Band On The Run
Capitol Records, 1973
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/11/2005
What I'm about to say may sound crazy to folks under 25, but hear me out: after the Beatles broke up, Paul McCartney did not get much respect.
Yes, for many years, the man who wrote "Yesterday" and "Hey Jude" received no props. Personally, I don't understand why. All Macca wanted to do was write pop-rock songs. I think even he knew that the "Beatles success" was not going to happen to him again as a solo artist, so the man just wanted to have some fun. No artistic pretensions such as those found in Lennon and Harrison's initial solo efforts -- just great-sounding music. What is so wrong with that?
Band On The Run was a jab at the critics who had disliked McCartney's initial solo albums. As a result, the populace got a record that was accessible but avant-garde in its finer moments, recalling the kind of music McCartney used to be able to make without even trying. His talent that makes most of this album work, and even though lyrically it's not great musically it's carried out with breezy precision.
The proceedings get off to a great start with one of McCartney's best songs ever, "Band On The Run." Paul's gift for melody is clearly evident hear, as the song shifts from a slow, pastoral start to a Moog synthesizer-influenced section and finally to the folksy, remaining bulk of the song. I've always enjoyed Paul's vocals for this number; he goes through a series of "voices" to great effect.
If "Band On The Run" wasn't good enough for you, the follow up, "Jet," should just about do it. It's hard to describe this track, but it's one of McCartney's best rock efforts. The bouncing horn interjections and shouted refrain are bound to get anyone moving. Thoroughly enjoyable also is the decidedly '70s -- with a hint of Todd Rundgren -- "Bluebird."
Those are just the first three tracks; there is something to be found in every track on this album for those who appreciate good pop-rock. Maybe it's the acoustic, minor-key jaunt of "Mrs. Vandebilt," the balls-out "Helen Wheels" or the gospel/R&B/blues-inspired "Let Me Roll It" -- a response to John Lennon's 1971 attack of "How Do You Sleep" -- that will grab your fancy. There are so many highlights to be found that citing them becomes redundant.
The two slip-ups are the last two songs. Most of Band On The Run is tightly paced, but "Picasso's Last Words (Drink To Me)" and "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five" start to meander in their final moments. I don't care much for the waltzy conclusion to "Picasso's," which incorporates parts of some earlier tracks, and the closing "1985" defeats the purpose of the album in that it tries too hard to be epic, using a "wall of sound" approach somewhat foreign to Paul's music. It wasn't necessary to end the album this way, despite the five seconds of the title tune that fade the track out, giving this the feeling of a cycle.
The final two numbers aside, Band On The Run is pure gold, showcasing Paul McCartney at his best. It also helps dispel the notion that Wings was merely a side band, as there is a strong cohesiveness to the music that implies a close working relationship between the former Beatle and everyone else. So if you're looking for an album to play while driving down the road or are not sure where to start your solo Paul collection, look no further than this disc.