If you’re like me, you have the artists you love, but you’re not collecting rooms full of bootlegs.
With Paul McCartney, of course, there’s a bootleg economy. A lot of his unofficial stuff is known to those insiders but it’s just too much effort for regular fans. So when there’s a reissue, a box set, an official compilation that contains rarities, I’m there.
Paul’s 1997 album, “Flaming Pie,” is one of his very best solo outings, consistent from beginning to end with 12 terrific tracks. But by 1997, Paul was 55 and not having his spectacular singles career from the 70s and 80s. “Flaming Pie” was a modest hit, but a little lost at that time among contemporary artists (many of whom disappeared after one hit).
So now we have “Flaming Pie” tomorrow in a new expensive, limited edition box, plus other configurations that are more affordable. The double CD contains one disc of the original album, remixed and sounding brilliant. But the real treat is the second disc, which as demos, home recordings, and 7 songs Paul has never released officially.
The unreleased songs include “Bookworm,” with Steve Miller (yes that Steve Miller), “Same Love” with the late very great Nicky Hopkins on piano, “Love Come Tumbling Down,” co-produced by legendary producer Phil Ramone, “Looking for You,” featuring Ringo on drums and co-produced Jeff Lynne, and a doodle called “C’Mon Down, “C’Mon Baby.” These songs are an unexpected gift from Paul as they all stand out as essential new pieces of the McCartney puzzle. I’m going to need 2 copies of the double CD so I have one for the car. (Yes, I still have CDs in my car.)
There’s also an incredible track called “Whole Life,” recorded with Dave Stewart and released on a Nelson Mandela tribute record in 2005.
The basic “Flaming Pie” is very tasty. (Ouch!) Paul released it the year before his beloved wife, Linda, died of breast cancer. No mention is made of that in Chris Heath’s excellent liner notes for the big box set, but what was going on at home can’t be ignored. McCartney released just two albums of new material in the 1990s– “Off the Ground” in 1993 and this one in 1997. “Off the Ground” was pleasant, but a slump after the amazing 1989 collaboration with Elvis Costello called “Flowers in the Dirt.”
“Flaming Pie” reclaimed the high ground he’d left behind from “Flowers.” Every bit of it feels inspired, new, shiny. The concepts are well thought out. It’s the beginning of Paul grappling with moving forward an keeping an eye on the future. He knows it, too. When he wrote the line, “I go back so far, I’m in front of me” in “The World Tonight” he knew he’d found gold. He was certainly thinking of Linda’s illness and the uncertain future for his beloved family. It’s all contemplated in the opening number, “The Song We Were Singing.” He’d return to this theme in another great album, “Memory Almost Full,” from 2008.
The rock press, writers and critics all think it’s too easy for Paul, so they tend not to take much of his solo output seriously. That’s a big mistake. He’s not just “Band on the Run.” He’s written and produced mountains of really important material that will be raked through in generations to come. “Flaming Pie” will be considered more than just a dessert. It’s a satisfying main dish.
I’m featuring “Love Come Tumbling Down” here because of Phil Ramone, who was also a genius, and because once you hear it you’ll wonder why it was relegated to be a B side of a single and not included on the album.
I’m also a big fan of this one, “Same Love”:
And here’s “Whole Life”