The pop legend enlisted an all-star group of multigenerational artists to rework his most recent solo album with "reinterpretations, remixes and covers" that are packed with widely varying styles, ranging from R&B to hard rock to even trip-hop
Late last year, Paul McCartney thrilled music fans when announcing the third installment to his classic home-recorded series, which included the favorites McCartney (1970) and McCartney II (1980). There was a lot of anticipation given the acclaim to his groundbreaking and eponymous predecessors. The roman numeral III carries a certain weight, signaling a similar exploration and experimentation explored on those previous albums where McCartney basks in the uncertainty of unfamiliar musical territories, and pulls it off incredibly well. McCartney III was definitely an experiment (like these albums always are) but unlike II, it also showcased McCartney sticking to his roots and playing it a bit safe.
Then less than three months later, McCartney teased an album of covers and remixes of III that would feature a laundry list of notable names in modern music from Phoebe Bridgers to Anderson .Paak to Damon Albarn. McCartney III Imagined pushes genre boundaries further and supplements any lack of eccentricity from the original album. The songs are stretched, twisted and reformed to fit into each feature artist's taste, yet still manages to flow as a cohesive album.
McCartney III Imagined kicks off with the funk-indebted Beck feature "Find My Way." The diverse percussion, including bongos and rubbery basslines are tied together with pristine production as Beck adds some metallic vocal effects that are reminiscent of his Midnite Vultures days. Dominic Fike's "The Kiss of Venus" gives an acoustic ballad an R&B twist with Fike's vocals being the highlight. On "Pretty Boys," the genre-fluid psych rock trio Khruangbin add an artful dub tone to the acoustic guitar number with a danceable bass-heavy beat. The St. Vincent remix of "Women and Wives" provides a cinematic flair beneath McCartney's vocals and Annie Clark's chorus-style backing vocals. Many layers of vocal harmonies, pleasant falsetto adlibs, spacious snare hits and bizarre reversed instrumentals shape into a fresh and chill take on "Deep Down," remixed by Blood Orange.
Phoebe Bridgers's instantly recognizable and breezy voice drifts over some buzzing slide guitars and muted booming drums on her cover of "Seize the Day." The track wouldn't be out of place on her solo albums as it builds sonically with choir vocals and visual lyrics. Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, aka EOB, takes "Slidin'" in a harsher direction with a faster, more distorted guitar riff and vocals that make for a quick and hooky rocker. Next up, the hyperactive Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur fame, turns the rhythmic guitar number "Long Tailed Winter Bird" into a trip-hop journey. The song features many facets of Albarn's signature through it's quirky beat, artful keyboards and smooth progression through different sections.
Josh Homme's cover of the already bluesy "Lavatory Lil" sounds a bit like the Them Crooked Vultures cut "No One Loves Me and Neither Do I" with Homme's trademark guitar, call and response layered vocals and lyrics about a wicked woman. An added touch of hissing backing vocals give the song that creepy Queens of the Stone Age sound. The Anderson .Paak remix of "When Winter Comes" still places Sir Paul's vocals at the forefront, but with an interesting bed of instrumentals beneath adding nuance to the track. On the closer "Deep Deep Feeling," Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja,, aka 3D stretches an already eight-minute centerpiece into an eleven-minute acid-house epic that's reminiscent to the explorative quirkiness from McCartney's second solo album with its barrage of narcotic synths. However, the epic trails off for a bit too long.
While every artist featured on Imagined interpreted McCartney's original songs into new visions, a few attempts missed the mark. Homme's and Bridgers's takes sound like generalized versions of their own respective catalogues, which doesn't mean that they're not enjoyable, but leaves a lot to desire for the artists to explore outside of their comfort zone. On the other hand, the exciting reconstructions from Beck, Blood Orange and Damon Albarn, provide the missing pieces from the original McCartney III.
Highlights — "Deep Down" (Blood Orange Remix) "Long Tailed Winter Bird" (Damon Albarn Remix) & "Find My Way" (feat. Beck)
McCartney III Imagined is available now. Stream the new album below.