Paul McCartney – McCartney II; Archive Collection (orig. 1980) Hear Music/Concord Music Group – remastered CD 38:09 + Bonus CD 47:53 + DVD, 54:56 (also avail. in other configurations) ***:
Ten years had passed since Paul McCartney’s first solo record and in between most of the work he’d done was with Wings. The cover of this disc shows McCartney looking a little stunned—exactly my experience after I began listening to the disc. Like the first solo record all the work (instruments, recording, engineering, etc.) was done by McCartney himself. Unlike the first record this one is a large mix of different styles including electronic sounds and even somewhat experimental music like that of Brian Eno. After struggling with a cohesive description of this album I decided it might be best to just play it “by the numbers.” So, let’s begin with the original record…
After a few seconds of listening to track one I thought something might be wrong with my audio gear—there was little to no high frequency information and a lot of compressed midrange. Nope. That is just how it sounds…bad. And this was the hit song of the album! Oh, well. The second track sounds dated and the electronic sounds in the background are just plain annoying. Track three shifts into the blues. The sound was a little better but the echoes and vocals that sound like they are in a tunnel isn’t a positive–decent music though. Track four is paradoxical after listening to the whole album in that it stands apart from everything else and I wondered what was going on. Aside from the continuing trend of mediocre sound quality and simple musical accompaniment this cut is more likely to appeal to McCartney fans that get suckered in by his sappy maudlin styling. Track five is forgetful filler. Track six is more electronic instrumental nonsense. Track seven’s weird electronic orchestration was not helpful and I was reminded of a quiet moment in the Flash Gordon movie soundtrack. Track eight is a semi-interesting 80s new wave instrumental tune (ala Souixsie and the Banshees) but is a bit repetitive. Its title will confuse some but just refers to Japan and a cool (i.e. temperature) location and nothing offensive. Track nine is a ‘50s throwback that should have been left there. Track 10 is simply the worst song on the record, although track two is a close second. Track 11 is much better and I can only hope that some dedicated listeners will get this far. Now on to the bonus disc…
Right away the first track offered a better start than the original disc with a definite (good) ‘80s sound. Track two is a live version of “Coming Up.” Track three…track three…what can I say? Resist the innate tendency to skip this one—it picks up some. And for fun you can count how many times “check my machine” is repeated. Track four gave me Kraftwerk flashbacks but not necessarily in a good way. My notes on track five: “Uhhh…What happened?” I may be in the minority but I liked track six—it’s catchy and the second part sounds like it could have been the backing music in a New Order song. Track seven is indeed a Christmas song but is a better pop song than anything that is on the original record. My notes for track eight: “No. No. NO!” Although four minutes in comes “Blue Sway” and I do like this song.
The interview on the DVD is somewhat illuminating…McCartney isn’t really taking himself seriously and I can’t really take this album seriously either. There are more than enough versions of “Coming Up” although the fact that McCartney is playing just about every instrument in the video makes it somewhat humorous. Lastly there is a cool video of surfing with the original version of “Blue Sway” as the backing music–the bonus disc contains a specialized version. [I thought the video the only worthwhile thing in the whole package…Ed.]
Recording quality of this reissue is very compressed in parts and amounts to a mediocre rating of sound quality–at best I’d say a C-. I won’t even attempt to rate the music. The best I can do is quote Sir Paul as saying it was “a mess around” and “a loon.”
Songs/material included are: CD1: Coming Up; Temporary Secretary; On The Way; Waterfalls; Nobody Knows; Front Parlour; Summer’s Day Song; Frozen Jap; Bogey Music; Darkroom; One Of These Days. CD2: Blue Sway [With Richard Niles Orchestration]; Coming Up [Live At Glasgow]; Check My Machine [Edit]; Bogey Wobble; Secret Friend [Full Length Version]; Mr H Atom/You Know I’ll Get You Baby; Wonderful Christmastime [Edited Version]; All You Horse Riders/Blue Sway. DVD: Meet Paul McCartney; Coming Up Music Video; Waterfalls Music Video; Wonderful Christmastime Music Video; Coming Up [Live at Concert for the People of Kampuchea]; Coming Up [taken from a rehearsal session at Lower Gate Farm]; Making the Coming Up Music Video; Blue Sway.
— Brian Bloom