I jumped through several hoops to get the new Paul McCartney album on the day of its release. It was quite the fanboy journey hunting down the surprisingly elusive exclusive version of Egypt Station from Target featuring two bonus tracks. However, I'll save that tale for the end of this review as I want to get to the music first.
I am really enjoying this new album. Like its predecessor New (which I have reviewed here a couple of times, click here to learn about the recent reissue), Egypt Station was recorded in several studios. Fortunately the producers kept an eye on things so there is remarkable continuity across the record.
As 21st-century pop music CDs go, Egypt Station sounds great! The blend of classic rock flavors - - drums, bass, guitar - - with horns, strings and newer production textures makes for a compelling modern recording. The CD sounds quite dynamic with a bright patina supplemented by rich mids and lows. Egypt Station at once plays like no other Paul McCartney record yet at the same time it is like all of them. This is a good thing...
"Back In Brazil" hooks around a nifty, childlike 'beep boop' synthesizer type tone as a curious flute floats over a swaggering sequenced pop dance groove. "Dominoes" swings from acoustic introspection to full rock band assault -- replete with mini psychedelic freakout section -- and back, all in a five minute period.
The socio-political themed songs on Egypt Station work in their own McCartney-esque way. "People Want Peace" is a classic Macca singalong with a positive universal message. "Despite Repeated Warnings" is a poignant epic with multiple movements, recalling classic McCartney compositions such as "Live and Let Die."
Initially I was a little thrown off by one of the singles from the album -- "Fuh You" -- not only because of its blunt lyrical pun, but also since it embraced a song writing style popular over the last several years, stopping just short of including the so-called "millennal whoop" (which would have been easy to add in!). But then I stopped to think about it and, y'know folks, in reality Paul McCartney has been riding (and driving) trends since the very start of his career: from Beatle-ized Motown to the Ska/Reggae groove of "Obla Di Obla Da" to his late 70s disco hit "Silly Love Songs" and beyond. So... at the end of the day "Fuh You" is a fun ditty and if it turns on younger listeners on to Sir Paul's music, well then that's a good thing.
I will delve into more of the main album's songs when I get the vinyl version of Egypt Station in hand for the second half of this review. You can stream the basic 16-track version of the album on Tidal (click here to jump to it).
The two bonus tracks on the exclusive Target CD version of this album lend a different dynamic to the album's close. After the relative heaviness of the last several tracks -- especially the rocking album closer "Hunt You Down / Naked / C-Link" which ends on a somber bluesy vibe -- the two bonus tracks clear the air with an almost giddy frivolity.
The tracks are poppy and even fun, but I can also guess why they might've been left off the regular album. "Get Started" is a driving pop rocker with some sweet 12-string electric guitar riffs complementing "ooh ooh"choruses and ending with a fun little Hendrix-inspired two chord jam. "Nothing For Free" is possibly the most trendy styled track here, feeling almost like some lost Beck tune (and that's not a bad thing, mind you). I kind of like that this 18-track version of Egypt Station wraps up on an upbeat note.
Before I close, I do need to comment on the odd retail phenomena I experienced on the launch day of this release, which I mentioned at the start of this review. It began when my Beatle-fan buddy Frank got up at 7:00 a.m. to go downtown to Target and found one copy of the album in stock. He texted me about this so, intrigued, I decided to explore it myself, going to three other Target stores here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Only one of them had the album... and that one was all they got in stock... the one CD which I bought! Store personnel at other outlets also confirmed that they only got the one copy but did indicate that more were probably on order.
Still I had to wonder why this happened if this is supposed to be a special promotion? Was it an upper management oversight? Was it a lack of enthusiasm or knowledge on the part of the buyers? Was the store being extra cautious so as to not overstock? Or perhaps it was a matter of the company consciously trying to stifle the wave of eBay flippers - people who scoop up these kinds of special editions packages and then resell them at exorbitant prices online?
Now, while I suspect that Sir Paul's music may not precisely target Target's target audience, he is still one of the most influential song writers and musicians of our times. To that point, I would've thought there would have been a little bit more support for him at retail on the day the album was launching. I actually had to help one young Target employee -- who was searching their computer network for the album -- on how to spell Paul McCartney's name, as he was not familiar with him.
Some hard "Reality 101" for us Baby Boomers, I suppose...
Anyhow, if you haven't heard Egypt Station you should check it out as if you are a Paul McCartney fan. It's a really enjoyable album. Stay tuned for part two of this review as we will make another stop at Egypt Station as soon as I get my hands on the vinyl edition.