When this album was recorded (late fall 1992) and released (late 1993 and early 1994) the face of music had changed greatly in the last 10 years.
The classic bands of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s basically had broken up or had peaked. Hip-hop or Rap began to spread its wings and other types of music appeared and grew in popularity. Alternative and Grunge, Brit-Pop, New age, Trap, Low-fi, G-Funk, Crunk, New Jack Swing, Ambient, trance, house.. etc…yikes!
As soon as Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest was released, cryptically credited to The Fireman, rumors started circulating about Paul’s involvement.
So when word on who was “The Fireman” leaked out, I quickly bought and consumed it. I was proud of Paul for stretching his limits, but this was not anything I had bought or listened to at that point in my life.
An ambient electronic album, the project emerged from Paul’s request to producer Youth (who is best known as a member of Killing Joke and the Orb) for remixes of songs from his previous album OFF THE GROUND, using elements found within the songs themselves.
Talking at the time, Youth described how he expanded on the concept: “I thought it would be better to do a more conceptual thing – that is, rather than remix a track I thought we should deconstruct the album into samples and then construct a new mix from those. And Paul liked the idea. He was into it, so I went for it.”
Paul then joined him in the studio and the album was born. “It was great fun,” Paul said at the time, “because normally these are the bits that producers try to get me to shut up about – they usually say ‘Stop messing around, Paul, sing the song properly.’” But producer and co-Fireman Youth wanted all the messing around. “It was an interesting release for me.”
The album also consists of samples of “Reception” and “The Broadcast” from Wings’ 1979 album Back to the Egg, as remixed by Youth.
Neither McCartney nor Youth are credited on the album.
Eventually, McCartney decided to join Youth in the studio to create new music to add to the tapestry along with the existing samples, and the project became a more collaborative effort. Although originally conceived as a series of 12″ remixes, McCartney became so happy with the results of the sessions that the project became this full-length album.
McCartney’s involvement was eventually confirmed by EMI.
All album tracks written by Paul McCartney, Youth. Recorded Oct 07 – Oct 10, 1992 Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK
1. Transpiritual Stomp 9:05
2. Trans Lunar Rising 9:11
3. Transcrystaline 8:42
4. Pure Trance 8:42
5. Arizona Light 8:42
6. Celtic Stomp 8:35
7. Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest 8:10
8. 4 4 4. 7:37
9. Sunrise Mix 8:19
Overall…. Like THRILLINGTON, this is not an album I can put on the stereo or listen under headphones and enjoy on it’s own, song for song.
This, for me, is something to put on and capture the vibe in whatever I am doing.
STRAWBERRY is interesting, yet repetitive, ground breaking for Paul, but like some of his first forays into a new genre, he learns and improves on the output each time. It is very exciting in parts, and snooze worthy in others. I used various parts of it on video productions and it works nice in these instances.
Overall I give the entire album a 6.5/10. It would be the last McCartney album I would go to unless I’m whipped into an Indican frenzy and need to clean out closets or sheds while it roars in the background.
In a Melody Maker review, Michael Bonner wrote…. Paul McCartney has discovered dance music – and the results are staggeringly brilliant.
Truly, we live in an age of miracles. Eschewing the easy option of making a remix album, McCartney and his collaborator, Youth, have chosen to follow the likes of Brian Eno down a more experimental and cerebral path. They take a melody and, with dexterous genre-hopping through ambient, trance and house, evolve a number of breathtaking variations. Like snowflakes, each song seems identical to the last, until closer inspection reveals that it has its own unique shape.
The album was released in the UK on November 15th, 1993, and in the US on February 14th, 1994. The album was released on Parlophone in the UK, and Capitol in the US.
“Transpiritual Stomp” was released as a 12″ single, with “Arizona Light Mix” as the B-side.
Next: 1998’s RUSHES, by The Fireman.