Paul McCartney Egypt Station

Paul McCartney Egypt Station
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Paul McCartney has often gotten a bad rap for his post-Beatles work, mostly because of the occasionally corny Wings years, but he's actually amassed a fascinating and unpredictable solo discography. From DIY experimentation to sprawling pop to dalliances with electronics, he's covered plenty of ground over the years, and the 76-year-old songwriter keeps things eclectic on Egypt Station.
 
This is his first album in five years, and it makes up for lost time with its generous 16 tracks and a runtime of almost an hour. The introductory ambient sketch, "Opening Station," leads into the gorgeously understated piano meditation "I Don't Know," which is followed by the bawdy rocker "Come On to Me" and then the lovestruck acoustic ditty "Happy with You." That's already a lot of sonic ground, and we're only four tracks in. McCartney's voice is a little craggy with age, but it's got character and is the perfect foil to the slick, lush production.
 
Not every stylistic foray works: the single "Fuh You" is a sterile approximation of mainstream radio pop (produced by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder), while the by-the-numbers anti-war tune "People Want Peace" can't quite recapture the magic of '60s protest songs. "Hand in Hand" is a saccharine ballad, although the inclusion of pan flute solo is so aggressively cheesy that it almost works.
 
Egypt Station is best when McCartney is at his most eclectic: D-side highlights "Despite Repeated Warnings" and "Hunt You Down / Naked / C-Link" are both six-minute suites, adding a sense of sprawl to Macca's pop smarts, while "Back in Brazil" is a catchy take on bossa nova. More than 50 years since Beatlemania, the Cute One keeps on pushing himself, and it's a pleasure to see his creative fire burning bright. (Capitol)