2 McCartney albums travel long, winding road back

Paul McCartney oversaw all aspects of the reissue of "McCartney" and "McCartney II." The Concord Music Group is updating his catalog.
Paul McCartney oversaw all aspects of the reissue of "McCartney" and "McCartney II." The Concord Music Group is updating his catalog. (PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP, Getty Images)
Posted: April 28, 2011

There is justice in this world for those of us who have long contended that Paul McCartney's weird and wonderful 1980 solo album, McCartney II, is way better and more interesting than most critics contended when it was released.

The album, along with its predecessor from a decade earlier, McCartney, will be reissued June 14 as part of the former Beatles bassist's extensive, ongoing catalog update through the Concord Music Group, it was announced Wednesday.

McCartney oversaw all aspects of these reissues, and it shows in the many extras that will be featured. Each album will be released in both a pared-down two-disc version and a multidisc/DVD package, the latter including extensive liner notes, bonus tracks, film footage, and a hardbound book featuring photos by both McCartney and his late wife, Linda McCartney, whose stunning images documented the couple's seemingly idyllic life.

It is interesting to note how the reputation of McCartney II has grown in the 30 years since its release. Initially dismissed as a dalliance by many, the album contained one hit, "Coming Up," which is one of the least interesting songs on it. Rolling Stone gave McCartney II three stars, and Robert Christgau gave it a C, writing that "[The] instrumentals are doodles, the songs demos by a man who scores the occasional hit only to prove he's a genius. Which he isn't."

These "doodles," however, proved prescient, created as they were at the moment when the experimental computer pop of Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra was making its mark. Parts of McCartney II wouldn't sound out of place on an early Human League or Depeche Mode album. Ariel Pink should be singing over "Front Parlour," a bouncy, melodic instrumental that kicks off the second side of the album. (It's pretty obvious that David Bowie's Brian Eno-produced Low was an inspiration.)

And then there's "Temporary Secretary," which of late has become a staple in DJ sets - in the last year No Age, Frosty from Dublab, and DJ Chris Holmes have all been heard dropping the track into their mixes. The song sounds as if Admiral Halsey had traveled into the future looking for his first mate, the "temporary secretary" of the title.

The McCartney II deluxe reissue will contain three CDs and a DVD featuring previously unseen footage, as well as eight bonus audio tracks. The accompanying book will feature previously unpublished photos by Linda McCartney and, as described in the release, "original album and single artwork, downloadable hi-res audio versions of the remastered album, an illustrated history of the making of the album, and expanded track by track information for all three audio discs plus detailed historical information on the film content."

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