NOTE: I think we are going to continue with album reviews this way, first, with a statement by Paul about the individual songs. Then I follow with my quick analysis and rating. We will do this through 2021’s IIIMAGINED (unless we have new material!).
The use of Nigel Godrich as producer on this album was a great move. In addition to being a fine musician on his own, and a fantastic younger producer, Nigel also had the nerve to tell Paul to record the album basically on his own (which has always forced Paul to creative highs) but he had the stones to tell Paul on a few occasion that the songs were not up to his standard, or to make Paul tweak the tempo or verse. In other words, he took charge of the studio, which could be quite daunting when producing one of the four men who changed the face of music.
CHAOS AND CREATION was a very successful album with the fans and with the critics. It garnished three grammy nominations, and Paul went out of his way to promote it, knowing it was a major step up from 2001’s DRIVING RAIN.
The cover, taken by younger brother Michael of the young teen Paul in his backyard at his Liverpool home, is an amazing shot in relation to his future. I took a photoshop editing class in 2001 and used the same photo as the cover of an “imaginary” album by Paul, so I was floored to see this four years later (see photo below).
“Fine Line” “It was just the opening line, ‘There’s a fine line between recklessness and courage.’ I just kind of followed on from that idea that you’ve got to choose which of the two you’re going to do, you know, be reckless or courageous so that was lyrically based on that.
I brought it into the studio in Los Angeles and I was working it out and on that little bit there’s a little riff that goes around the Fine line bit and when I was playing that I made a mistake and I went to a wrong bass note and Nigel goes, ‘That’s great. That’s it.’ I went, ‘Actually it’s a wrong note.’ He said, ‘No, no, check it out. Listen to it.’ ‘Ooh, I see what you mean.’ It just didn’t go where you expected it.”
-I love the jazzy chords and feel. The production and playing is perfect on this song. Paul’s voice is still at the top of its game. Sweet, short middle eight and play out made this his best opening track since “Too Many People.” Rating – 9
“How Kind Of You” “It’s something I’ve done for a long time but recently I’ve started to notice more perhaps, like how some people talk, what phrases they use and I’ve got a couple of sort of older posh English friends who instead of saying, ‘That’s very nice of you,’ or ‘Thanks a lot,’ where I come from – they might say, ‘How kind of you,’ and, you know, so I just started with that phrase and this whole idea.”
-The drone note adds much needed tension to this slow building piano ballad. On this track and basically the entire album, Paul really wrote wonderful lyrics that only enhanced each track. His drumming on this track and the album, while technically sparse, always seems to find that sweet spot, listening wise. It is a song and again, an album where the songs were very healing emotionally.
Rating – 8
“Jenny Wren” “With Jenny Wren it’s one of those things: I love to play acoustic guitar. I want to go and play my guitar in the great outdoors’ so I went into a spot in one of the canyons there, lovely nature spot, getting away from all the traffic and everything, and just found a little spot and just sat down and started playing. I just had a lot of fun, wrote the basis of it there outdoors in the canyon, lovely day, went back home that night to where we were staying and sat around while dinner was getting made and just sat around with the girls and sang it and made it up.”
-Paul is a very underrated acoustic guitarist and on this grown up sister to “Blackbird” he again makes the guitar the lead singer, using the same finger picking style he learned from Donovan in Bangor, India in 1968. Another tender track that cradles you emotionally. Rating – 8.5
“At The Mercy” “At the Mercy was one that I wrote on a day off in LA. So this one was just made up like on the Sunday when I was having the weekend off. We’d worked all week. So on the Sunday I just sort of thought ‘Oh I’d like to take this in tomorrow’ and have a new completely new thing that he hadn’t heard that I hadn’t heard. Just very, very fresh. I took it in to Nigel next day and said ‘What do you think of this?’ And he said ‘Oh great, great.’ It became his favorite, you know.
So we just worked on it and that was it. It was basically that it was finding a couple of chords that were kind of dark enough to get this sort of message that life can throw you curve balls and what do we do about it?”
-Have I found my favorite track on the album? Maybe my favorite McCartney track ever….. It once again hit the heart of what was pulling at my heart at the time. Another piano ballad that is perfect in feel and tone…. ‘Sometimes I rather run and hide than face the fear inside.’ It breaks out in glorious explosion of musical color at just the right time to lead us safely. Rating – 9.5
“Friends To Go” “The funny thing about it was I felt as if I was almost George Harrison during the writing of that song,” said McCartney. “I just got this feeling, this is George. So it was like I was writing – I was like George – writing one of his songs. So I just wrote it, it just wrote itself very easily ’cause it wasn’t even me writing it.“
-The funny thing for me was I heard George the first time I heard it, long before I heard Paul confirm it. I even imagined one of George’s slide solos and fills dotting it, completing it. Another slow builder that leaves me satisfied. Rating – 9
“English Tea” “Again it was this fascination with sort of how people speak, how some English people speak. So I just started playing with that idea, of English tea. And then as I say there’s one particular older English person I’m thinking of who instead of saying ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ might say ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’ It’s just the way they say it, and I love that. ‘Would you care?’ and in this case ‘Would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?’ And so I really went to town on that whole fruity way of talking, that whole fruity language that I like. It’s I think it’s very endearing, very English, and I even managed to work in the word ‘peradventure’ which I was very proud of.”
-A song that John used to call Paul’s granny music. When he played it in concert that fall, I swear half the audience went to take care of business. Initially I didn’t like it, but his very English “Penny Lane” vocals and production do make this a sweet addition to the whole package, especially now that Paul can no longer sing like this. Rating – 8
“Too Much Rain” “The actual inspiration for Too Much Rain is Charlie Chaplin’s song, “Smile.” It’s a great song and the idea of Smile (sings) Smile even though your heart is breaking Smile when your heart is breaking do do. That’s a nick, a direct pinch from that so it’s ‘Laugh when your eyes are burning Smile when you’re doing this and Sigh when you’re that’.. So it was really that it was hints for feeling horrible, you know when you’re really down this song could get you up.”
-It was nice for Paul to admit using Chaplin’s masterpiece as the linchpin of this this lovely song of hope and optimism. Like “Mamunia,” The rain isn’t bad, if you embrace the feeling you get from the freedom of feeling it run down your back. Here, the analogy of too much rain, is that it will end at some point….. Rating – 9
“A Certain Softness” “A Certain Softness is just a straightforward love song, to me. I like things like Brazilian music, I like that sort of rhythmic, Latin kind of thing. I think it’s sexy, very romantic, and I was actually on a holiday, where I do a lot of writing because it’s where I’ve got a lot of time. Here’s me, I go on holiday to work! I don’t think of it as work, it’s more, I just enjoy just sitting around.”
-A lovely latin love song, with the finest middle eight hook on the album, that makes me so happy, it almost always brings me to tears.
‘If I could even find the words to tell her I wouldn’t want to anyway ‘Cos that would only break the spell And you know very well I couldn’t betray her.” Brilliant…. Rating – 9.5
“Riding To Vanity Fair” “Vanity Fair, I originally had as quite an up tempo sort of thing. It was all kind of staccato and very fast and, came in one evening where things had all kind of laid back a bit more.’ I sort of swamped it right out, just took it right down which changed the mood completely but this was particularly the one that Nigel didn’t like.…’ It was all these little short phrases so he encouraged me to try and go somewhere else so I ended up with keeping the first line which was what he liked so it was, ‘I bit my tongue. I never talked too much….’ And got those run much more smooth. Kept the kind of meaning about you’re approaching someone for friendship and they just kind of don’t want to know.
They’re just kind of rejecting you and it’s not about any particular person, it’s about anybody who’s like that which I think we all meet in life, you know, you’re in a great mood with somebody and, ‘Well, I bit my tongue. I didn’t talk too much,’ and it’s one of those songs where you get your own back on those people by writing a song about them and whoever it applies to, people who are just generally a bit sort of you know a bit yuck.” We liked the track. It was nice and dark and quite moody. Nigel had messed around with some sort of echoey things, got kind of quite spooky but yeah, we re-worked it here, right here in the studio and kept working at it till we liked all the words and all the tune and finally I said, ‘O.K. we like this one now,’ and it made its way back onto the album so it was worth all that work.”
-Great lyrics and clarity in the message of the song. It was so refreshing to see Paul so focused on every track of this album. I got the feeling on initial listens that this was about his Beatles days, and John Lennon, even if Paul says it’s about nobody in particular. Rating – 8
“Follow Me” “Follow Me was one of those songs that kind of almost wrote itself. You know, sometimes you’re feeling great about your life, not always but you’ve been lucky. So I was sort of messing around in that region and thinking of the same sort of thing, you know.
What is it? It’s just somebody very important in your life or is it spirits of goodness or whatever it is, something kind of great so it was just like, (sings) ‘You lift up my spirits, you shine on my song, whenever I’m empty, you make me feel whole, I can rely on you to guide me through any situation, hold up the sign that reads, Follow Me.’
-Initially, one of my favorite songs on the album. Now, it’s middle of the pack. The only song (the first recorded) Paul recorded with his band.
Coincidence? The most flushed out song, sonically, and still a song that tears me up a bit, and always made me think of all of the dogs and cats I’ve had. Rating – 8
“Promise To You Girl” “It started as a piano thing. You know, I just wanted to … It’s a little two part piano thing. The right hand is doing the melody a bit and then the bass has got a definite part instead of just vamping away so it was just like a little mathematical problem trying to work out how I could do this and I just started singing it. I could hear the Motown guys, the Funk Brothers putting a backing track to that.
Then I had this other little bit that is on the front of it, (sings) ‘Looking through the backyard of my life, Time to sweep the fallen leaves away, Gave my promise to you girl.’ And that ends it as well. It’s really two little songs put together and then when we came to do it in the studio it was multi-layered because it was just me so I think I started off with the piano and then put a bass on it, put a bit of drums on it and then Nigel started encouraging me to play some guitar licks and things so that was quite complicated, all a lot of little bits, but I think it sounds like a band in the end, you know.”
-Along with “A Fine Line,” the two album uptempo tracks, with moments of early Wings on the vocals and synth use. Rating – 8
“This Never Happened Before”
“Never Happened Before is a straight love song and, you know, I’m a lover not a fighter as they say. I love that, I love to do that so this one was really exactly that. The chords, it’s always a big help if you get a nice little chord sequence and the opening chords to the verse of that go a nice place so they settle you down with your melody and you feel like you’re going somewhere, so that was what was happening and wrote it and recorded it, one of the very first things we did with Nigel at Rak, that was one of the things to see if we could sort of get it on and I thought, ‘This is good. We’re going to go somewhere with this’.
-Gentle, floating down a river love song. It must be nice to find a love and feel this way. I’m not sure if this is for the new wife, because he certainly felt this way about Linda. Great doubled tracked vocals and lush production doesn’t swallow it up. It is the kind of piano ballad that Paul writes better than anyone, but doesn’t sound like the cookie cutter ones we have discussed in albums past. Rating – 8.5
“Anyway” “I don’t know, but I was getting this feeling as if it was the deep south of America, like Charlestown, Savannah, something about the chords, I think. There was just something reminding me, almost sort of Randy Newman kind of thing, I thought I was doing. As always it turns out nothing like him but at the time I think I’m doing this thing, so that was going on.”
-Another beautiful love song, lush and gentle that comforts and saddens if you don’t have this in your life. A wonderful pace pickup during the instrumental break into the final verse. Wonderful way to end the album, or does it….? Rating – 9
“I’ve Only Got Two Hands” (Hidden Track) We’d done a lot of the album. We were almost finished and we just thought, you know, ‘How about opening the album with just something for nothing, not like a song? Let’s just open it with like a little jam thing, a noise, just something to get your attention, then we’ll go into the first song,’ so we said, ‘O.K. great,’ and I always like that where you sort of throw away the rule book and you go, ‘O.K. let’s just do something completely different’. It’s not a song, it’s not a thing, you just go and play a bit and Nigel said, ‘Why don’t you just have a couple of ideas, songs, and we’ll make them. They don’t need to be long. We’ll just see which one works,’ so he said, ‘Just go and do two things. While you’re doing one, do two,’ so I thought, ‘O.K. I’ll do three just to show him,’ so I came out here.
The piano was set up here and just sort of started doing the first little vibe, second little vibe and I said, ‘O.K. I’ve got a couple of ideas here,’ so he said, ‘That’ll do,’ so we recorded the piano bit first’. Just really nothing, just in your face, sticking your tongue out and, we were joking. It was like as if the grown-ups had gone away, you know, they’d left us the studios, so ‘O.K. come on, then,’ and I just got on the drum kit, just thrashed that out and we recorded in the space of like about ten minutes, well, maybe an hour, but we just did all three of them and in the end instead of choosing one of them for the beginning we stuck three of them all together and put them at the end.”
-The other side of Macca that we love, the let’s smoke a bit and turn on the tapes and see what happens. Must be nice to be this talented. It came at the time when a few artists were still leaving hidden tracks at the end of albums… but this was the end of that time…. A much better idea to have it at the end rather than the opener…
Rating – 7.5 (we won’t count this toward the whole album rating as this is a bonus for us….)
Overall the album grades out as a 8.615/10, making it THE THIRD HIGHEST graded album yet. It has stood the test of time, and it may be his most healing of albums if this is what is needed for me. I love it.
Next, the other 14 songs Paul put out in this time period that weren’t official album tracks and up to the end of 2005. Quite a year for Sir Paul, right?