McCartney's Flaming Pie Only Half-Baked

Paul McCartney - Flaming Pie
(Capitol Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

It was thirty years ago today that Paul McCartney and The Beatles released the rock masterpiece Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that has become, more or less, the standard in creative pop music that most albums, even today, are measured against.
That being the case, Paul McCartney's latest album, Flaming Pie, is no Sgt. Pepper. Nor is it Revolver, Rubber Soul or even Magical Mystery Tour. While it is a fact that McCartney has never, and probably will never, release an entire album that equals the quality of any Beatles LP, that's not to say that he doesn't try. McCartney states in the album's liner notes that he was inspired by the making of The Beatles Anthology set, which reminded him of the songwriting standards and the fun they had recording them. In fact on Flaming Pie McCartney shows a few brief glimpses of his previous brilliant songwriting abilities.
The melancholy melody along with George Martin's haunting string arrangement gives the song "Somedays" an isolated feel similar to "Eleanor Rigby". The eloquent "Little Willow" is a touching lullaby written as an ode to recently deceased friend,while the gentle, acoustic "Calico Skies" and "Great Day" sound as if they were cutting room floor leftovers from The Beatles White Album sessions.
The title of the album was taken from a quote from John Lennon in the early Sixties as to where they got their band name, "A man on a flaming pie came to me in a vision and said you are Beatles with an 'A' ", Lennon quipped.
While the title track lacks the obscure wit of Lennon's statement, it does have a bouncy, upbeat feel with McCartney's rudimentary drumming and boogie-woogie piano style.
McCartney plays most of the instruments throughout the album but also recruits the talents of Jeff Lynne (ELO bandleader and producer of the recent Beatle songs "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love" for the historical Beatles Anthology set), Steve "Fly Like an Eagle" Miller, as well as Ringo Starr, Beatles producer George Martin and wife, Linda McCartney.
"Really Love You", McCartney's first song co-written with Ringo Starr, is a loose, rocking jam that has a fun improvised groove to it, while McCartney shares lead vocals with Steve Miller on the Texas-blues inspired number, "Used To Be Bad" (must be talking about his "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" days).
Unfortunately, McCartney also revisits his 'silly love songs' period of the Seventies on the wispy "Heaven On A Sunday" (albeit with an interesting electric / acoustic guitar duet with 19 year old son, James McCartney) and the sappy "Beautiful Night", a song that would fit nicely into Barry Manilow's live repertoire.
On "The World Tonight", the first single from Flaming Pie, McCartney ironically sings "(I can) look into the future, see it in a different light, I can see the world tonight". It seems, however, that on Flaming Pie, McCartney can't really see much further than his own past.

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