02 October, 2011

The Bonus Discs - McCartney & McCartney II

The paradox of the McCartney and McCartney II albums is that they are both very similar and very different albums.  Fundamentally, they are both the sound of Paul McCartney pottering about in his back shed seeing what sounds he could make.  He played all parts himself, making them solo albums in the truest sense of the word.  The main difference is that on the latter album, he’s working out how to use synthesizers and sequencers.  It’s perhaps for this reason that McCartney II is not remembered particularly fondly, as the sounds are now awfully dated while the more basic instrumentation of the first album do not.  However, at least every track on McCartney II has a beginning, middle and end.  If one wanted to be harsh, you could say there are really only four or five complete songs on McCartney and the rest is a collection of self-jams and half-songs butted together.

Be that as it may, enough has been written about these two albums over the last thirty (or forty, as the case may be) years, and this review is of the bonus discs that come with the deluxe editions of the albums.  Unlike Band on the Run, you have to buy the uber-deluxe versions in order to get all the previously unreleased material.  That’s a mark against it from the start because fans who want to have all the music don’t necessarily want an expensive coffee-table book as well, beautiful though the books are.  

The additional CD with McCartney scrapes to find enough interesting things to add.  Perhaps the most sought-after track is the full-length version of Suicide.  The story goes that the song was intended for Frank Sinatra but he rejected it.  Who would have thought Sinatra wouldn’t be keen on singing a song about domestic violence called ‘Suicide’?  Go figure!  Other out-takes are Women Kind and Don’t Cry Baby which is in fact, an instrumental version of Oo You – or Singalong Oo You if you like.  Other tracks on the bonus CD are Every Night, Hot as Sun and Maybe I’m Amazed recorded live in Glasgow (widely bootlegged as Wings’ Last Flight) and another version of Maybe I’m Amazed from the One Hand Clapping film, also available on the special edition of Band on the Run.

On the DVD side, we have a ten minute audio interview with Paul about the making of the album which is augmented by some pretty nice animation and this is followed some home movies that are soundtracked by the Loma Mar Quartet’s version of Junk (from the Working Classical album).  The original promotional film for Maybe I’m Amazed is included without remastered audio.  This is interesting because it adds an authenticity to the rather dated.  Hi-fi sound would have jarred with the visuals.  The version of Suicide from One Hand Clapping was not included in the cut of the film that was released with Band on the Run last year.  I guess they were saving that for this release.  The DVD is completed with four live versions, two from the Concert for the People of Kampuchea in 1979 and two from MTV Unplugged in 1991.

Maybe I'm Amazed - initial CD release

Maybe I'm Amazed - 2011 remaster

The deluxe edition of McCartney II comes with two bonus CDs and a DVD.  The first extra CD collects B-sides and previously unreleased tracks, some of which remind us of why they were unreleased.  Bogey Wobble sounds like an early 80s corporate video but it’s still better than All You Horse Riders.  In fairness, there’s no attempt to hide the fact that these are experimental recordings, never intended for release.  Also included is Wonderful Christmastime, recorded during the same sessions, and the live version of Coming Up, which was released as the A-side of the single in the US.  This is its first world-wide CD release.  The disc is bookended with two versions of Blue Sway.  It opens with the orchestrated version which was completed in 1986 (which explains why it sounds more like it’s taken from the Press to Play sessions than McCartney II) and concludes with the unadorned, original version.

The second bonus CD, only available on the deluxe edition is made up mostly of full-length versions of tracks that were edited down for album release.  While most of these edits simply took out unnecessary repetition and noodling, it’s still interesting to hear the tracks as they were initially recorded.

The DVD features a 25-minute special called Meet Paul McCartney, where Paul is interviewed about the new album by Tim Rice, no less.  McCartney interviews from this period are interesting because he wasn’t talking about the Beatles all the time.  This program also includes the original 4:3 version of the Waterfalls film clip, not the new, cropped ‘widescreen’ version.   There are all the video clips associated with the album, plus two live versions of Coming Up – one from the Concert for the People of Kampuchea and a home movie of Wings rehearsing.  Although Wings’ popularity was fading by 1979, it’s still interesting to see one of the biggest bands of the 70s crammed into a living room to practice.  Also included is the commentary on the making of Coming Up, previously included on The McCartney Years and the newly made video clip for Blue Sway.

Coming Up - 1993 remaster

Coming Up - 2011 remaster

Usually when reviewing bonus discs like this, I ask the question: Is it worth paying extra for?  I’m slightly torn on the answer for these releases because while there’s some very interesting stuff included, the question is whether you’re prepared to buy a hardcover book at a price anywhere between $US55 and $US120 to get them.  For sure, the books are sumptuous and contain lots of great photos and insight into how the albums were made, but ideally that should be a separate decision from the audio/visual content.  The McCartney album’s two bonus discs contain less than an hour of additional material between them.  McCartney II’s three extra discs, do give over two hours of rare & unreleased tracks. 

Both deluxe editions come with vouchers to download the high resolution, 24 bit, 96 kHz versions of the recordings.

Audio: LPCM Stereo
Worth paying extra for?  Not really.

McCartney II:
Audio: LPCM Stereo
Worth paying extra for?  Yes, but not this much.



  1. I'm done buying giant collections just to get 1 or 2 unreleased songs. If they're good I've probably already heard them. If they're not then somebody will send me the mp4.

    But Paul's unfinished songs mashed together aren't always a bad thing. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey and Band on the Run turned out ok.

  2. Oh, I agree. I just find it interesting that the conventional wisdom is that the first album is one of his best while some of his more crafted work is judged so harshly.

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