This post will deal with JUST the review of Paul McCartney’s 17th solo album release, EGYPT STATION.
The next post will recall the roll out, the diversity of product offered and the critical and chart results, as well as additional tracks that were released with future versions that were soon released.
And we’ll finish with what else happened in 2018… But that’s the next post….. But NOW!
The cover is a wonderful display of Paul’s artwork. He created the piece “Egypt Station”in 1999. It was the featured in his book, “Paintings.”
“My original inspiration was similar to a picture we were talking about the other day, with Egyptian symbols and shapes I got from looking at a reference book on Egypt. I was interested in the way they drew sunflowers, so two appear on the left and on the right. It was a nice shape, so I took that and then I also love the way they symbolize trees. I like the way they reduce a tree to just some very simple symbols.”
“When we decided we were going to call the album “Egypt station”, I liked the idea of making a montage of sounds that were sort of like a station, so we found one station and then we added another one to it, the sound effects of real stations, and then we started to make up some little noises that we added to make it like a dream, so the idea being that, this kind of dream location was where all this music was going to emanate from. And you set off on a journey and each song becomes a different station. I liked the words ‘Egypt Station.’ It reminded me of the ‘album’ albums we used to make…
‘Egypt Station’ starts off at the station on the first song and then each song is like a different station. So it gave us some idea to base all the songs around that. I think of it as a dream location that the music emanates from.” -Paul
-Much like his previous albums TUG OF WAR (1982), which opened to a montage of sounds of struggle, and PIPES OF PEACE (1983), which opened to a montage of sounds of war/chaos/conflict, EGYPT STATION perfectly sets the mood which puts the listener in the station, waiting to board..
I like the idea that each song would be a stop on the line. Each song would then represent a feeling or emotion or maybe even be inspired by the location stopped at.
I don’t think the concept was kept up, as to me it feels like a group of songs book-ended by the opening and closing stations….
In this instance it’s more like The Beatles SGT. PEPPER’S album, where the concept was loosely connected by the title track and its reprise. Pepper was envisioned initially as each song would be “recorded” by a different band.
The Turtles 1968 album, THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS, is the only album I know that stuck with this concept from start to finish. Each track was credited to different “bands.”
Still, a wonderful way to feel like I have boarded and await the next adventure.
Rating – N/A While it is listed as a track, I am not going to rate it…. Unlike other “links” that Paul has included on RAM/WILD LIFE/TUG OF WAR, this instrumental works perfectly as it is intended. The train has left the station….
“I Don’t Know”
“I wrote this after going through a difficult period. Like people have nothing sort of madly serious or anything, but just one of those days when it’s like, “Oh my god, am I doing wrong here?”, you know. And sometimes that’s a good way to write a song, because you’re coming from your soul.
And we often used to say that writing a song was like talking to a psychiatrist, a therapist or something. Because you’re saying it… You are saying it in a song rather than in a room to a specialist. Yeah, so it was me just thinking this problem out, and putting it into a song.” – Paul
-A track which features only Paul and producer Kurstin. A gentle piano introduction leads into a magnificent mid-tempo ballad. Vintage McCartney, showing vulnerability we don’t often see from him. Just a wonderful song, lyrically, production and perfect way to start our journey. Rating – 9
“Come On To Me”
“This sort of a pick-up song, and I’m imagining myself, probably in the sixties, going to a party and seeing someone and thinking “oh okay, how do I make an approach here?”. So it’s a sort of, it’s an imaginary song, a fantasy song about a guy seeing someone and thinking “we should try and find a place to be alone here, and maybe exchange information and stuff, and hey you look like you flashed a smile and said to me you wanted so much more than casual conversation. So would you come on to me, or am I going to come on to you?” -Paul
Three music videos showing three different characters, working the night shift and dancing on the song “Come On To Me”, were produced, and finally mixed together into a fourth version. All those videos were released in October 2018.
-Paul uses his band on this sexually charged rocker. Nice tempo change. Love the fact that Paul used the Mrs. Mills piano, also used on “Lady Madonna.” While the idea of then 76 year old Paul getting frisky caused a bit of stink in the Beatle community, I found it refreshing. The foot never stopped tapping. Brian Ray’s sitar and Paul on harmonica were surprises. Nice little coda at the end, with classic Paul bass runs (which he seems to do less of in his later albums). Rating – 8.5
“Happy With You”
“Yeah, I was on holiday and I was just noodling around on the guitar, and I was thinking about the days when I had a lot of free time and used to just sort of lie around basically doing nothing all day, and getting a bit stoned and… just doing nothing really. Busy doing nothing.
And so I got this little riff on the guitar and the words came to me, you know: “I used to lie around all day, I used to get stoned, I used to like to get wasted, but these days I don’t.” So it’s a song about growing up. There’s a period in your life – in some people’s lives – when they’re not being as productive, or not being as organized or disciplined as they may later turn out to be. So this was basically it.” -Paul
-While I always loved that Paul was open about his enjoyment of smoked herbs in the past, here he tells of just enjoying life and love, clear eyed. Good for him. Rating – 7.5
“With “Who Cares”, I was thinking about a song where you actually are talking to the people who may listen to it. And in my case I was imagining young fans, or young people who might hear this, and who are going through some sort of problem where they’re being picked on, being put on.
These days it would be internet bullying, trolls and all that. In my school days, it would have just been bullies and people just generally picking on each other. So I know that has happened all over the world to millions of people.
So my thing was to kind of try and help, almost kind-of give some sort of advice. So the song says, you know: “have you ever been fed up with being bullied? Has this ever happened when people have called you names, have done mean things? Has this ever happened to you? Well, who cares. And then in a twist at the end of that chorus is like “Who cares? I do”. -Paul
In December 2018, a music video for “Who Cares“ was released. The video follows a story of a woman played by Emma Stone visiting a psychiatrist played by Paul.
‘Who Cares’ features a message of universal positivity rendered in vivid colorful detail.
-Paul and the band knock this one out of the park. Outstanding melody, lyrics that hit at the heart of the subject. Paul even tries his best to take it up a notch vocally at the end. This is an excellent song, with an even better video. He had me at Emma Stone. Rating – 8.5
“With this one I was in the studio with Ryan Tedder whereas the rest of the album has been made with Greg Kurstin… We were just thinking of ideas and little pieces of melody and chords and the song just came together bit by bit. And then I would try and make some kind of sense of the story.
So it was like ‘Come on baby now. Talk about yourself. Tell the truth, let me get to know you’ and basically I wanna know how you feel, you make me wanna go out and steal. I just want it for you. So that was the basic idea and it developed from there… sort of a love song, but a raunchy love song. There you go – “Fuh You.” -Paul
In September 2018, a music video for “Fuh You“, filmed in the streets of Liverpool, was published. The black-and-white video opens with a teenage couple sharing a kiss on a front doorstep before the girl’s mother intrudes and sends the boy home. The enamored young protagonist then wanders the streets of Liverpool, singing and dancing along with “Fuh You” as he makes his way home.
-I think Paul tries very hard to be contemporary with this one, as it’s production is very radio friendly. However, for 76 year old Paul, it misses the mark slightly. Rating – 7.5
“It’s a love song to the guitar, how the guitar was my confidante, and I told you every little secret thing, and, in fact, unlike my other so-called friends, you stood beside me while I fought. So it became a symbol of the guitar as a mate, as a friend, as a confidant.” – Paul
-Wonderful homage to his 6 string friend. Just Paul. Builds nicely with outstanding acoustic guitar throughout. Well done. Rating – 8.5
“People Want Peace”
“I had played a gig in Israel quite a few years ago, and I wanted to go to Palestine before I went to Israel, because I was very aware of the political situation there. So I didn’t want to just look like I was ignoring Palestine playing in Israel, although that was where the date was, the gig.
So I made arrangements to go into Palestine across the border, and go to a little music school and shake hands with the kids, and hang out and listen to them playing some music. Just to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.
And then when I came back into Israel I then met with some cool people from a group called One Voice, a political group, kind of thing, a movement. And we ended up wearing their badges on our show in Tel Aviv. So the whole idea was a peace mission, really, because these kids were great. I say kids, they were kind of young adults. And I’d say to them, “what is it? What do you want to do, you know?”. They say “All we want to do is just live in peace, raise our families, you know, and be able to just get on with our lives in peace”.
And so that tied in with something that when I was a kid. I’d asked my dad and said – you know, we were seeing all the wars and stuff, on the newspapers, on TV and so I’d said to him “what is it? You know, do people want peace or do they just like to fight?”. And he sort-of looked at me, very quietly said “No, no, son, people want peace. It’s the politicians and the leaders who get into wars. It’s not the people”. So that always struck me as a great phrase.” -Paul
-A little too big a production for me. Paul has given us songs (and albums) about peace and love before. The middle eight is very much like the middle eight from the unreleased 1986 track “Return To Pepperland.” Overall, a nice track with a nice message. Rating – 7.5
“Hand In Hand”
“Sometimes songs just come to you, sort of late at night. And I’ve got a piano at home, and in actual fact this particular piano happens to be my dad’s old piano, so it’s special to me. And I was sitting there one night and I just started to find these chords that are the beginning of Hand In Hand. And it’s basically a love song. And as I wrote it, I was imagining me and Nancy about to go through life hand in hand. It was written in the early stage of our relationship.
And then I started to think, ‘Yeah, well, this is a lot of people.’ You know, there are millions of people in that situation, where they’ve got someone they love, and they want to go through life hand in hand, and to be a partnership of some kind.
And it was nice, actually, when we recorded it, we had two lady cellists. That’s all there is on there beside the band. And it was very sweet ’cause at the end of it we liked what they’d done, we said that’s great, thank you. And one of them sort of said, ‘Oh, you know what? I’m getting married for the second time, and I’m a little bit nervous, but this song has made me think it’s going to work out all right.’ So we thought, that’s it! You know, that’s a reason, right there, for writing that song.” -Paul
-Fragile touching vocal on this tender love song to Nancy. Pedro Eustache’s King bansori Indian Flute is lovely when combined with Vanessa Freebairn-Smith’s cello. Rating – 7.5
“One of the interesting things about songs is they often come from something that happens in your life, and your song is the reaction to it. It could be something very small. You just sort of have an argument with someone and you can just go off and think “I’ll just play guitar for a while, get out of it, you know, get over it”. And this kind of started like that.
So it’s just a people song about how things are really all right but they don’t always seem to be alright. And then I got this image of dominoes, you know, when people line up those millions of dominoes and then they drop the first one and it goes through this whole sequence.
So I imagined that as being symbolic of life and, you know, how one little action can have such a big effect on this huge line of dominoes.
And then when I recorded it, it seemed I wanted to do it very personally as a sort of personal song. You know, even though he goes through all this stuff, and all these dominoes fall over and life goes on and in fact in the end it’s okay.
-A album highlight for me. Fantastic production. Paul sounds like a teen, and the song is filled with more hooks than a pirate convention. The bass line flows like a gentle stream. And Paul gives us what he brought to The Beatles in 1966, an ending filled with guitar Brennel tape loops. I’m going gaga as Paul scats softly on the outro. “It’s been a blast.” Rating – 9
“Back In Brazil”
“So I was in Brazil on tour… This is one of those nice free days where there was nothing planned and I had a piano in the room of the hotel room, so I got this little riff and got this idea of “Back in Brazil”. There was this girl who dreams of a future far far better world, she meets a man and he fits him with a plan. You know, so it’s a story about a couple and trials and tribulations…
Things are going well and she plans a date but he can’t come cuz’ they got him working late… And so it was just an imaginary story of two young Brazilian people and it’s kind dance-like so I wanted to put Brazilian rhythms and get the flavor.” -Paul
-A nice change up. The Latin flare was a pallet cleanser. Pedro Eustache is back on Bamboo Flue and Dadook. The video didn’t overwhelm me. Actually, only “Who Cares” was the only one to feature McCartney. Very 10cc ending….
Rating – 8
“Do It Now”
“Do It Now” is an expression my dad used to say. It’s funny, you know, as you get older, you remember things that your parents or maybe teachers or friends said, and if there’s a catchphrase.
And my dad’s big catchphrase was “do it now”. You know, you would sort of say, “No, well, I’ll do it later”, and he would say, “No, do it now”. And he used to say “DIN” so that was just his particular little catchphrase. And I always thought, DIN, that’s a great name for a record label… Anyway, this has always been in my mind, this “Do it now” thing. So I was looking for an idea to write this song about, so then I started off, okay, I’m on a journey, I’ve been invited to go somewhere, so if I’m going in my imagination somewhere, and the idea is that if I don’t do it now, I may never get to this place.
Basically it’s a song, an imaginary journey suggested by the fact that my dad would have said, “Go on that journey now, don’t leave it till it’s too late”. So there it is. Do it now.” – Paul
-Another subject Paul has dealt with in past songs, the “live now” because life is short message. Lovely backing by the massive orchestra takes Paul’s message and sends it to us on a cloud. A great message. Rating – 8
“Caesar Rock. Okay there’s some times when I get in my studio with my engineer Steve Orchard and we just start making up stuff. We will just have no idea what we’re gonna do but we’ll play with things we are interested in. So I might just start off with a drum machine, do something and put a little piano on it, or put the bass on it, and then maybe some ideas on it.
It’s a nice way of working – I think of it as being kind of lazy, because it feels to me like you’ve got a day off. In truth, you haven’t, because you’re making a song. But there is this feeling of freedom: ‘You don’t really have to do this, it’s not a proper song, we’re making it up’. I went in one day and we started making this song and then I was playing with a little auto-tune thing that I’d been familiarized with by working with Kanye. So I thought, ‘I fancy having a go at this’ and in a way it’s a bit sacrilegious. I know a lot of people say: ‘Oh, no no no, you shouldn’t do that, that’s for hip hop and we wanna hear your voice pure’. But then I started thinking “are you kidding me”… You know you listen to some of the Beatles records, Tomorrow Never Knows, and we were never that, you know, nothing was that sacred. So I had a go, and sang: “She’s a rock” and put that through the Auto-tuner.
So it was “she’s a rock” but then we started referring to it as Caesar Rock because we were just having fun and so we just built it up. So I like that. I like this song because it’s slightly oddball, you know. It starts in one tempo and then it completely changes. That kind of thing sums it up: It’s a song where anything goes and I like it because of that.
And then we got then a group of people in the studio, some of the engineers, some of the guys who were hanging around. I said okay, come on, we all gonna go in and just be this big chorus thing. So I was going: “She’s a rock, yeah”. Then we were just adding things. And at the end I had this zany idea – because anything goes in a song like this – of: “I’ll just shout ‘she’s got loyalty’ and the answer will be ‘like a Royalty’”. Then, “she’s got symmetry” – “anonymity”. I mean, it was quite surreal lyrics, but we’re having fun with it. And the other thing I loved about it just right at the end of the track – I still don’t know how this happened – but it must have been me that shouted “she’s got matching teeth”. And everyone was just “She’s got matching teeth?”… I like the idea of matching teeth. I mean I was playing with that as an album title, Matching Teeth. Yes! So I mean that was one we had a lot of fun with Caesar rock!” -Paul
“I always think of things like these as being happy accidents. It happened more recently, too, on the song “Caesar Rock,” from my album “Egypt Station.” Somehow this drum part got dragged accidentally to the start of the song on the computer, and we played it back and it’s just there in those first few seconds and it doesn’t fit. But at the same time it does.”
-Never realized that the false intro was a mistake. Paul steps up and gives his best growls. Mid 70’s Paul would have taken off my eyebrows off with this one. Pulsing, aggressive and fully satisfying. Fantastic ending with Paul and the band chanting…. “Matching teeth?” Rating – 8.5
“Despite Repeated Warnings”
“I was in Japan and I was reading a newspaper – I think it was like the Tokyo Times, Japan Times or something – and there was something about climate change and it’s typical, you know, the way people are kind of not doing anything about it. “It’s all gonna be fine, don’t worry, oh yeah sure there’s icebergs melting but it doesn’t matter, it’s not melting in London so don’t worry about it, you know.” And the phrase was in this article, it started off “Despite repeated warnings, they’re not listening”.
You know, it’s the idea. I like that phrase “Despite repeated warnings”. I thought, yeah, that sums up a lot of people’s feelings. And then thought, well, what I’ll do is I’ll do a kind of song where I used symbolism and so the person will be symbolic of certain politicians and people who argue that climate change is a hoax, and we know a few. So I’ll do it about that and I’ll get somebody to symbolize one of those people.
So I thought, okay it’s a sea captain and he’s steering a boat and he’s gonna go towards the icebergs but he’s been warned, and he’s going because he thinks he’s right, and he thinks they’re all making too much of it. The usual arguments you know…
So that’s what it’s about. It’s a sort of story like the Titanic. If they’d been warned, hey, you’re gonna sink from icebergs, and if the captain said “it doesn’t matter, it’ll be fine”. So it’s that, using that kind of idea, so there’s a sort of mad daft captain, and then there’s all the people on the boat who know he’s got it wrong.
So it’s very symbolic for what’s going on in some areas of politics in my mind. So it’s one of those songs like Band On The Run or Live And Let Die that is kind of episodic and it’s kind of an epic production. That is it, and it is hopefully trying to remind people that climate change is not a hoax, and that we should avoid having a mad captain steering us towards the icebergs. – Paul
-Multi-part song that seems only Paul can write. Odd in that the next full track is also a multi-part song. We all understand the messages here. Paul delivered this as our country (USA) was splitting in two. “The best crew on the planet” Fuck you Donald. Rating – 8
“Station II” is a continuation of the opening soundscape, that takes us back to the station. It’s an imaginary station and, you know, I like the idea that it’s a train station or it’s a radio station. It’s just some imaginary place, so we had fun just making up a soundscape.” – Paul
And then at the end of it, we thought it would be a nice idea to vaguely, in this big station, hear someone plugging in a guitar like he is a busker coming to play some songs and earn some money. So you hear him plug in and he plays a riff. It’s the beginning of one of our songs called “Hunt You Down”.
So he plays a dum dum dum, dum dum dum and then it gradually gets louder until it becomes the real song.
-Rating N/A. Like “Opening Station” in thought, but the use of the busker plugging in his guitar and leading into “Hunting You Down” was brilliant.
“Hunt You Down”
“That’s a three-part song, which goes from this sort of rocker, Hunt You Down, and the words are: “I can’t find my love, no matter how hard I try,” you know, “She’s giving me the run-around,” just kind of like blues complaining lyrics. “Yeah, my woman done hurt me, I can’t find my love…” you know, it’s that kind of thing. So I’m having fun with that, and doing this rock ‘n’ roll piece, and that became Hunt You Down.” – Paul
Q: You mentioned that Prince inspired the song “Hunt You Down” on the new album. I also recall you saying he inspired the song “If You Wanna” on Flaming Pie. Has Prince inspired other songs and were you a big fan?
A: “I can’t think of other songs he has inspired, but those two definitely. I was always a big fan. I went to see him in concert a few times and wrote to him saying how much I enjoyed his guitar playing particularly. I met him a few times. The last time was a couple of New Year’s ago, when he played a New Year’s gig. I’ve always been a big fan.
And then it goes through, into another song called…..
-After a few listens I really do hear the Prince influence in this ass-kicking rocker. Great way to open the three part closer.
Rating – 9
And again it links through, ’cause there’s like a tempo change at the end of Hunt You Down. It goes from 4/4 into 3/4, and goes into this other song, which is a very simple song that I’d recorded pretty much on my own. It’s a simple song about ‘I’ve been naked since I was born.’ And, you know, this thing we go through that’s life, that everyone goes through it, and in a way there are many situations that you find yourself where you’re kind of naked, socially.
You can sort of feel naked: “I don’t know how to deal with this,” you know. So that’s what the song is about, that’s my take on that. As I say I played it myself, and sang it myself in the studio.” – Paul
-Odd, but interesting second part, not bad on it’s own, but loses some of the energy of “Hunt You Down.” Rating -7
And then that links on to another thing we called C-Link in the end, which it just me totally indulging myself in wanting to play guitar.
And the original take on it is about 11 minutes, I think. But it’s just me really enjoying playing electric guitar. ‘Cause I always say to people, people often say, ‘Why do you still do it?’ I say: “‘Cause I love it. I love this thing.”
And I’m still thrilled with having the privilege of being able to go up to an amp, turn it on, get my guitar, plug it in and play it very loud. It’s a thrill, and that’s never stopped being a thrill.
And then there were certain little phrases that were kind of more melodic than others. A lot of it’s just bluesy phrases, there were one or two in there that suggested something else.
So we orchestrated a few of the phrases, and made it a little more of a composition.
It was an idea that I fancied doing. I fancied doing it for a long time, of just getting someone – it turned out to be me – I was just going to get someone to play blues guitar against an orchestra holding a chord. In this case it was C, and then C minor, just the orchestra hold this chord forever and ever and ever, and then this guitar playing over the top of it. And actually I was always gonna ask Eric Clapton to do the blues guitar – so Eric, if you’re listening… But this time it turned out to be me – you know, D.I.N. – I’d better go round to it. And so, I did. And that finishes the album.
Right at the end of that session… you just hear a little ‘Whoo!’ and that’s it. Egypt Station.
-All I can say is I want to hear the 11 minute version. Paul lets his hair down and gives us some sweet blues licks. Nice…. the train slows at pulls back into Egypt Station, our journey now ending. A very enjoyable ride, indeed…. Rating – 8.5
Overall I have not included either of the “Station” songs into the final rating, and I have split the final medley into three parts, with the rating for each. So for the 16 rated tracks I have a final album score of 8.16/10.
Not bad at all for a 76 year old man, in a young persons game.
Next: The rest of 2018, the rollout of EGYPT STATION and additional music recorded at the time.