Saturday, October 3, 2009

Paul McCartney's Seven Best Post Beatles Albums‏

by Jake Topp

Too often people dismiss Paul McCartney's entire career after The Beatles. It's become such "conventional wisdom" that McCartney was no good after The Beatles that a lot of people don't even question it.

But really the whole idea makes no sense. The guy who wrote so many of The Beatles greatest songs, the guy who was behind many of The Beatles greatest ideas, the guy who wrote such amazing bass lines with The Beatles, this guy is suddenly no good at making music because he's on his own? It makes no sense, and it's not true.

McCartney recorded a lot of great music after The Beatles both as a solo artist, with his band Wings, and as a part of the experimental duo (with the producer Youth) The Fireman. In this article I feature the seven best post-Beatles McCartney albums that I recommend you check out. They are listed in chronological order.

McCartney (1970) - Paul's debut solo album is also among my favorites. I love the home studio "do it yourself" vibe to it. At the time a lot of people just looked at it as lazy or as unfocused (in comparison to the Abbey Road suite that McCartney had largely been responsible for, I can understand that). But I think it looks a lot better now, looking back at it. It was really a very "indie" sounding album. It's just a singer-songwriter being creative and recording interesting music because he enjoys doing it. Plus it features what is arguably his best solo song "Maybe I'm Amazed."

Ram (1971) - I think this may be my favorite solo Paul album. It's just such imaginative music. Are the lyrics silly? Yes. So what? Paul's best music was never about the lyrics even when he was with The Beatles. Unfortunately the music critics at the time didn't get Ram and I think the criticism stung Paul pretty badly and that made him go into other directions. I personally wish he would have continued down this path a bit farther.

Band on the Run (1973) - His third album with Wings and his 5th post-Beatles album. This is his best known post-Beatles album and it was the first one to really get a lot of good critical reviews. It's definitely Paul in his "Abbey Road mode" where he's really trying to create a "perfect album." And while it's not as good as Abbey Road, it is a really strong album with a lot of good songs. Unfortunately I think it was his last really good album for quite some time.

Flaming Pie (1997) - Perhaps it was The Beatles Anthology project that got Paul back in gear but he seems to have found his muse again beginning with this album (interestingly enough, I think this is about the same time Bob Dylan got it together again too after a similarly long period of sub-par releases). Now, I'd probably rank this about 7th out of these seven as it does have some not so great tracks on it, but it also has a number of songs that I do think are really inspired, "Calico Skies" probably being my most favorite.

Rushes (1998) - This is an ambient electronic music album he released under the name The Fireman. I have listened to this album many times, I find it to be really entrancing. For anyone who questions Paul's "experimental edge" I beg of them to listen to this album and 2000's Liverpool Sound Collage (which didn't make this list, but I do think is very interesting too).

Chaos and Creation ... (2005) - This one was produced by Nigel Godrich (the producer for Radiohead and Beck among others) and it has a sense of purpose to it that is often missing from McCartney's solo material. It may be his most consistently good solo album.

Electric Arguments (2008) - This album was also released under the name The Fireman (with the producer Youth being his collaborator on the project). The Fireman project had been about very experimental electronic music, but with this album he marries that experimental approach with more pop/rock oriented songs and this very interesting album is the result. At times it's slightly too new age or something for my tastes, but on many of it's tracks this album is really exciting as it sounds like Paul at his most creative and vital since his days with The Beatles.

Jake Topp recommends as a great website to buy Beatles related stuff.


  1. I would leave out Rushes, but I think you're biggest ommission is "Flowers in the Dirt." While it does arguably have a few not so good songs, it's loaded with great ones, and a few that grew on me. I agree with you on Ram & Band on the Run, both of these albums are filled with great songs. Neither have any weak ones, I love them all.

  2. Interesting selection. As usual, one man's fish is another man's poisson. I would have included Tug of War which is a magnificent album. Forget Rushes but Eectric Arguments is excellent. I would bin Chaos and Creation for the simple fact that Godrich suffocated the songs.It's to piano-heavy and the songs, althouigh showing potential, run out of steam. In contrast Memory Almost Full is Macca at the top of his game. Course,you'll never please some of the people all of the time. Ken McNab, Beatles in Scotland (check it out, baby)