Top Artists – Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney / McCartney – Listening in Depth

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room.

The album sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Lovely Linda 
That Would Be Something 
Valentine Day 
Every Night 
Hot as Sun/Glasses 
Junk 
Man We Was Lonely

Side Two

Oo You

The distorted guitar in a huge and reverberant room that leads off this side is one of my favorite “sounds” on any McCartney album. The bigger, richer and grungier it sounds the better.

Momma Miss America
Teddy Boy

This is a very tough track to get right. There is processing on Paul’s voice that some copies make a mess of, adding a kind of unpleasant resonance, which of course the better copies do not.

It’s a fairly simple arrangement: acoustic guitar, bass, voice and Linda’s backing vocals. When all of these things are in balance, the sound will be lovely. Paul’s voice, because of the processing I mentioned, doesn’t sound as natural as it does on other tracks, but it shouldn’t be irritating or disagreeable.

Singalong Junk
Maybe I’m Amazed

Another exceptionally hard track to get right. On a top copy the guitar solo will JUMP right out of your speakers. It should have the energy of LIVE MUSIC

Kreen-Akrore

The Word Is Out

We have been touting McCartney’s first solo album for more than a decade. Ever read a word about it in an audiophile context elsewhere?

Of course you haven’t. The audiophile world doesn’t know and doesn’t care about great albums like this one, but we at Better Records LIVE for albums with sound and music of this caliber. It’s a permanent resident of our Top 100 List for a reason: no other solo album by a Beatle can touch it.

As for surface issues, we wish we could find them quiet, but that is simply not an option, especially considering how dynamic the recording is. We’ve used every trick in the book to try to get copies of this album to play Mint Minus, but it’s not usually in the cards. Maybe I’m Amazed, in particular, seems to be noisy on nine copies out of every ten. If you’re looking for a copy without any surface noise, you’re probably better off tracking down the DCC Gold CD, which is actually quite good.

But no CD is ever going to sound like our record, not now, not ever. This is where I simply can’t understand how the typical audiophile can make the tradeoff for flat, average sound with quiet vinyl — the sound of these Heavy Vinyl reissues that have sprouted up all over the place, each one worse than the last — and the wonderful, but slightly noisy, sound to be found on the best originals.

Of course the obvious answer is that it is simply too much work to find enough original copies to clean and play in order to come across that needle in a haystack: the Hot Stamper pressing.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005

Although for years shunned and treated as the devil’s plastic, for ostensibly shattering The Beatles’ dream, Paul McCartney’s first solo album is never less than charming. While Lennon and Harrison were busy making their point and Ringo was busy recording pub singalongs, McCartney released this naive template for his solo career: some blinding songs; some stoned noodles; and some frankly embarrassing tosh.

Recorded during the end of 1969 at home in London’s St. John’s Wood, McCartney feels wistfully undercooked — a deliberate reaction to the smooth veneers of The Beatles’ swansong, Abbey Road. After all the recent tension of working with the group in the studio, here McCartney worked alone, overdubbing on his Studer four-track recorder with a lone microphone.

The album is full of the touches that both enthrall and infuriate about McCartney. His two Beatles leftovers display these extremes perfectly: whereas “Junk” is wistful, poetic, and vivid, “Teddy Boy” is painfully silly. However, the whole album rests in the shadow of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which arrives late and effortlessly demonstrates just how much an architect of the Abbey Road sound he was. A mature adult love ballad, it is possibly his finest song ever.

Released in April 1970, the album received sniffy reactions from the media, but quickly topped the American charts and reached the runner-up position in the UK. With its symbolic cover and snapshots of his new family, McCartney was not so much a willful post-Fab nose-thumbing as a manifesto of his intent and a catalog for his new life.

Daryl Easlea

Circus, 7/70

McCartney is better than the Beatles’ newest, Let It Be, better than the Beatles together. Which is, after all these years both a sad and an instructive thing to observe. Paul plays all the instruments — drums, bass, lead, rhythm, piano — and has in effect become the Beatles in himself, incorporating everything, including possibly the personalities of the other three. His sound is the Beatles still, and that is poignant, because the rest of them are not there, and maybe never will be.

Paul’s exhibiting some of the most together sounds any of the Beatles have ever put together. He is still innocent, charming, touching, lyrical, sympathetic, wistful, sad, longing, elfish, and poignant, But he is no longer a Beatle, just a damn fine musician and writer. His drum solo on “Hot As Sun,” accompanied by heavy breathing, is work for him, an effort but which in the end comes very naturally. Very heavy head record, too. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is incontestably the love ballad of all time.

Jonathan Eisen

Paul McCartney – Unplugged

More Paul McCartney

More Beatles

  • A true Demo Disc and superb sounding import pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • A strikingly intimate document of a live show, fronted by one of the greatest performers in history, Sir Paul McCartney
  • You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange
  • 4 stars: “… it remains one of the most enjoyable records in McCartney’s catalog. McCartney is carefree and charming, making songs like “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” sound fresh.”

Superb sound for this amazing recording! It’s a strikingly intimate document of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.

On the best copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange. It’s surprising how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies can be, considering that this is a live recording (by the legendary Geoff Emerick himself) with not a lot of “messing around” after the fact. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “…you guys DID IT AGAIN – simply superlative sound quality.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Got my “Red Rose Speedway” today. OMG. OK, this was the FIRST album I EVER bought – new from the store, as a 12-year old kid just beginning to buy his own records with his own money. I haven’t heard this in 30 plus years. SUCH GREAT SOUND!!! The first is a series of fantastic songs, from start to finish, and you guys DID IT AGAIN – simply superlative sound quality.

You have NO idea how much joy you’re giving me!!!!

Steve M.

Steve,

Glad to hear it. Joy is the name of the game!

TP

Paul McCartney / Unplugged – Testing for Life-Size Images and Living Presence

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More of the Music of The Beatles

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises. (This is one of our earliest ones, from all the way back in 2006!)

On the song Blackbird Paul moves the microphone, scraping it along the floor, which causes a huge wave of bass to envelop the room. I was over at one of my customer’s houses a while ago, doing some testing with electronics and tweaks, and I remember distinctly that the microphone stand was shrunken and lean sounding in a way I had never heard before. Now this customer, whose system was in the $100K range, had no idea what that microphone stand could really do. I did, because I’ve been hearing it do it for years.

Some speakers can’t move enough air down low to reproduce that sound. And some speakers, usually those with woofers under 12 inches, shrink the size of images. These are many things to test for for in a given system, dozens and dozens in fact, but two of the important ones are these: if it doesn’t have a solid foundation (read: a big bottom end), and it doesn’t have correctly-sized images for the instruments, that’s a system that is failing in fundamentally important ways.  (more…)

Paul McCartney and Wings – Red Rose Speedway

More Paul McCartney / More of The Beatles

  • This early British EMI pressing has excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage UK pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • 4 stars: “…every bit as insular as the lo-fi records of the early ’90s, but considerably more artful, since it was, after all, designed by one of the great pop composers of the century. …McCartney’s little flourishes are intoxicating — not just the melodies, but the facile production and offhand invention.”
  • If you’re a fan of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles output, this release from 1973 probably belongs in your collection.

We have not had particularly good luck with the domestic pressings we’ve tried. The Brits are the only ones that, to our ears, seem to be made from the real tape. (more…)

Paul McCartney and Wings – Ram

  • This vintage pressing of McCartney’s 1971 Classic boasts outstanding sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • A copy like this is a real audiophile treat – here is the rich, warm, clear, natural and lively sound you want for Ram   
  • Many of the man’s most memorable songs are here: Too Many People, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Monkberry Moon Delight, Heart Of The Country and more
  • 5 stars: “These songs may not be self-styled major statements, but they are endearing and enduring, as is Ram itself, which seems like a more unique, exquisite pleasure with each passing year.”

I remember this album being dismissed as lightweight back in the day and I may have even felt the same to be honest. Heck, compared to Abbey Road and The White Album, the very same thing could be said about most of McCartney’s albums.

McCartney isn’t out to blow you away with high-production value rock here, apart from Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. He’s making some lovely pop music with his wife and sharing it with the world. And what’s so wrong with that? (more…)

Paul McCartney – McCartney

More Paul McCartney

More Beatles

  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

This Is Not a Cheap Hobby If You Want to Do It Right

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More of the Music of The Beatles

Some records are consistently too noisy to keep in stock no matter how good they sound. This is one of them. We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

Rick sent us a letter recently after having played his first Hot Stamper, the first record he ever bought from us. At $300 it wasn’t exactly cheap, but the best things in life never are, and certainly there is little in the world of audio that’s cheap and of much value.

This is not a cheap hobby if you want to do it right, and even tons of money doesn’t guarantee you will get good sound. It’s far more complicated than that. To quote Winston Churchill, it takes “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Churchill went on to say “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs… Victory, however long and hard the road may be…”

Now, he wasn’t talking about audio, but he could have been, and I certainly am. It takes the serious commitment of resources — money and labor — to get the sound you want. That is the victory I am talking about.

On our Hot Stamper McCartney album, Rick no doubt heard the sound he was looking for — and then some — judging by his letter.

Hi Tom!

Well, I knew you guys were serious upon receiving the LP in 4 layers of wrapping and padding but when I put the disc on I was pretty stunned. Virtually everything was popping and so musical and rich sounding. Nothing like the 3 other pressings I’ve had of this recording in the past, the last of which I actually sailed out the window after 2 minutes of playing.

Every Night just sounds incredible, especially when he drops the bass an octave. And Maybe I’m Amazed gave me goosebumps for the first time since I bought it the week it came out. Also heard something on that track I never did (or could hear) before. During the guitar solo there’s a single high pitched vocal kind of buried in the background. Almost sounds like a mistake, making me think it could be Linda and Paul did what he could. Pretty wild.

My only very slight criticism is there is some surface noise but this is very overshadowed by all the positives. Overall it is superb. Can I give you guys a short list of LPs I’m looking for?

Thanks so much!

Best
Rick M.

(more…)

Paul McCartney & Wings – Venus and Mars

More Paul McCartney

More of The Beatles

  • Venus and Mars finally returns to the site with a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus side two, mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • “Venus and Mars is an interesting mix of musical styles, punctuated by Paul McCartney’s unerring sense of melody and hooky songs.” – Oldies.com

This original UK Capitol pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More Recordings by Robin Black

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

(more…)