Run Devil Run

Paul McCartney

Capitol Records, 1999

http://www.paulmccartney.com

REVIEW BY: George Agnos

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/11/2000

Can we finally put the rest the opinion that Paul McCartney can't rock anymore?

If his latest CD, Run Devil Run, doesn't put that silly thought to rest, nothing will. This CD consists mostly of rock and roll covers from McCartney's youth (three songs are McCartney originals), and he and his band almost burn down the studio with some blistering performances.

McCartney's last pop CD, Flaming Pie, revealed a performer energized to make music again. This one ups the ante considerably in intensity. And yes, he does rock. His tendancy for cutesyness is nowhere to be found on this CD, and that is good news for people who think less of his work because of it.

The song selection for Run Devil Run goes more for obscure songs from fifties rock and roll and that works in its favor because avoiding the more well-known tunes from the era makes the CD seem fresh. If you're familiar with "No Other Baby" from the British skiffle band The Vipers, then you're good. Probably the most familiar cut on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Run Devil Run is "All Shook Up," a big hit for Elvis Presley. McCartney's version rocks with conviction.

Another Elvis Presley hit "I Got Stung" rocks relentlessly, reminding me of George Thorogood's covers of Chuck Berry. And speaking of Berry, his song "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" is included, but there is a twist. McCartney and the band turn this into a zydeco song (!). Believe it or not, this works out very well. Kudos for such an inspired arrangement.

That is the only time that Run Devil Run deviates from straight rock. The rest of the CD splits between authentic fifties arrangements and a more modern approach. McCartney's band includes Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on guitar and Deep Purple's Ian Paice on drums, so the "classic rock" treatment of the material should come as no surprise. The more raucous cuts on the CD even remind me of Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll," which was their take on good old fashioned rock.

McCartney gives us what sound to these ears like faithful renditions of Gene Vincent's brand of rockabilly on "Blue Jean," and Carl Perkins' countryish charm on "Movie Magg." In a somewhat amusing turn, McCartney imitates Fats Domino's singing on "Coquette." Pete Wingfield does a nice job of faithfully recreating Domino's piano style, and it is charming enough to avoid parody, but just barely.

Run Devil Run does include two ballads. "No Other Baby" sounds a lot like the Badfinger song "Day After Day" but slowed down a little bit. Even better is the Ricky Nelson song "Lonesome Town." McCartney belts this one out in a bluesy way that I couldn't imagine Nelson ever doing. I consider this ballad among all the rockers to be the highlight of the CD.

As for the three McCartney originals, the title song is a winner. It is a slightly tongue and cheek story song that rocks along at a furious pace. "What It Is" is a more leisurely blues-rock number that slowly percolates. Only "Try Not To Cry" falls short, sounding very ordinary compared to the heavy hitters on this CD.

Mostly, Run Devil Run is pure joy. This may not be among the greatest recordings in McCartney's career, but it's obvious he is having fun here and that feeling is infectious. And sometimes, it's OK for music to just be fun.

Rating: A-

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© 2000 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.