For Paul McCartney's new album, appropriately titled New, he worked with four producers with the intent on finding one he liked and finishing the record with that person. What McCartney didn't envision was liking them all equally -- but he did -- and so Paul Epworth, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns and Giles Martin all have credits on the album. As all four producers have very diverse styles and credits from artists ranging from Adele to Kula Shaker to Ryan Adams to Duran Duran, it's not surprising that McCartney's album is very diverse as well, but then again, so were The Beatles' best albums.
"Save Us," the album's lead track and one of two co-written by Epworth, finds McCartney on all instruments and vocals except drums, which are handled by Epworth. It's an edgy, frantic rocker, filled with distorted guitars and may come as a surprise to those who only think of McCartney as the twee Beatle.
McCartney's crack band features on many tracks on New, including "Alligator," a bouncy pop number with a trippy falsetto break from McCartney and Wings-sounding guitar lines toward the song's end. The band also features on the title track, a song strongly reminiscent of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour period and a brilliant slice of pure McCartney pop. It's 2:57 to remind the listener that for this type of music, Sir Paul has few, if any peers.
"Appreciate" has a hypnotic groove with bits of electronic programming and heavily processed vocals from McCartney. While "New," the track that immediately precedes it, is firmly rooted in the past, "Appreciate" is McCartney pushing his music forward, which is not something many artists can or want to do at age 71.
McCartney does the one-man band thing again on "Hosanna," save for Johns on an iPad tabla app. The track is mostly acoustic, but showcases McCartney's love for tape loops, which goes back to his days in The Beatles. A dreamy number, it is a highlight of the disc. The album's closer (If you don't count the hidden track), "Road," is an echo drenched, psychedelic-influenced number that wouldn't feel out of place on McCartney's last Fireman release, Electric Arguments -- and that's a good thing. Where the Fireman albums were McCartney's outlet for his more experimental music, he's finally taken that reckless ambition and applied it to this and several other songs on New, with great results.
Four producers? No problem. McCartney works out their diverse styles to suit his own diverse songs on New. Artists half his age would like to have an album like this. The fact McCartney does it at age 71 makes the listener hope he has many more like this left in him.