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Paul McCartney’s ” Choba B CCCP” Reviewed

Paul McCartney’s 19th album, a 50s oldies but goldies cover album recorded live in the studio, initially for distribution solely in the USSR, isn’t very good except for two things: Paul is in great voice for one, and it leads directly to his greatest solo achievement bar none, Run Devil Run, eleven years later, for another. Listen to opening song “Kansas City” and compare it to his version on The Beatles For Sale. What gives? The Beatles have an absolute thrill of performance, and had been performing the Leiber Stoller masterpiece since the kick off of their professional career, The Beatles jump on the song, McCartney ripped into it, the tiredness that plagued For Sale disappeared and it remains a highlight of a great album. Solo, McCartney can’t seem to get the mojo back, he sings it very well, this is McCartney country, but he doesn’t dig deep enough, his growl is missing something. The band are missing a beat, too slow, too careful, and they are a GREAT BAND.

Day one, July 20th, 1987,  in the studio featured some truly awesome UK musicians. Lead guitarist Mick Green is an astonishing rocker, he had performed with Johnny Kidd  And The Pirates,  Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, and Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. Green began as a teenager playing with a skiffle band who came in second to (wait for it) THE QUARRYMEN in a battle of the bands. This guy lived the thing.  Mick Gallagher was Ian Dury And The Blockheads organist and Chris Whitten was Macca’s everyday drummer. The very next day, Paul switched from bass to guitar and pub rockers the Motors and Ducks Deluxe bassist Nick Garvey took over the duties, and Henry Spinetti (Victor Spinetti’s kid brother… so Beatles is in his DNA) took over on drums. There is no excuse for this album not to happen. It had to happen. It was built to happen. Sometimes you can spend the day sprinkling fairy dust and still no.

I make it sound like Back In The USSR (its English name) was a disaster, it wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t a masterpiece. Lennon’s Rock And Roll, for all its messed up drinking and drugging, was much truer to the spirit of rock and roll. There is no thrill of creation here, there is no taking something and moving it towards you, the covers are statics. Nobody claims that covering “Ain’t That A Shame” is for the weak of heart, and Paul really gets it, the coda is a wail of pain,  you can hear that catch rasp in his voice, still the band plods. Two Presley covers should be enough to get your upper lip twitching, and nobody knows Presley better than Paulie, it’s a great match. Neither “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” nor “That’s Alright Mama” are good enough, they don’t do justice here whatsoever, not close. Where is the fucking groove? McCartney growls and you can’t hear why on “Mama”. The best song of the set is the lesser known Bo Diddley  “Crackin’ Up,” which has some of the sweet strangeness of “Love Is Strange”. Otherwise, these are less than memorable covers of rock and roll greats.

But like I said at the top, when McCartney came to Run Devil Run he knew exactly what not to do, not to mistake spontaneity for inspiration, and we got a straight up masterpiece.

Grade: B-

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