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FLOWERS IN THE DIRT (1989)

The cover, designed by Linda McCartney, is a strong blend of rich earth colors, reds, browns and yellows which reveal a discarded bunch of flowers, presumably scattered in the out of focus dirt. The title of the album is taken from a line of one of the albums tracks, “That Day Is Done.”

A lot of care and attention and hard work was put into making and promoting this album.

Paul was very active in all of the media, he filmed some of his most interesting music videos, and most of all he assembled the band that helped him record the album, and planned a world tour with them.

The tour would feature many of the album tracks, many more Beatles songs than he ever did before and a variety of oldies he had recorded in 1987 for CHOBBA B CCCP.

I had purchased SPIKE, released by Elvis Costello in February of 1989, and it contained three appearances by McCartney on it as well as the four co-written tracks he did on FLOWERS. We will review the SPIKE tracks in the next post.

The album opens with the first single, and the most hit-worthy song on the disc, “My Brave Face.” Writing it felt like he was writing with John, Paul said. Two guitars facing each other, jotting down chords and lyrics, his partner wearing thick black glasses like Lennon.

The song ends up being very Beatle-like with it’s… “take me to this place…” sounding like it could have been John from the afterlife inspiring Paul and Elvis. Outstanding vocals, a deep looping bass-line, and lyrics with an edge that Elvis gave to all of his contributions.

A full lush sound, with swirling organ by Mitchell Froom and David Rhodes on ebow guitar and three sax players (barely heard in the final mix) to round things out.

This would have been a mega-hit for Paul had it been released earlier in his career, and while it was lauded and praised, it didn’t crack the top 25, and was the last Macca single in the top 40 for over 25 years. Paul voice sounded spectacular throughout. What a great way to start an album. Rating – 9

“Rough Ride” Produced with Trevor Horn, who added keyboards and features co-producer Steve Lipson on bass and drum programming, Linda on harmonies and Paul, everything else.

“I was going to work with Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson, and I’d heard that Trevor takes a long time… so it seemed to me that it might be a good idea if we could try and limit him to a short period and see what we could get done… I said well I’ve got this crazy little thing that you won’t like, it’s called ‘Rough Ride’. He said I love the title already…it grew from a nothing little 12-bar and by the end of the second day we’d mixed it, which is pretty unheard of these days… they came back with a tarted-up version, and I said well I think it’s a Paul Goes To Hollywood… type of thing, so we kept the original.”

A nice funky second track keeps the train a moving…. Rating – 8

“You Want Her Too”. The second Elvis co-written song, the one which clearly showed the yin and yang of the two, with call and response vocals much like Paul and John. “It’s getting better” vs “It couldn’t get much worse” back in 1967 only this time it was “She makes me oh so wrong” vs “So, why don’t you come out and say it, stupid” in 1989. The slightly twisted circus organ opening by Costello, to the blending of the two verses on the chorus gave me insight into what a true McCartney/Costello album could have been. Edgy, sweet, daring and yet flying with the grace of a butterfly. This is as close as we would get.

Paul’s middle eight slows things down a bit, but the unexpected ending from the intro keyboards into the big band playout had me fooled. A sonic treat and deep cut I only wish we could have had more like this. Neil Dorsfman helped with the mixing and production, as he would on many of the 12” extended mixes for the album. Rating – 8

“Distractions” A change of pace at the right time. A latin edge to this gentle, strings driven love song gives us a chance to breathe.

Great lyrics by Paul, describing how life and love is effected by daily distractions. Hamish and Linda fill out the harmonies. A nice solo on acoustic by Paul during the break. So far, so good. Double tracking the lead vocals at the end was also a brilliant touch. Rating – 8.5

“We Got Married” Paul actually starting recording this one in 1984, an homage to love and marriage and happiness. Paul uses a Mexican guitar to start off the track, but it quickly gathers steam and takes off with the tempo change and instrumental break of guitar and trumpet, by David Gilmour and Guy Barker.

A nice track, but to me not a killer. The production does swallow Paul’s vocals up somewhat. Another he played on the tour. A change of direction into the play-out. Rating – 7

“Put It There” A sing inspired by one of the expression his father told him as a kid. If you are troubled…. Share with me…..I will help you. Put it there, in his hands, if the times seem too rough to go alone.

A lovely sentimental song, that was also released as a single. George Martin did the orchestration.

I’m sure Paul has told each of his kids this as they grew, and they have all turned out as fine adults, with varying degrees of fame.

When he played this one on the tour he added a coda after the last chord of the coda of “Hello Goodbye.” I can’t think of it any other way when I hear this song. Paul slaps on his legs for percussion. A good song with a great message. Rating – 8.5

“Figure Of Eight” The rocker. Paul released this as the second single and I’m sure he expected this one to blow the doors off, as he OPENED the show with this. On the first couple of listens this was my favorite track, but now come to realize that the best mix of this song was on the single release. A different and better mix for sure. This baby cooks, even as Paul occasionally strains to hit those notes on the verse, but like “Pretty Little Head” on PRESS Paul sometimes isn’t always the best judge of what takes/mixes to put in or leave out. A nice little rocker…. Hey, it has handclaps!!!!! Rating – 7.5

“This One” To sum up…. Amazing. This one gives me goosebumps. Another #1 hit had it been released in the 1970’s…. A sonic delight. A wild music video which I only wish they had somehow included George Harrison in some form… as this one always reminded me of him (on the chorus). The play-out changes at the end are scary good. Rating – 9

“Don’t Be Careless Love” Like “Waterfalls,” a song of caution to those we love. But this time we have a devilish lyrical mix of Elvis, who co-wrote this one (maybe most of it) with Paul. A gospel feel with lush harmonies and even fingers snaps. An odd song, but you hang on for the ride till the end. Rating – 7.5

“That Day Is Done” Another Elvis/Paul composition, with wonderful backing vocals. Another gospel feel to this one. The lyrics make me think this is more Elvis than Paul.

A nice middle eight takes the song on a short sweet journey into the final stanza. The album title come from this song. “She sprinkles flowers in the dirt, that’s when a thrill becomes a hurt, I know I never see her face, she walks away form my resting place.”

This is again more Elvis than Paul. He hasn’t written many gravesite anthems, has he? Rating – 8

“How Many People” A song written in Jamaica while on holiday – hence the reggae feel to it – “dedicated to the memory of murdered Chico Mendez, Brazilian Rain Forest Campainer.” The whole tour was in honor of “Friends Of The Earth,” as Paul really hammered home of taking care of the planet many decades before the world seems to be awakened…. Rating 6.5

“Motor Of Love” I always think of cats when I hear this…. The purring being their “motor of love.” But I don’t think it is about Paul and Linda’s cats. A big, very produced, full song, with again, a soulful gospel feel that goes on a bit too long. Rating – 7

“Ou Est Le Soleil?” Started in 1974 (“The Piano Tape”) and now presented in all of very late 1980’s mixes. Released also as a 12” extended dance single, this bit of programming and techno ends the album with a bang.

“A very wacky thing where we decided to make something up…Trevor said ‘Have you got anything for one of the verses?’ I said ‘Well I’ve got this really silly idea…’, which is like just some French words that say ‘Ou est le soleil? Dans la tete. Travaillez.’ Those are the complete lyrics…So we’ve got this silly French dance track now, which I love!- Paul.

Try and listen without shaking your ass….. I knew you couldn’t. A cheesy organ, wailing guitars, Paul doing voices…. It’s like an ice cream sundae for the feet…. Rating 8.5

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Wow, the album sound sounds great and deserving of the very good reviews it got back in the day. Paul was no longer the mega selling-return to #1 charts singles man, but this album showed a new direction for Macca. Making very good albums, a return to touring (where he is still a no doubt sell out man to this day), and fully embracing his Beatles past, even at the expense of his own solo and Wings career.

The album grades out as a 7.96/10. Nice!!

Next, all the songs we didn’t have on the album which were released in conjunction with this, and also a review of the Paul/Elvis demo tape, and a review of Paul/his band demo tape of these songs….

After that we will look back on two overlooked projects, 1974’s McGEAR and 1987’s RETURN TO PEPPERLAND. Then it’s on to the 1990’s.

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