Late last year living legend Paul McCartney put out his third solo album to the surprise of many fans and it became both an instant hot ticket and a point of frustration among many. There were a mind-boggling multitude of pre-orders offered in a wide variety of different colored limited editions – green, red, white, blue, yellow and even coke-bottle green clear vinyl.
Beatle fans being Beatle fans, it was not surprising to me that these special editions of McCartney III were getting snapped up as fast as they could be posted on the Internet. Small runs from places like Third Man Records —- 300 pressed! — we’re gone in an instant, creating instant collectors items. The vivid green exclusive edition from Target was pretty much non-existent according to friends who went around to several Bay Area stores in search of copies; this mirrored my experience in 2018 looking for the limited edition CD of Egypt Station ( click hereto read about that tale…. I eventually did get it on vinyl)
It got so frustrating that I couldn’t even get my hands on a copy of McCartney III even though I was trying. I regretted not jumping on the pre-order sign ups and I finally gave up in a combination of depression and disgust (old school Beatle fans tend to take this kind of thing seriously folks). Sir Paul’s record label couldn’t even get an extra copy for me to review!
I finally broke down and did a preview-review based on the high resolution streams on Tidal and Qobuz. If you click here you will jump back to that review.
Since then, I’ve been keeping my eye out looking for a copy of McCartney III for a while and none have appeared in the stores I frequent regularly (Amoeba Music, in particular). I’ve checked online periodically as well and none were available in places like Amazon and Amoeba. I really wasn’t up for ordering a pricey copy from a flipper on Discogs or eBay.
So… in a sort of Zen-Beatle fashion George Harrison would appreciate, I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and waited patiently until the next pressing was done.
Lo and behold, it finally appeared the other day!
And… you know what? It was worth the wait!
This is a high-quality deep dark black vinyl pressing made in Germany. It is well centered, perfectly flat and dead quiet.… All the things audiophiles love.
But here’s the other groovy thing: to my ear, the vinyl version of McCartney III is a better listening experience than the digital streams I’ve listened to. Don’t get me wrong, streaming it at 24 bits and 192 kHz on Tidal MQA format (or 96/24 via Qobuz) is not a bad thing at all! The album is bright and clear and digital sparkly.
Where the vinyl shines is that it tightens up the album listening experience quite a bit and allows the low and mid ranges to bask in the sunshine. I’ll admit that there is probably a bit of warming going on from my Bellari tube preamplifier, but I think this music benefits from the compression inevitably applied in the disc mastering process.
In ye-olde dayze of rock and roll record making, the compression applied in the final mastering — and in the disc mastering stages — often combined and contributed to the ultimate sound of a recording. So this is not me just being a vinyl fanboy — I would tell you if the vinyl was no good!
The other nice thing is that these songs on McCartney III have grown on me quite a bit over the past few months. I know some of you feel a bit grumpy about late period Paul McCartney records but I find his work to be really grand and inspiring in his golden years. He still on a remarkable creative run which began some years ago with albums like Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, New and 2018’s fine Egypt Station.
How many artists in their later years are still churning out compelling music? When I was a kid growing up, all I saw was “older” artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra putting out not exactly breathtaking recordings. In the 00s, things have changed and we’ve seen some Boomer-era artists really step up to the plate delivering the goods including David Crosby, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and David Gilmour. Heck, even Tony Bennett has been doing fine work as long as he could! I say bravo to these folks and relish how they continue to release new music as long as they are willing and able to do so.
I’ve been poking around online and it seems like many of the stores are getting this black vinyl version of McCartney III in stock so you should be able to find it around (click on the title anywhere in this review and it will take you to Amazon).
And what about those colored vinyl variants? Well they are still out there and some of them are going for some hefty prices already! Personally, I would hold off on buying any of those right now because I suspect that at some point in the future we’re going to see a Super Deluxe Edition of this album and maybe even a whole other round of limited edition madness! So you may find that initially-rare green vinyl version from Target showing up at a more affordable price down the pike.
I doubt, however, if the super limited edition version done at Third Man Records in yellow vinyl (with black dots like the dice on the cover!) will come down in price much anytime soon, however. It’s currently selling for upwards of $3000 a Discogs! Let that sink in!
Just speculating here but maybe when a deluxe edition comes out it will look like the cover on the limited edition download version (click here for Discogs’ track listing) on multi-color swirl vinyl. Perhaps it will contain at least those four bonus tracks on one side and maybe four or five others on the other side. That would be fun! We’ll keep you posted on whether it becomes a reality.
For now, I’m more than content with my nice new black vinyl version of McCartney III.