Macca’s 25 Best of the Past 25 Years

Bill King recently gave a fresh listen to all of Paul McCartney’s mainstream albums released since 1993, in order to compile a list of the 25 best of Macca’s latterday tracks. He had an assist in this project from some longtime Beatlefan contributors. Here is what he came up with,  followed by the other contributors’ choices. …

Macca performs at halftime of the 2005 Super Bowl.

Whenever lists of Paul McCartney’s best solo songs are compiled, the emphasis invariably is on the first 20 years of his post-Beatles career — the likes of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Live and Let Die,” “Jet,” “Band on the Run” and so on.

Little attention is given to his body of work over the past 25 years. That was a tumultuous time for Macca, with a knighthood, the death of his beloved Linda, a short-lived marriage that produced another daughter before ending bitterly, and a third marriage that seems to have left him happier and more fulfilled. Plus, of course, numerous tours.

In fact, over the past quarter century, Sir Paul’s acclaimed live performances, in marathon concerts running nearly 3 hours, have become what he’s known for primarily, aside from The Beatles.

The new albums he’s made during those years are largely an afterthought, if they’re given much consideration at all — even with many long-time fans.

And, truth be told, much of the new music he has produced since 1993 is middling McCartney. It also was the era of a creative misfire that resulted in what many consider to be the low point musically of his career — the “Driving Rain” album.

Still, when it comes to making music, McCartney is incapable of not mattering. And, as a fresh immersion in his work over the past 25 years recently confirmed for me, there still have been some great tunes in that time.

In going back through his solo albums since 1993 to compile a list of the 25 best Macca tracks of the past 25 years, I limited myself to his mainstream releases — not including his classical works or his ambient or electronica side projects, with the exception of The Fireman’s “Electric Arguments,” which really is closer to a true McCartney album.

I also reached out to a group of Beatlefan contributors, asking for their own lists and comments on Macca music since 1993. Not surprisingly, our lists differed in many respects, but also had certain constants — tracks that everyone agrees are top-flight McCartney.

More about that later. Here are my 25 favorite Macca tracks of the past 25 years, in approximately chronological order …

“Off the Ground.”

First up are four tracks from 1993’s “Off the Ground” album:

“Hope of Deliverance.” A fine pop number with a tasty backing that mixes acoustic guitars, autoharp and a prominent bassline with Latin percussion. It also has a very catchy chorus, and a nice message, to boot.

“I Owe It All to You.” A traditional McCartney ballad, with a very effective acoustic guitar hook, some exotic imagery in the lyrics, a plaintive vocal and one of those instantly hummable Macca choruses.

“Golden Earth Girl.” One of those majestic McCartney ballads, with a piano opening that calls to mind “Wanderlust,” and chiming guitars and shimmering oboe and flute orchestration. This one carries an ecological message and some lovely word pictures (“counting fish in a sunbeam, in eggshell seas”), but what you’ll keep with you after listening to it is the beautifully delicate melody and refrain.

“Cosmically Conscious.” Paul wrote this at the Maharishi’s back in 1968. Its dense, echoey, layered sound is chockablock with old Beatles studio tricks and trademarks.

“Flaming Pie.”

Next are four numbers from 1997’s “Flaming Pie,” an album that stands pretty clearly (to me, at least) as McCartney’s strongest of the past 25 years:

“Somedays.” Recorded with a 14-piece orchestra, this is a beautiful, somewhat melancholy ballad with mournful strings. The Spanish guitar solo is especially good. It obviously was inspired by Linda’s illness. I find some of the lyrics incredibly touching: “Some days I look, I look at you with eyes that shine” and “Some days I cry, I cry for those who fear the worst.” 

“Calico Skies.” A solo acoustic guitar love song co-produced by Paul and George Martin, this one almost feels like an Irish folk tune. Another one seemingly written with Linda in mind: “I will hold you for as long as you like / I will hold you for the rest of my life.”

“Little Willow.” Another lovely acoustic number, and another sad one. Written in response to Maureen Starkey’s death.

“Beautiful Night.” A majestic piano-based tune with immediately recognizable Ringo Starr drumming, it has an irresistible, gorgeous chorus that is vintage McCartney. The orchestration by George Martin builds as the song progresses, and it has a false ending that gives way to an upbeat reprise with Linda and Ringo singing along.

Playing with his Run Devil Run band at the Cavern in 1999.

Next are three tracks from McCartney’s dip into the rock ’n’ roll of his youth, the 1999 album “Run Devil Run”:

“Lonesome Town.” This melancholy Rick Nelson classic, done as Macca performed it earlier that year at a London tribute to Linda, has a sad lyric that Paul said had become more meaningful to him. It shows, especially in his impassioned vocal, which pushes the limits of his higher register. David Gilmour joins him singing in the middle.

“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man.” Done with accordion, this midtempo Chuck Berry number has a Cajun feel, and is a real toe-tapper.

“Honey Hush.” At the time it came out, Macca said this Big Joe Turner number was his favorite on the album to sing. A sometime Macca sound check offering, it’s a rollicking rocker with an infectious “Hi Ho Silver” chorus.

Departing from the album discography, the next track on my list is a one-off number:

“I’m Partial to Your Abracadabra.” This refreshingly different number is from “Brand New Boots and Panties,” an Ian Dury tribute album from 2001, and features Paul covering a Dury song with Dury’s old band, The Blockheads. It’s an engaging taste of a harder-edged Macca than we usually get. Paul, who was just the singer here, tackles the number with gusto, opening with an extended “Owwwwww!” and singing in his Little Richard voice. The catchy tune features a chunky, muscular backing with riffing horns that’s very reminiscent of The Who in the early ’70s.

Macca in his Liverpool backyard.

Next come two tracks from the 2005 album “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”:

“Too Much Rain.” A beautiful piano-bass-acoustics tune, nicely arranged. The vintage McCartney melody was inspired, he said, by Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” The optimism of the lyric is tempered by an almost mournful guitar line.

“Promise to You Girl.” This catchy tune has a Queen-like chorus, starts out slowly, and ends up rocking out moderately with some pounding piano.

I included two songs from 2007’s “Memory Almost Full” on my list, but it nearly was three (more on that later):

“Dance Tonight.” Immediately memorable, impossibly catchy. The mandolin sells it, and it’s very much a knee-slapper.

“Only Mama Knows.” A classical-sounding string intro gives way unexpectedly to a rock guitar chorus that comes crashing in. The track as a whole harks back to the “Junior’s Farm” Wings era, only played with a bit more intensity. The chorus is very catchy, and there are some nice harmonies with the “Hold on” bit in the middle. This one was an almost consensus pick.

Creating art for The Fireman project.

Next up are three tracks from the 2008 album “Electric Arguments” (made by McCartney and collaborator Youth under The Fireman rubric):

“Sing the Changes.” A rollicking number with a wide open, airy feel, echoey vocals and chiming guitars. Worked well when done live.

“Highway.” An upbeat piece of classic rock that also brings Wings to mind, it’s propelled by a great bass line and punctuated with pounding piano and a bluesy harmonica. A very deliberately unpolished production, with a loose-feeling, almost noisy wash of sound.

“Dance Till We’re High.” Classic Macca pop-rock, this midtempo number has an infectious beat and an absolutely gorgeous middle eight and chorus. The production has a quasi-’60s feel to it, with its layered strings and pealing bells, sounding rather Phil Spector-esque. The first time I ever listened to this one, on a preview disc, I had to call up a friend immediately and play it over the phone!

Promoting “Kisses on the Bottom.”

McCartney’s 2012 album of pop standards, “Kisses on the Bottom,” supplied two tracks for my Top 25:

“My Valentine.” This is a far cry from being McCartney’s best love song, but it’s still a very engaging romantic number, in the style of the album’s covers. And, it’s elevated by Diana Krall’s piano and Eric Clapton’s acoustic guitar.

“Get Yourself Another Fool.” A tune associated with Sam Cooke, done here in a very jazzy arrangement with bluesy electric guitar by Clapton and a particularly strong vocal by Paul, who uses his regular singing voice, rather than the higher crooning voice he used on most of the album. Paul also contributes some tasty acoustic guitar.

A publicity shot for the “New” album.

Finally, Macca’s most recent album (as of this writing), 2013’s “NEW,” landed four tracks on my list:

“Save Us.” Cowritten with producer Paul Epworth, this propulsive rocker is driven by an insistent, fuzzy guitar hook reminiscent of the Strokes, and is backed by rich harmonies. It’s rather like I’d imagine Wings would sound circa 2013.

“Alligator.” A slyly sexy pop-rocker that has some familiar Macca chord progressions. It features a distinctive flute-like synth line, and a slower middle portion sung in falsetto. Plus, one of those oddball McCartney sexual analogies (in the tradition of “my salamander” in “Getting Closer”).

“Early Days.” A lovely autobiographical acoustic number featuring Paul’s unretouched, frayed, timeworn voice. Besides harking back to The Beatles’ early days, the lyrics jab those who profess to know what went on with the Fabs, but who weren’t actually there.

“New.” Making a nice use of horns, this is a terrific, bouncy, retro-sounding number with a wonderful melody. It brings to mind “Revolver”-era Beatles. The coda with Brian Wilson-ish harmonies is a nice touch (unfortunately dropped in concert performances). It’s hard not to feel good listening to this song.

That’s my list of Macca’s 25 best since 1993.

First runner-up was the autobiographical, upbeat rockabilly/skiffle number “That Was Me,” from “Memory Almost Full.” (It was a last-minute cut from the list.)

Other tracks that didn’t quite make my list, but which are worthy of mention: “Get Out of My Way,” “Down to the River,” “The World Tonight,” “Flaming Pie,” “Run Devil Run,” “No Other Baby,” “How Kind of You,” “This Never Happened Before,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” “Only Our Hearts” and “Everybody Out There.

Certainly, some of the songs on my list would not rank among the 25 best of McCartney’s entire solo career, but, overall, it’s a pretty solid playlist. Basically, Macca is in competition with his past self, artistically, every time he releases a new album — and his earlier work is hard to top.

A little over half of the songs on my list also were chosen by some of this project’s contributors: “Hope of Deliverance,” “Golden Earth Girl,” “Calico Skies,” “Little Willow,” “Beautiful Night,” “Too Much Rain,” “Dance Tonight,” “Only Mama Knows,” “Sing the Changes,” “Highway,” “My Valentine,” “Save Us,” “Alligator” and “Early Days.”

I should point out that I included some covers of others’ tunes done by McCartney, whereas some contributors chose to stick strictly to songs penned by Paul for their lists.

Also worth noting, I did not include any tracks from the 2001 album “Driving Rain,” which I consider the nadir of McCartney’s career. The tunes on that album mostly are half-finished and indifferently recorded by David Kahne, though a handful could have been much improved with better production. The ones I’d like to see Paul take another run at, perhaps with a different producer: “I Do” (not really a strong melody, though it has a nice middle), “Magic” (which is the reverse — a decent main melody, but it seems Macca forgot to write a middle), “Your Way” (a rather halfhearted attempt at a country tune) and “Your Loving Flame” (again, it seems he didn’t bother to write a middle and so he just vamped for a few bars).

The most popular track named by the other contributors that was not on my list was “The End of the End,” and I can’t argue with that selection. It’s a fine track; it just didn’t crack my Top 25.

In descending order, other tracks not on my list that were named by multiple contributors were: “Jenny Wren,” “Long Leather Coat,” “Off the Ground,” “Looking for Changes,” “Run Devil Run,” “Ever Present Past,” “The World Tonight,” “Flaming Pie,” “The Lovers That Never Were” and “Fine Line.”

Songs not on my list that drew only one or two mentions from others: “English Tea,” “Queenie Eye,” “I Can Bet,” “C’mon People,” “The Songs We Were Singing,” “Young Boy,” “How Kind of You,” “Sun Is Shining,” “On the Way to Work,” “Vintage Clothes,” “Try Not to Cry,” “Kicked Around No More,” “Party,” “This Never Happened Before,” Summer of 59,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and “From a Lover to a Friend.”

Yes, even that last song, which I barely can tolerate, has its fans. And, I’m sure there are songs on my list that some of you can’t stand. Just keep in mind: Musical taste varies widely, and your favorites don’t have to match mine, and vice versa.

All in all, though, I’d say this is an enjoyable and respectable collection of latterday McCartney tunes.

— Bill King

Here are the Macca 25 lists compiled by Beatlefan contributors. First up, Rip Rense …

My choices were confined to songs written by McCartney, as opposed to covers. My original list maxed out around 35. Songs were chosen for musical structure, originality, sensible lyrics, and the old variable, personal taste.

Macca circa 1996.

In no particular order:

“Don’t Want to Be Kicked Around” — A bonus track from “Off the Ground,” it has McCartney infectiousness, strong melody, beautiful bridge, and sentiment you can identify with. Should have been a main album track. I always like McCartney laments.

“Big Boys Bickering” — Another track foolishly omitted from “Off the Ground,” with the famous “f—-ing it up for everyone” refrain. An angry denunciation from Paul, in this case aimed at the ruling elite of government and corporation. I always like when he gets blunt and mad, an all-too-rare thing.

“Golden Earth Girl” — By my standards, a beautiful piano ballad in Beatles tradition. Lovely Carl Davis orchestration/arrangement, witty lyrics (!), gentle lyricism. A poetic tribute to Linda.

“Looking for Changes” — From “Off the Ground,” a stinging, pointed rebuke of animal cruelty. Not the most imaginative song, musically, but a straight-ahead rocker with undisguised rage: “I saw a monkey that was learning to choke / A guy beside him gave him cigarettes to smoke / And every time that monkey started to cough / The bastard laughed his head off. . .” More please, Paul.

“Hope of Deliverance” — Some dodgy lyrics, perhaps (“I will understand someday, one day / You will understand always / Always from now until then”), but overall a warm, upbeat, encouraging anthem, with underlying acknowledgement of uncertainty. I can’t help thinking he had George Harrison in mind when he wrote, “We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us.”

“Calico Skies” — From “Flaming Pie,” a tender Paul ballad: poignant, moving, heartfelt, understated. Effectively a farewell to poor, fatally ill Linda, but also with strong general writing, including: “Long live all of us crazy soldiers / Who were born under calico skies / May we never be called to handle / All the weapons of war we despise.”

“Little Willow” — From “Flaming Pie,” this was written to comfort Ringo’s daughter, Lee, on the passing of her mother. It is as touching and delicate a song as Paul has ever done, uncontrived and graceful.

“Beautiful Night” — This “Flaming Pie” closer was supposed to be a “big finish” number, and mostly succeeded. Written in the early ’70s (or earlier?), it has a McCartney Beatles period melody and George Martin production (with Ringo drumming.) The “Make it a beautiful night” punch-line, while pleasant enough, might have had more depth. “Beautiful life” might have been a stronger idea, but this will do.

“Heaven on a Sunday” — A deceptively light guitar ballad from “Flaming Pie” that grows on you with repeated listening, it has a melody conveying something between laziness and ennui, bolstered by a comforting refrain: “If I only had one love, yours would be the one I’d choose.” Nothing contrived here.

“Run Devil Run” — A (nearly literally) runaway rocker from the album of the same name; half the fun of it is just trying to parse the lyrics, worthy of Chuck Berry. Paul’s raw-edged voice was in top form, and the band of David Gilmour, Mick Green, Ian Paice, Pete Wingfield, Dave Mattacks should have stayed together much longer.

“Jenny Wren” — A superior work worthy of McCartney’s Beatles efforts, from the “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” album. Thoughtful words, moody, original melody, with a creative touch also worthy of a Beatles session: a solo by one Pedro Eustache on the Armenian reed instrument, the duduk. A reflective song of melancholy, and, yes, optimism.

“English Tea” — Lennon might have dismissed this as “granny music,” but it’s delightful granny music — with a line you can draw back through “You Gave Me the Answer” to “Your Mother Should Know” and “When I’m 64.” It’s both tongue-in-cheek and sincere, which adds to its charm, as does the beguiling arrangement by Joby Talbot.

“Too Much Rain” — Temptation to dismiss this as a lightweight feel-good homily (“You’ve got to learn to laugh”) would be woefully misplaced. It’s fine music, for starters, rather unlike any other Paul composition I can bring to mind. He acknowledges how heartbreaking, crushing life is, yet still insists that one must brave it out. The message could not be more sincere.

“In Liverpool” — A weighty autobiographical piece about his home city, “In Liverpool” exists only as a live performance from 2008. Yet it’s one of Paul’s strongest career efforts, testimony to his often poor judgement of his better work. A natural, unaffected recitation of places and “people I’ve never met” from the old days, set to simple guitar accompaniment, it’s sort of a grandchild of “Eleanor Rigby.” A tragically lost gem. (How could he throw this away and put out so much dreck on “New”?)

“Dance Tonight” — Yes, it’s simple, yes, it’s about next to nothing, but it’s ear candy. It makes you feel good, and you can’t get it out of your head. It was born of McCartney trying out a left-handed mandolin in a London shop, prompting his daughter, Beatrice, to start dancing. Good indicator! Charming, doesn’t wear out.

“Ever-Present Past” — McCartney did a lot of things right on “Memory Almost Full” (thanks, no doubt, to producer David Kahne), and this was one. Glib, reflective, infectious, it’s an uptempo look back at life. Combining sad observations with upbeat arrangement (and vice-versa) is always a good plan.

“Only Mama Knows” — Brilliant string intro by David Kahne gives way to heavy rock band and a story-song lamenting the caprices of fate. You wonder if Paul adapted part of a novel here, but, whatever he did, it worked great. One of his best solo rockers, it melts back into Kahne’s strings at the end. A slick mini-movie.

“You Tell Me” — Excellent Kahne production of a gorgeous, wistful meditation, in which Paul laments the loss of youth. “When was that summer of a dozen words? / The butterflies and hummingbirds flew free / Let’s see / You tell me …” Example of how so much can be done with so little, when Paul has something to say.

“Mr. Bellamy” — One of the most musically and lyrically playful things McCartney has done in many years, this whimsical number is, I hope, about a cat. But, whatever the case, it’s a winner — from the somber opening brass to the broken piano figure, from Paul’s comical baritone parts to the understated strings and the spooky-jazzy outro.

“That Was Me” — More good stuff from “Memory Almost Full,” this energized autobiographical number sort of continues the “Ever-Present Past” theme in rambunctious ’50s rock ’n’ roll framework. “When I think that all this stuff can make a life / It’s pretty hard to take it in.” I’ll bet.  McCartney should have worked more with Kahne.

“The End of the End” — It’s tough to express, especially in rhyme, a farewell to life without being maudlin or forced. McCartney musically succeeds here in a fashion he has not managed, perhaps, since “Let it Be.” (He would do well to indulge more “sad songs,” which he seems to almost pathologically avoid.) “On the day that I die / I’d like jokes to be told / And stories of old to be rolled out like carpets / That children have played on/ And laid on while listening to stories of old.” These are among the best lyrics he’s done. Caveat: the song deserved a fuller production than the understated one it received; certainly, a solo other than Paul whistling, whimsical touch that it is.

“Only Our Hearts” — I don’t like this song, understand. I don’t care for “artificial standards” in general, but I am in the minority here. Fact is, McCartney executed this genre really well with this number, and with “My Valentine” (which I also don’t care for). You don’t have to like a piece of music to recognize its quality.

“Sing the Changes” — This is one of the most joyful, uplifting, inspiring things McCartney has done. His approach — while in the guise of The Fireman, produced by some creature known as Youth — was to jam in the studio, and add spontaneous vocal lines, often paraphrased from favorite poems. “Every ladder leads to heaven. . .sing the changes as you’re sleeping. . .feel a sense of childlike wonder.” Puts you in a great place.

“Traveling Light” — Another successful experiment from “Electric Arguments,” this is highly unusual, if not unique, in the Paul canon. His whispery baritone, the eerie instrumentation, the enigmatic poetry all combine for a haunting atmosphere unlike anything else he has done. A two-parter, to boot. Creative and weighty.

“Early Days” — The best work on the otherwise awkward, empty, deliberately au courant-sounding album, “New.” McCartney could take this song, and “In Liverpool,” and various other autobiographical works and pull them together into an album. “Early Days” is very fine, for its unadorned production, the honesty and pointedness of the lyrics(!), and Paul’s unaltered, scratchy “old voice.” “These sweet memories of friends from the past / always come to you when you look for them / and your inspiration, long may it last / may it come to you time and time again.” It came to him here.

Runners-up: “Get Out of My Way,” “What It Is,” “The Sun is Shining,” “How Kind of You,” “Two Magpies,” “Light From Your Lighthouse.”

Next, Kit O’Toole …

“Calico Skies”: Paul at his simple best — moving lyrics and acoustic guitar is all that’s necessary to convey the deeply moving lyrics.

At the Concert for New York City.

“Flaming Pie”: Macca at his most playful, with the lyrics clearly inspired by Beatles stories he mentioned during “Anthology” interviews.

“Little Willow”: A tribute to Maureen Starkey, this delicate look at grief and loss took on new meaning after Linda passed away.

“Somedays”: Paul must have had Linda’s fragile health in mind when he wrote this tender, thoughtful ballad featuring lines such as “Somedays I look / I look at you with eyes that shine / Somedays I don’t / I don’t believe that you are mine.”

“Too Much Rain”: Similar to “Somebody Who Cares,” the song provides understanding and encouragement about enduring difficult times.

“Riding to Vanity Fair”: One of the most personal, emotional songs Paul ever wrote. From the dark beginning to Paul’s straightforward vocals, he addresses someone who has clearly betrayed him. Tasteful guitar and keyboards complete this profoundly sad but defiant track.

“Ever Present Past”: The lead single off “Memory Almost Full” sets the reflective tone for the rest of the album. “Searching for the time that has gone so fast / The time that I thought would last” previews themes of time and memory.

“That Was Me”: A rocking track that looks back on his life with awe and wonder.

“The End of the End”: Although a sad reflection on death, the track also provides lovely images such as in the lines “On the day that I die I’d like jokes to be told / And stories of old to be rolled out like carpets / That children have played on / And laid on while listening to stories of old.”

“Queenie Eye”: This track cleverly compares the rules of a children’s game with rules of life, and it points out “it’s a long way to the finish.”

“Sing the Changes”: This song has much more energy live, but the Fireman track still retains its defiant, ebullient feel.

“The Lovers That Never Were”: Another product of his collaborations with Elvis Costello, this track tells of a complicated relationship (will this couple ever move beyond friendship?).  It would have been even better if it had been released as a duet with Costello, as you can hear Elvis’ voice throughout this version.

“Long Leather Coat”: Why did this rocker not make the “Off the Ground” track list instead of being relegated to a B-side?

“Cosmically Conscious”: While the lyrics may not be complicated, it’s hard not to sing along with the “it’s a joy” refrain. The live version at David Lynch’s benefit is even better than the original.

“Run Devil Run”: The first album released after Linda’s death, the album and title track signaled Paul’s return with surprising aggression and anger.

“222”: A bonus track from “Memory Almost Full,” this mostly instrumental song is a welcome foray into jazz.

“Kicked Around No More”: Again, why did this fail to make the “Off the Ground” lineup? Jazzy chord changes, lush harmonies, and a lovely McCartney lead vocal make this track a standout.

“Promise to You Girl”: “Looking through the backyard of my life” summarizes “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” perfectly; while the track begins on a somber note, it swiftly kicks into a higher gear, expressing optimism. The frequent changes in mood slightly echo the “Abbey Road” medley as well.

“Follow Me”: “Chaos” reflected the turmoil Paul experienced in his second marriage, and this song once again is about coping, but stresses that one cannot weather the storms alone.

“Turned Out”: The slight country twang combined with piano and rock guitar gives this “New” track an organic, classic Wings feel.

“Why So Blue”: Another example of a song inexplicably failing to make the final cut, “Why So Blue” sounds slightly Beatlesque, particularly in the chorus.

“Party”: Similar to “Run Devil Run,” “Party” reflects Paul’s deep affection for classic R&B and rock, yet signals his regained passion for music.

“Really Love You” (Twin Freaks version): The “Flaming Pie” track receives a radical makeover by Freelance Hellraiser (with Paul’s blessing). The drums come from “What’s That You’re Doing,” and that relentless funk bassline turns the song into a dance workout.

“The Song We Were Singing”: Evocative of the nostalgia pervading “Flaming Pie,” in this song Paul fondly recalls his years working with John Lennon. Despite their differences and difficult times, “we always came back to the song we were singing / At any particular time.”

Here are Al Sussman’s picks …

Latterday examples of McCartney the master pop craftsman/earworm creator:

Recording pop standards with Diana Krall.

“Off the Ground”

“Hope of Deliverance” — Used to great effect in John Scheinfeld’s film about the Chicago Cubs, “The Heart & Soul of Chicago”

“The World Tonight”

“Young Boy”

“Beautiful Night”

“Fine Line”

“Dance Tonight” — Arguably Paul’s most instantly accessible song of this century

“Ever Present Past”

“Only Mama Knows”

“Save Us”


“Sing the Changes” — From the most accessible of the three Fireman albums

Latterday classic McCartney love ballads:

“Calico Skies”

“Somedays” — Both of these songs written under very emotional circumstances, as Linda fought her ultimately losing battle with breast cancer.

“This Never Happened Before”

“My Valentine”

McCartney-penned should-have-been anthems:

“C’mon People” — If this had been a hit, it would have dovetailed nicely with the promise of the start of the Clinton administration

“Hope for the Future” — Unfortunately, not generally released, so most people have never heard it.

Favorite covers:

“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”


“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”

“More I Cannot Wish You”

Great songs, but beyond categorization:

“Celebration” — from “Standing Stone.” Obviously has an emotional attachment for Paul, presumably involving Linda, since he plays it at virtually every soundcheck.

“The End of the End”

“Too Much Rain”

Next comes an imaginative list from Renato Facconi …

The 25 songs (from 1993 on) that I like the most:

“Off the Ground”

“Looking for Changes”

“C’mon People”

“Cosmically Conscious”

“The Song We Were Singing”

“Beautiful Night”

“The World Tonight”

“Young Boy”

“Calico Skies”

“Fine Line”

“Jenny Wren”

“Dance Tonight”

“Run Devil Run”

“Lonely Road”

“From a Lover to a Friend”

“How Kind of You”

“Dance Tonight”

“The End of the End”

“Only Mama Knows”

“Sing the Changes”

“Sun Is Shining”

“My Valentine”

“Save Us”

“On My Way to Work”

“Early Days”

Why did I choose these songs?

Keeping watch for icebergs is a good time to listen to Macca.

OK, when asked for a list, I remembered the time I was crossing on boat from North Canada to Greenland: 3 days and 2 nights sailing without a stop in a sea that was very cold and full of icebergs. I had to make a watch once during the day and once during the night for two hours and it wasn’t easy. They told me you can have some music, and that’s what I did. It helped a lot.

It was a real hard sailing, but everything went fine for me, my wife and the 7 friends who were with us.

In listing the McCartney songs I like most, I dreamed to be again sailing on the Arctic Sea and to prepare a tape/CD with 25 songs to accompany my night watch.

The first 3 songs from “Off the Ground” are the ones I like the most from this album, and it would be a nice start, just a way to sing and whistle, with nothing serious in mind.

“C’mon People,” let’s see how the waves are growing around us. Then “Cosmically Conscious” would start: What else can you expect from a dark night in the Arctic?

Oh yes, now this song really appears to be a great experience and, yes, I am full of joy, despite the cold weather.

Then, I have chosen songs from one of the records I like most, “Flaming Pie.” Excellent music, nice lyrics. I still remember the promo video for “The World Tonight,” with the landscape from Tuscany in the background.

OK, a nice remembering, good weather, nice fields, a lot of colors, while our little boat is passing in the middle of the fog. And, yes, just let me dream of The Beatles enjoying the songs they were singing, even when they had real difficulties.

C’mon, we’ll see the Greenland seaside soon, don’t worry! And I promise when I get home I’ll write a song. And, I did, “Hard Sailing,” its title.

“Beautiful Night,” “Calico Skies,” “Young Boy,” really the correct music to help you spend a difficult night.

What else can I expect? Some chaos? A splendid creation? Oh, yes, so the quiet songs that follow are really a good company until “Dance Tonight,” a song I have always loved, either on CD or live.  Quite easy, but so catchy and full of hope, you know, I start singing until … So glad that it’s not windy.

That’s untrue, it is really windy and the night now is dark, so I can now listen to a song, which, despite its title, is so positive, “The End of the End.” No need to be sad, this song runs, and I think of a good friend I lost a few years ago.

At the end of the end
It’s the start of a journey
To a much better place
And a much better place
Would have to be special
No reason to cry

Wow, I like to think this is the real end of the end.

C’mon, now, we have to stay tuned, the night is darkened you need to watch with attention.

“Run Devil Run” and “Brown-eyed Handsome Man” are a good way to get up from my thoughts and see how things are going.

Now, everything is going well with the sailing, so what about a few songs from a not very positive period for McCartney?

“Lonely Road” and “From a Lover to a Friend” really fit the quiet, approaching the end of the night sailing.

But, it is not the end and two songs from a certain Fireman are a good company now. I liked a lot this peculiar way of approaching songs by McCartney, and the two I have chosen are really great songs. And, no, the sun already shined long ago.

Now it is the time for a love song, “My Valentine,” an excellent song that seems to have been recorded decades ago, to prove the versatility of the composer.

Approaching to the end of my watch, no better choice than to hear 3 of the songs from his latest album.

OK, let’s throw the anchor and think about the early days by The Beatles and, why not? Also mine.

And, here are Jorie Gracen’s picks, which she says are not in any particular order. …

1. “Appreciate”

Linda was the inspiration for many of Paul’s songs.

2. “Only Mama Knows”

3. “Hope of Deliverance”

4. “Cosmically Conscious”

5. “Looking For Changes”

6. “Long Leather Coat”

7. “Alligator”

8. “The World Tonight”

9. “Try Not to Cry”

10. “Keep Coming Back to Love”

11. “Sing The Changes”

12. “Queenie Eye”

13. “I Love This House”

14. “Highway”

15. “Save Us”

16. “Flaming Pie”

17. “Beautiful Night”

18. “The Lovers That Never Were”

19. “Off the Ground”

20. “I Can Bet”

21. “Looking at Her”

22. “Mistress and Maid”

23. “Whole Life”

24. “Turned Out”

25. “Love Come Tumbling Down”

Finally, Tom Frangione’s list …

“Off the Ground”

Paul and Youth.

“Hope of Deliverance”

“The Lovers That Never Were”

“Long Leather Coat”

“My Old Friend”

“Calico Skies”

“Little Willow”

“Beautiful Night”

“I Got Stung”

“What It Is”

“Fine Line”

“Jenny Wren”

“How Kind of You”

“English Tea”

“This Never Happened Before”

“Summer of ’59”

“Vintage Clothes”

“That Was Me”

The End Of The End

“Dance ‘Till We’re High”


“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”


“Early Days”

“I Can Bet”




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6 Responses to Macca’s 25 Best of the Past 25 Years

  1. Garry Wilbur says:

    Loved this article!!! I agree with most of the selections. Great list compilations. Thanks for the fun read!!!

  2. In no particular order. . .

    Vintage Clothes
    A Fine Day
    In Private
    What It Is
    Sing The Changes
    I Got Stung
    Ever Present Past
    Summer Of ’59
    Heal The Pain
    Calico Skies
    The Lovers That Never Were
    I Can’t Imagine
    Get Out Of My Way
    Flaming Pie
    Off The Ground
    I Do
    Great Day
    She Said Yeah
    Friends To Go
    Cosmically Conscious
    English Tea
    Only Mama Knows
    Sweet Sweet Memories

    – Howie

  3. My top 25 from 1993 in no particular order:

    Hope of deliverance
    Golden earth girl
    Cmon people
    Young boy
    Beautiful night
    Honey hush
    From a lover to a friend
    Fine line
    I do
    Jenny Wren
    Friends to go
    This loving game
    Mr Bellamy
    Feet in the clouds
    Why so blue
    My soul
    Dont stop running
    (I want to) come home
    Home ( when shadows call)
    Save us

  4. Tom Connor says:

    I’m somewhat surprised that none of the contributors are in the 15% (rough estimation based upon comments on Paul’s website) that consider Chaos to be McCartney’s masterpiece. My list would probably include about 8 songs from that gem of an album.

  5. Garry Wilbur says:

    My top 25
    Hope of Deliverance
    Off the Ground
    Wine dark Open Sea
    Cosmically Conscious
    The World Tonight
    Calico Skies
    Flaming Pie
    Little Willow
    Great Day
    No Other Baby
    Fine Line
    English Tea
    Ever Present Past
    Dance Tonight
    Sing the Changes
    I’m Partial To Your Abra Cadabra
    Come On To Me
    Sun Is Shining
    Hope For the Future
    Mistress and Maid

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