I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #8:
Must be nice being a brother to a Beatle when it comes to hand-me-downs. Not only do you get the usual pants and shirts – when you’re older you get some famous coattails to latch on to. Oh, and a recording contract and one of the best songwriters in the world to write or help you write songs and a record deal for an album that might otherwise not see the light of day.
But perhaps I’m being too harsh about McGear by Mike McGear. After all, there is one non-Paul McCartney song kicking off this 1974 album, “Sea Breezes” — by Brian Ferry of Roxy Music — and McGear did change his name for this project so as to escape a nepotistic link. And then there’s…okay — enough about those half-hearted evasive measures: a cursory glance at the album cover tells us that Paul also produced it, he provides background vocals and he’s brought along Linda and a contingent of Wings to help create a decent enough pop-rock album.
The result is just too much of an uneven work to, well, work – which, come to think of it, is a McCartney-eque trait in and of itself, so they’re keeping this inconsistency thing in the family. But they also keep and convey on a few cuts that unerring melodic McCartney trademark for highly infectious tunes you can’t get out of your head, even if the lyrics turn out to be a slapdash effort.
“Leave It,” one of the exclusive McCartney-penned song, and perhaps not coincidentally, the best song on McGear, is one of those upbeat, seemingly effortless tunes that may have been inadvertently swept under the studio carpet during the Band On The Run or the Red Rose Speedway sessions (at least we didn’t get some surplus and incessant “wo-wo-wo-wos” from “My Love Does It Good”).
While “Leave It,” along with “Rainbow Lady” falls somewhere between the silly-love-song and Beatle-esque ends of the Macca spectrum, “Giving Grease A Ride,” is the best T. Rex song not written and recorded by T. Rex — it’s a lot of fun, a stellar track that features some hard-driving guitar work from Denny Laine and Jimmy McCullough.
Turning from Bolan to Bowie, a melody that haunts a celestial reverie can be found in “The Man Who Found God On The Moon,” a slower-paced, but more ambitious song that incorporates the voice of astronaut Buzz Aldrin and evokes Ziggy Stardust while it sustains its story-line odyssey of a Space Oddity.
It may also evoke Groucho Marx, too, when in response to the line “I found God in my spacesuit,” you may be tempted to add, “What God was doing in my spacesuit, I’ll never know.”
Hiding his coattails, I suspect.