Taking us into the nineties once more is legend of the music industry, Paul McCartney, with 1997's Flaming Pie.
For many, Flaming Pie is a record that sees McCartney return to form after a couple of orchestral albums and one under the pseudonym of The Fireman. Following the Anthology project that reunited the three remaining Beatles and ELO's Jeff Lynne, McCartney wanted to record a pure pop-rock album that wasn't overshadowed by symphonic production techniques and trickery in the studio. It's pretty fair to say he achieves this perfectly.
Opening track The Song We Were Singing sees a wistful McCartney sitting down with an acoustic guitar, telling stories about the sixties and times with John Lennon, especially how they'd sit there and go off-topic in discussion, before eventually returning to the matter at hand - songwriting. It's a really strong opening and sets the mood perfectly. Before long, we're segued into the sinister The World Tonight, with its haunting guitar riff reminiscent of songs from Rubber Soul or Revolver, and dark, intriguing lyrics that are kept beneath this varnished pop-rock sound.
If You Wanna continues with a darker theme, featuring a sound that's evocative of an ELO record of the seventies. That's not a bad thing of course, especially given Jeff Lynne's production stamp that forms the basis of Flaming Pie. Both the guitar riff and solos are something to be proud of and do make this song one of the album's many standouts. Somedays is a reminder of McCartney's fantastic ability to create a wonderful story in a matter of minutes, drawing parallels to Sgt. Pepper's She's Leaving Home and George Martin's subtle strings in the background only further the conflation of raw emotions felt by anyone listening.
Young Boy is much more upbeat than its predecessors, returning to a sound last seen on The Song We Were Singing. Its gritty guitar sound is brilliantly juxtaposed by the slight reverb on McCartney's vocal, whilst the work from Steve Miller, of The Steve Miller Band, also gives this song a lot more substance. Calico Skies is one of Flaming Pie's more well-known songs, but certainly one of the best. The sheer power of McCartney's light vocal transports this song to another level, whilst his acoustic guitar work is, as always, second-to-none.
The album's title track greets us next, with a much grittier sound, littered with attitude and a Lady Madonna-esque piano backing. For something that's only two-and-a-half minutes long, it's jam-packed full of some great songwriting and a tightly-knit sound. Heaven On A Sunday returns to a light sprinkling of emotion, focussing on more of a jazz club type sound, with some well-placed synth and casual drums working brilliantly.
Moving forward a few tracks takes us to Really Love You, with its full-on funky sound giving the song an edge over a lot of McCartney's other compositions found on Flaming Pie. The thumping bassline combines perfectly with McCartney's seething vocal to produce something absolutely fantastic. It's also one of the first songs to ever be credited as McCartney-Starkey, interestingly. Beautiful Night, with its sumptuous strings and feathery piano notes, creates one of Flaming Pie's best songs bar-none, offering something a little different to the darkness on its first side, completing an absolutely brilliant album. Great Day acts as a lovely little culmination to Flaming Pie, seeing McCartney continue with the bare-bones sound, with just himself, an acoustic guitar, some well-timed hand-claps and minimalist backing vocals. It's this simplicity that really makes Flaming Pie stand out.
In conclusion, Flaming Pie sees Paul McCartney return to form after a rough period with both Wings and some of his own solo works. With its stripped-back sentiments, it sees McCartney create something tightly-knit and simplistic, proving that you don't always need a production masterworks to make an album. Sometimes raw talent will cut it perfectly.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/3faPd0q
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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