever Present Past,” is a look at the present and the realization that time is passing and we should be paying attention to the now. Good philosophy. And since I look for bits of wisdom in older artists’ music and words, it captured my attention. This helps to gratify me with artists, that I can also extract some piece of wisdom encased in a nice melody. “Ever Present Past” is that easily enough.
“Gratitude” is an R & B flavoured song, again, one that has mild interest. I particularly like “Feet in the Clouds” as it shows the strength of McCartney in a tune that concentrates on what he is capable of today even if not a perfect McCartney tune. “The House of Wax” is a stronger measure of the previous statement. Paul brings this new album to a near close with “The End of the End,” a song that addresses death as he recognizes a winding down of life even if several more decades might be tacked on, he will be older than 65 and yes, that is kind of a bench-mark. It is also the closest to a Beatles song on this album. “Nod Your Head” is a short but good song and is the album’s actual closer.
Memory Almost Full is not as strong as his Grammy-nominated Chaos and Creation in the Backyard but it will have its place. As usual, there will be those that like it and those that do not. With Memory Almost Full, we do well to look at the progression of McCartney rather than try to recapture some of the former styles that we’re all familiar with. We all change and Paul McCartney should not held to trying to replicate his past for our pleasure even if we’d prefer that somewhat. But we do want evidence of that musical and lyrical strength. Memory Almost Full has moments in it that takes you back, and moments that push you forward.