Music Review: Paul McCartney - Pure McCartney (4-Disc Deluxe Edition)

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Pure McCartney is a career-spanning, four-disc, 67-track set that contains a mix of hits, popular album cuts, and deep tracks. There's nothing exciting here for hardcore McCartney maniacs who already own all the albums, but for those who've only dabbled in solo Macca the set may prove revelatory. As stated by McCartney himself in the liner notes, the idea here was to present a bunch of random tunes arranged as theme-less playlists. The result is, of course, a ton of great music but presented in a sequence that is sometimes less than complimentary to the material (selections from recent albums like 2013's New don't generally sit well when programmed next to vintage '70s stuff, simply because of the radically different production styles).

Before further discussion of the Pure set, a little recent McCartney reissue history is in order. Back in 2010, Hear Music issued the first release in The Paul McCartney Archive Collection, Band on the Run (1973). Since then, we've seen eight additional entries in the Archive Collection, each available as an economical two-disc edition or as a deluxe box/book set: McCartney (1970), RAM (1971), Venus and Mars (1975), Wings At the Speed of Sound (1976), Wings Over America (1977), McCartney II (1980), Tug of War (1982), and Pipes of Peace (1983).

Why is this relevant? Because Pure McCartney has seemingly put the Archive Collection on pause, with no date yet announced for the next entry. The award-winning series has moved slowly enough as it is, so fans starved for the Flowers in the Dirt reissue are understandably greeting the Pure stopgap with a degree of impatience. Somewhat bizarrely, nothing from Flowers was included on Pure, not even the hit single "My Brave Face." Some have speculated this is because the Flowers Archive Collection edition was announced last year (via the Tug of War and Pipes of Peace sets) and is apparently forthcoming in the relatively near future. Still, I don't see why that would necessitate holding any and all cuts from that great album off a supposedly "comprehensive" collection like Pure.

As for other snubbed albums, it's worth noting that nothing from Run Devil Run (1999) or Driving Rain (2001) turns up here either. And while more than half of Flaming Pie (1997) is included, only one tune from Off the Ground (1993) was chosen ("Winedark Open Sea"). But again, the goal was to offer a random trip through McCartney's vast solo catalog, opening with "Maybe I'm Amazed" from his 1970 debut McCartney and going right up to 2014's video game soundtrack tune "Hope for the Future" (which is probably the collection's "rarest" track, as it hadn't yet appeared on any McCartney CD). There are a few "single mixes" here that were not on their respective Archive Collection release, including "Venus and Mars/Rockshow" and "Say Say Say (2015 Remix)," but overall pickings are incredibly slim for anyone who already owns the entire catalog.

Tracks pulled from post-Flaming Pie albums have not been remastered here. However, those looking for a preview of the remastered sound of Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway, Press To Play, and other pre-2000s albums will find it here. It's just too bad that a few more genuine rarities hadn't been selected for inclusion. There's a lot of doubling from the Wingspan: Hits and History (2001) compilation. A no-hits (or at least no repeating of hits from Wingspan) policy would've made Pure a more consistently interesting collection.

Isn't is a relatively safe bet that most folks willing to pony up for a four-disc collection already have stalwarts like "Band On the Run" and "Jet" on one or more releases? Why not include overlooked minor hits from the '70s like "Getting Closer" or "I've Had Enough?" What about '80s hits like "So Bad" or "Spies Like Us?" Surely it would make for a fresher collection than one that includes, yet again, the likes of "Let 'Em In" and "Ebony and Ivory" (not dissing those huge hits, just pointing out they've been on one or more previous compilations). That's to say nothing of being a little more adventurous with deep cut selection rather than trotting out those same predictable hits.

Gripes aside, Pure McCartney is a great way to get lost in the greatness of one of the most varied discographies in pop music history. Without a doubt there was potential to make this a far more cohesive, unpredictable collection. But as a mix of big hits and lesser-known gems, it's great for a casual fan who wants to dig deeper.

Pure McCartney cover (284x380).jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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