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Paul McCartney’s “Driving Rain” Reviewed

Driving Rain is to McCartney what Heather Mills is to Linda Eastman -they are both, more or less, new love albums, both are directed towards a new emotional world order, both exult in the charms of a woman. But Heather Mills wasn’t Linda Eastman and his attempts to recast Heather as his savior failed to take into account that she was her own woman and as tough as nails. The heart of the album, the bluesy “About You,” the instrumental “Heather,” the hopelessly mislead “Back In The Sunshine Again,”  and the piano ballad “Your Loving Flame,” were not very good at the time, and today sound like a failed attempt to give heat to the desire McCartney has always been able to convey.

McCartney considered the quickly written, arranged, and recorded by a small piece combo, a sister to the vastly superior Run Devil Run. The album, the #34 if you’re keeping count at home, isn’t heavy, and with one exception, isn’t stupid, his bass playing is exemplary, the energy level off the charts. But the songs aren’t very good, his tunefulness doesn’t much happen, and while some of his skills are used, most of them are given short shrift. Lyrically it is a complete dead end, and if McCartney’s love for Mills at the time was true, still it has some deep seated dismay to it. McCartney is a solipsistic lover, it is always that he is amazed not at how great she is but how great she is to him:

“You give me power to get out of bed
When in the morning I`m feeling dead
Living and loving there`s a lot to be said it`s true”

“About You” would have to be around a million times better to sell those lyrics.

It’s not all bad, three of the first four songs are very good. Especially the early “She’s Given Up Talking” followed by the title track, “Driving Rain”. The latter is the picture of the recklessness of new love. Still, for such an old pro the album seems to run away from him.

To leave the worst for last, Paul’s “Freedom” -a response to 9-1, with its tautologic punchline, “I will fight for my right for freedom” has been dismissed by many (including Eric Clapton who seemed simply aghast at McCartney’s suggestion they perform it together at the MSG benefit concert). Paul himself claimed that President Bush’s warmongering changed the way his song was perceived. None of that was the problem, not even the simplistic rationale for war, the problem with “Freedom” was the song, debatably the worst he has ever written, a simpleton’s vision of rock panic.

There are things that alright about Driving rain, it is a lively exercise in rock and roll minimalism, but the songs don’t stand up to scrutiny and he never plays them anyway. Having said that, his very next album of new material would be the best of the 21st century.

Grade: C

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