Paul McCartney – Off The Ground Rarities and more! (TMOQ / HMC 055)

Paul McCartney, ‘Off The Ground Rarities and more! (TMOQ gazette / HMC 055)

Main Disk – Off The Ground (Instrumental with count in) / Biker Like An Icon (Instrumental) / Off The Ground (La La’s down, vocals louder) / Biker like An Icon (Louder vocals) / Off The Ground (Rehearsal) / Looking For Changes (Rehearsal) / Hope of Deliverance (Live with K.D. Lang) / Biker Like A Icon (Rehearsal) / Peace In The Neighbourhood (Rehearsal) / Get Out Of My Way (Rehearsal) / Off The Ground (7” remix) / The Hog From Planet (Trance Mix) / Pigs In Space (Club Mix) / Sublime Divine Porcine (Ambient Mix)

Bonus Disk – instrumental 1 / Matchbox / Honey Don’t / Blue Suede Shoes / Drive My Car / Juniors Farm / All My Loving / Celebration / Let ‘Em In / Miss Ann / I’ll Follow The Sun / Every Night / It’s So Easy / Midnight Special / Raunchy / Leaning On A Lampost / Ram On / Bluebird / Instrumental 2 / Lady Madonna – All tracks from Telenor Arena, Oslo, July 7th, 2015.

HMCs latest release could be said to be slight. Certainly if you were reading the track listing, four new session tracks, some live, tangential tracks along side a series of ‘remixes’, you might do what I did and shrug a little. We do expect more of the bootlegger after a paucity of excellent Lennon material, what kind of a point have we reached? Firstly, it might tell you what you need to know that none of the information about the foundation of the tracks is published in the booklet / gazette. All we’re told is that they’re ‘unreleased’ and the rehearsal tracks are from ‘various locations’.

“Off The Ground” (Instrumental with count in) is just that – Apart from Paul isn’t counting you in, it’s a metronomic device that just clicks you in. I like the track, I can live with it – Did I need an instrumental with a click track at the start, well, I can hear the cowbells a lot clearer but I’m not really that sure.

“Biker Like An Icon” (Instrumental) Again, it’s nice to have, it’s not like Paul had a bad voice at this point though and “Biker ..” for all it’s charm isn’t another grand stand out from the album really.

“Off The Ground” / “Biker Like An Icon” (Louder Vocals) – It does what it says at least. I assume it’s something that someone with a little more technical ability could magic up to be honest and it won’t change your perception of the tracks that much.

“Off The Ground” (7” remix) – Is what exactly? I can’t hear much difference between the album version and this version to be honest.

“The Hog From Planet” / “Pigs In Space” / “Sublime Devine Porcine” – I think it’s safe to suggest that these remixes will divide y’all. The type of trance / dance remixes that were added to CD singles in the 90’s helping push singles to number one by sales. Paul may also have hoped that these might have got him played in the clubs which, by the sound of them, it would have been a safe bet as a couple of them are pretty much unrecognisable from the songs that they’re meant to be and unless you spanned the valley of Macca fan / clubber, you wouldn’t see the joins. I enjoyed these to the point of staring out of the window while they played. They certainly have an ambience about them that’s almost like ‘Rushes’ but with beats. In fact, if you enjoyed Paul’s collaborations with Youth, these are worth a listen. It’s hardly likely that I’ll be putting these on for repeated listening however.

The second disk fronts a soundcheck from Telenor Arena, Oslo from the 7th of July, 2015. An audience recording, it’s obviously captured at a ‘private party’, one of the rare, expensive tickets that you can pay out for while Paul noodles along with the band and does what he’s do anyway. But with a small audience ready to pay for the experience. To be fair, for an Uber-fan, it might be an experience worth waiting for. Paul doesn’t just pull up the classics, there’s a fair amount of jam warm ups, a couple of takes while refreshing his memory of his set list and then, of course, the chance to experience what you’ve only ever heard him do on a bootleg – In fact, it’s a lotta rock n’ roll – Take your own snacks and chips, you’re on to a winner. The sound does reveal some limitations from being recorded in an amplified stadium setting, the taper or someone close is intent on clapping aimlessly through some of the old rock and rollers (Pick a rhythm, damnit!) but apart from that, it’s a decent sound.

The set starts off with a louche, Allmans inspired jam. Some way between ‘Every Night’ and ‘Jessica’, Paul and his band have pulled out some boring mismeasured jams before that I’ve turned off quite quickly, this isn’t one of them and I was quite taken in by it all. Next up, a spirited groove through ‘Matchbox’, ‘Honey Don’t’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ before his first original, ‘Drive My Car’.

Following that, ‘Juniors Farm’. Always glad to hear this slice of prime Wings material and it hits the spot nicely – erring a little on the side of hair rock towards the end, maybe, it still sounds cute, as does ‘All My Loving’, possibly one of the cuddliest songs that the Beatles ever wrote, this is packed with those very ‘60’s rhythms, girl-group-esque harmonies. It’s DNA just stamped as prime-Beatleness.

I guess we can skip, ‘Celebration’ and move on to ‘Let ‘Em In’, Macca has a few vocal tics that he has to throw in the beginning but it’s his song still, isn’t it? Charming, fluty, chiming, it’s another Wings golden piece. Also fun to hear is ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’, relatively recent to the list, it’s return is welcomed if marred a little by Paul’s vocal wobble, he’d fare much better with a greater harmonist but as his band isn’t built for that, it’s what it is. He finishes the song with not two but three fake-outs. Still doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

‘Every Night’ joins us for the rest of the acoustic portion and leads the way to a band take on Buddy Holly’s ‘It’s So Easy’ – Very, very rarely played, it’s easy to see why – Not that it’s a bad rendition, it seems to make Macca happy, the band do it justice, it just wouldn’t in to the rest of the set. If Paul was to manage an acoustic ‘Run Devil Run’ type of album nowadays, it’d fit nicely there. We move on to a version of ‘Midnight Special’, this was obviously one of the more memorable turns from his ‘Unplugged’ appearance in the 1990’s – It really hasn’t changed much since then really but it does allow for a little dancing in the aisles.

A surprise is a brief version of ‘Raunchy’, ever written in the Beatles history books, it’s just a riff here but allows for a loose rendition of ‘Leaning On A Lamppost’, quite what that might mean to the people of Oslo, I don’t know – Was it a hit over there? – We meander from that to a sweet, filmic version of ‘Ram On’, replete with piano backing. A little ditty but so much fun – Now, where were the sessions for those adverts?

The set wraps up with an ‘environment music’ jam (Mercifully short!) and a jolly romp though ‘Lady Madonna’, slightly slowed down, but it allows for a little more bounce to it’s beat. Nice to hear those parping harmonies too.

The price of admission for this set, I might argue, weighs heavily on the soundcheck for me, the contentment of spending an hour in the company of Macca and his band playing Paul’s memories and not spoiling it with long, laborious jamming is special. The first disk, doesn’t tip it for me as much and stands as a curio at best – Though for the matter of listening at least once, it’s worth a try.

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