December 30, 2007

Review: Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full [Deluxe Edition]

As the initial artist signed to the Starbucks music label, Hear Music, Paul McCartney released Memory Almost Full this past June. Debuting at number three on the US album charts, it has since garnered three Grammy nominations. Now, reissued with a new DVD of recent concert footage and promotional videos, you can watch and listen to what the man says on the deluxe version of Memory Almost Full.

On his previous album, Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, McCartney exhibited a renewed concentration on his craft, the result of a disciplined approach to songwriting, performance, and production. On Memory Almost Full, he preserves much the same focus, yet his performances yield a bit more spontaneity and spunk. Tracks like “Only Mama Knows” and “Nod Your Head” rock and rumble with a youthful exuberance. “Dance Tonight” jangles to a catchy mandolin riff and foot-stomping beat. “That Was Me” bustles along to a playful melody. These are but a few examples why this effort not only stands as a solid McCartney album, but also as one of the year’s best.

The DVD included in this deluxe version does have its merits, but most of the material will appeal primarily to McCartney completists. Five performances, taped live at London’s Electric Ballroom in 2007 and which comprise four album cuts as well as “Drive My Car,” come off as superfluous. As good as it sounds, the visual presentation of selective songs lacks continuity and ultimately doesn’t translate well to video. A far superior concert recording of tracks from this album (as well as two classic Wings songs) can be found on the digital EP, iTunes Festival: London – Paul McCartney.

Rounding out the DVD are two promotional videos, for “Dance Tonight” and “Ever Present Past.” The surrealistic video for “Dance Tonight” features the ever-charming Natalie Portman, making this short film a delight to watch. The video for “Ever Present Past” shows McCartney clumsily dancing in a choreographed sequence among a troupe of female clones. He looks a bit silly and out of step, but perhaps that’s the point. He’s obviously not trying to emulate Baryshnikov with this routine.

For McCartney completists, this deluxe version of Memory Almost Full should complement your overflowing collection. However, for casual or curious fans, the bonus DVD doesn’t add much to what, on its own, is a splendid album.