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Paul McCartney’s “Flaming Pie” Reviewed

It isn’t just the irritating way Paul sings “intricacies” at the top of album # 25, 1997’s Flaming Pie, and it isn’t that McCartney’s powers slackening at all, the 1999 follow up would be his best album ever, or that the four years between Off The Ground had cause rusts –he spent the time on The Beatles Anthology. It’s two other things:

1 – Flaming Pie is remembered as a masterpiece, and it isn’t.

2 – Working on Anthology had caused a bad case of nostalgia, and McCartney, a sentimentalist at the best of time, kept on tripping himself up.

The result was Flaming Pie’s lead off song “The Song we were Singing” –an embarrassment of gooey cupidity that manages, for the second time (“Here Today”) to prove he can’t handle the assignment. It is not impossible to write about Lennon’s murder Paul Simon did it on “The Late Great Johnny Ace” and Elton John did it on “Empty Garden,” but Harrison couldn’t, he devolved into a puddle of hero worship mush, and McCartney keeps on playing coy on tributes that should be as tough meat as… well as the frantic and lost “won’t you come out to play, Johnny, in an empty garden”: a line from a song that is a daymare, it crashes in on you. McCartney can’t deal with it (he has never managed to write about Linda’s death and ended up using “Lonesome Town” as not her epitaph but his reflection on his pain). This also is just Paul’s nature. In a probable apocryphal story, the fifteen year old McCartney’s first words on hearing that his mother had died was “What will we do for money?” It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t true, he didn’t say it, because what it says about him, not greed, but a world that he saw through his own needs and perceptions, is true. It was true on “Here Today,” which is about Paul imagining talking to Lennon today, and “The Song We Were Singing,” which is about McCartney remembering talking to Lennon in the 1960s. Of course, it doesn’t ring true, and doubtlessly he sounds like a right jackass then and now, but it’s the slippery vocals, a sort of second guessing at their own naivety which is downright horrible.

The album steadies itself right after with “The World Tonight” and tops that with “Calico Skies,” McCartney is very good at his English folk sound (so was Lennon: remember “Cry Baby Cry”) and so is Paul here, written on Long Island during a hurricane in 1991, it is more acoustic singer songwriter than, say, “English Tea,” but it is a gentle song, very admirable. George Martin produced.

The rest of the album isn’t as good, but it does have a few rockers worth noting, “Used To be Bad” is a cool blues rocker featuring Steve Miller, “Really Love You” has an excellent lick with Starr on drums and Jeff Lynne, co-producer, on guitar, the title track is a lively workout. The slower numbers kinda suck and stop the album from being as good as people remember. There is no excuse for the limp “Beautiful Night,” or, sentiments notwithstanding, “Little Willow, “Young Boy,” has a sweet sound but the song is lame, “Souvenir…” too many songs don’t make it.

Grade: B-

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