Sound — 9
Paul, Paul, Paul. How do you do it? The man is a master craftsman of pop music. The songs on the record have quite a range: Beatle-y upbeat piano tunes ("Friends To Go," "A Fine Line," "Promise To You Girl"), melancholy/cynical/brooding orchestral pieces ("How Kind Of You," "At The Mercy," "Riding To Vanity Fair," which is downright nasty), the obligatory soaring McCartney ballads ("Too Much Rain," "Anyway"), the odd numbers that defy description (the very British "English Tea," the Latin-tinged "A Certain Softness"), and, most impressively, the understated, Blackbird-esque "Jenny Wren." Despite the variation, Macca never gets lost in the sort of stylistic schizophrenia that plagued him even back in the White Album days. "A Certain Softness" is Latin-tinged, but never actually crosses over into becoming a flamenco song. He remains fully rooted in the world of pop, but explores its boundaries like he hasn't for a while. I only gave it 9/10 for the one or two tracks I would truly classify as filler - the pointless "Follow Me" and the vapid "Promise To You Girl" (the title of which belies its lack of substance).
Lyrics — 7
Well, we're talking Paul McCartney, not John Lennon, so the moments of true lyrical brilliance are few, although most of the lyrics flow nicely and deal with heavier subjects than is standard fare for Macca. "Vanity Fair" is pure anger. "How Kind Of You" is either incredibly sincere or nastily cynical, it's hard to tell. The only place where the lyrics truly break down are "Promise To You Girl" (again, see title), "Follow Me" and "Too Much Rain" which, despite being one of the high points of the album musically suffers from lyrics which essentially are asking a person who is horribly depressed why he can't just "buckup."
Overall Impression — 9
It's sincere, so that's great. That's such a rare thing to get from Macca it's a treasure when it comes. Paul's voice and musicianship are still in fine form (oh, did I mention he plays almost every instrument on the album), and the few filler tracks can't drag down the near-brilliance of most of the rest. Buy it. You won't regret it.