Some recent releases that tempted me mainly for old and sentimental reasons and with mixed results:
Paul McCartney: Pure McCartney
With the lure of Lennon having faded, McCartney is now widely seen as the great Beatle, the one with the musical breadth and depth of a true master – and one who has spawned a remarkable and enduring solo career.
Pure McCartney (Concord) is a 39-track double CD covering his solo years (alone and with his band Wings), a compilation handpicked and sequenced by McCartney himself and remastered to a state of supreme sonic niceness.
There’s an awful lot of great music in here, along with a fair amount of awful music. I like the way the collection opens and closes with songs from McCartney’s perfect one-man-band first album, the gospel-intense Maybe I’m Amazed and the supremely laidback Junk.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty of the bleeding obvious (Band on the Run, Jet, Live and Let Die, My Love, Silly Love Songs, Let Me Roll It), but also some strong songs from the corners, side projects and the later albums, which haven’t had the attention of his earlier releases.
And, or course, there’s Mull of Kintyre and the truly appalling Ebony and Ivory, but that’s the trouble with McCartney, the cheeseball who happens to be a genius.
Santana: Santana IV
I have a weakness for early Santana, the exciting mix of boiling Latino percussion, throaty Hammond organ and Carlos Santana’s sky-scraping solo guitar flights. So when I spotted that this new album featured the original core line-up from Woodstock days, I fell for it, though I shouldn’t have.
It does sound good, but only for a while – and mainly so long as no one’s singing. The lyrics are terrible shouty rockist nonsense. The best moments on Santana IV are the handful of subtle instrumental ones, like the delicate Suenos, but there aren’t enough of them and the album’s too long and too slick for its own good. You can go back, but you can’t go back all the way. Which is the essential problem with going back. As countless famous old bands have found.
Mudcrutch: Mudcrutch 2
In a world filling up with dreadful band names, Mudcrutch should win some sort of small medal, though they are slightly famous for other reasons. Mudcrutch was the band that pre-dated Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a still-mighty force for old fashioned heart-quickening rock music.
Mudcrutch was two members different, being Petty (on vocals and bass), guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboards player Benmont Tench plus drummer Randall Marsh and guitarist Tom Leadon.
A few years back, for old time’s sake, the band reformed and made an album, which got enough attention for them to follow up with this more thought-through one. And it’s not half bad.
And that’s mainly because, with Petty writing and singing seven of the 11 new songs on Mudcrutch 2 (Reprise), it sounds a lot like a new Heartbreakers album, especially when it sails off into the wide blue yonder, as it does particularly on a major new Petty ballad called Beautiful Blue.
The album’s weaknesses centre round the decision to let each of the other boys write and sing a song apiece. But then that might be why the old band split up in the first place.