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January 24, 2021

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Icon music review: McCartney III - Paul McCartney

McCartney III is a gem that proves why Sir Paul McCartney is the greatest singer-songwriter of modern times

Reviewed by Craig Hoffman
McCartney III is the 18th solo album by former Beatle Paul McCartney. The album was released in December 2020. The genius songwriter is the most successful albums act in U.K. recorded music history. 

The artist has 22 number 1 records with The Beatles, Wings, and other solo efforts. McCartney III is on pace to add to that tally. It is expected to reach number one in the U.K. and the top three on the U.S. charts.

“Long Tailed Winter Bird” opens the album and “Winter Bird” closes it. These tracks give a sense of unity and reaffirm the unique nature of the music. It also keeps many of the more experimental elements of the McCartney III grounded. This synergy allows both old and new fans of the artist to enjoy it.

Talking about the album in an interview with Louder, McCartney said: “Each day I’d start recording with the instrument I wrote the song on and then gradually layer it all up; it was a lot of fun. It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album.”

There is a ton of optimism infused into this album. Many quarantine albums have been more about isolation and doom and gloom. That is not the case here. McCartney is having a blast recording and creating music. McCartney III rises from its midpoint forward to become something special. 

The artist is still the best there is melodically in the music business. McCartney also continues to prove his talent as a multi-instrumentalist. But the album is not a complete success. 

Some of the sappier love moments don’t come off as cool as they might have earlier in the legend’s unparalleled career. McCartney III also teeters on the rails with some of its more electronic music moments. Still, the critics met McCartney’s latest effort with high praise.

“McCartney III will likely go down as one more intriguing artifact from this deeply strange year: an above-average quarantine album from one of the highest-profile artists yet to share their lockdown material. Left alone with his thoughts like the rest of the world, Paul McCartney turned solitude into something unifying. The end result has its flaws, but the sentiment certainly doesn’t.” (Sounds of Consequences)

McCartney has worked on this record with care and dedication. Unlike his last studio album Egypt Station, he takes risks and goes to new musical places. That is a tremendous feat for even someone of McCartney’s immense talent.  

People who criticize McCartney III have likely only heard it only once. That’s a shame, though understandable to a degree. But McCartney is more than up to the task of putting out a worthy effort. 

“Like any contemporary Macca (McCartney) project, (McCartney) III feels like comfort food. Credit that voice, charming and unmistakable after decades of use. Hearing it anew is like curling up inside a warm blanket.” (Entertainment Weekly)

Diehard fans expecting a final “Ode to The Beatles” swan song album from McCartney will need to adjust their expectations, too. It’s likely to take several playthroughs for the younger folks to appreciate if not completely comprehend some of what the album is trying to accomplish. 

That’s not a knock on McCartney or the McCartney III. Father Time and warp speed modern social media are undefeated even for a former Beatle who will turn 79 when he next blows out his candles. McCartney III is a gem that proves why Sir Paul McCartney is the greatest singer-songwriter of modern times. 

Final Take: McCartney is having fun in his quarantine. It’s a superb musical effort with standout tunes like “The Kiss Of Venus” and “Find My Way.” McCartney III is a concept album that features the best that its namesake has created in years. Buy it and listen to it a bunch! 4.5/5

Craig Hoffman is a music graduate of Ohio Northern University and The University of Akron School of Music. He also serves as the Icon’s Japan correspondent.