Sound — 2
This could have been great! But mostly consisting of note for note clones of the originals, "The Art of McCartney" largely seems like a missed opportunity - a waste of talent, time and travail.
At first, it doesn't sound like such a bad idea: performers paying tribute to one of the most prolific, influential and successful artists in the world of pop: Paul McCartney who, over more than 50 years, has created an impressive catalogue of songs with The Beatles, Wings and as a solo artist. As a McCartney fan I was expecting exciting or at least interesting re-interpretations of these songs by artists in their own right. Aren't there some great cover versions of McCartney songs around? Some of my favourites are by Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Paul, Joe Cocker, Duane Eddy, Jeff Beck, Elton John, Linus of Hollywood, The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Paul Weller, Phil Collins and Stevie Wonder among others (none of them contained on this album, though).
Lyrics — 2
But instead of giving the artists the possibility of making these songs one of their own, most of this album simply consists of carbon copies of the originals with a new singer - it almost feels like a karaoke night. More than half of the artists on this compilation did not care enough to even bring their own musicians or waste a single thought on how they could do something special with the songs. They simply sang over a playback provided by McCartney's live band. These crafted musicians know the songs inside out and are used to copy the originals note by note (even the solos!) - and that's exactly what they do here, too. But what might work well in a live show doesn't work on a record: the keyboard brass and strings, the sampled pianos - they just sound cheap and without McCartney himself it all falls flat. There's no soul, no vigor, no relevance - Steve Miller did not even play guitar on his "Junior's Farm" - what is the point?
Overall Impression — 2
Not that it wouldn't have been possible - which brings me to the positive part of this review: there are some tracks here that actually make sense! The Airborne Toxic Event deliver a beautiful acoustic version of "No More Lonely Nights," there is an energetic reggae take on "Come and Get It" by Toots Hibbert (with a little help from his friends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare) and "On the Way" - even though it is a little predictable, as it is a blues song anyway - nonetheless gets an absolutely convincing treatment by B.B. King. Jeff Lynne has given the obscure "Junk" his own spin with some pleasing harmonies, Def Leppard's "Helen Wheels" stomps along gorgeously featuring dazzing guitar work and Bob Dylan's voice rasps away at "Things We Said Today," impressing this reviewer favourably.
But some rare surprises and halfway decent efforts do not save this stillborn project. The majority of this album of 36 (!) tracks comes across as absolutely bland and tedious. I wonder why McCartney, being the control freak that he is, didn't push the producer to make this effort worthwhile.