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Mike McGear - "McGear" (LP)

Mike McGear - "McGear" (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  McGear
Company: Warner Brothers
Catalog: BS-2825
Year: 1974
Country/State: Liverpool, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: cut lower right corner
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6251
Price: $10.00

Given the massive successes Paul McCartney's enjoyed, I have of admire Mike McGear for going out of his way to try to stake out a career on his own. Sure, McGear never made a secret out of the relationship, but had he billed himself as Mike McCartney, virtually no door would have remained unopened to the man.

With the collapse of the band Grimms, in 1974 McGear decided to resume a solo career. McGear and McCartney got together to record a single:

UK pressing
- 'Leave It' b/w ''Sweet Baby' (Warner Bros catalog number K 16446) 
US pressing
- 'Leave It' b/w ''Sweet Baby' (Warner Bros catalog number WBS 8037) 

The single led to a full scale collaboration between the pair with McCartney stepping in as an uncreditted producer (the liner notes referred to 'Paul and Linda McGear'), as well as handling most of the songwriting chores. McCartney also brought in his band Wings (with newly hired guitarist Jimmy McCulloch) to provide support. Released under the title "McGear", it probably shouldn't come as a shock to discover much of the album sounded like a mid-1970s Wings album, albeit with McGear's occasionally shaky voice handling lead vocals. The fact it wasn't billed as a Wings effort gave McCartney some latitude to experiment with material he probably wouldn't have released under his name - nothing here was too drastic, but its hard to imagine the goofy 'Norton' or The Casket having made it on a Wings album. That also meant your outlook on Wings had a big impact on what you probably thought about this album. A Wings fan was probably going to cut McGear and company some slack. Otherwise, with the possible exceptions of the poppy 'Leave It', 'Have You Got Problems?', and the rocker 'Givin' Grease a Ride' you probably weren't going to find too many standout performances.  

- The one non-McCartney composition, Bryan Ferry's 'Sea Breezes' (the liner notes mis-spelled Ferry's first name), was subjected to a patented McCartney arrangement that ended up giving the track the sound and feel of a second-rate Wings tune. The arrangement included a strange mid-song reggae section and 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey'-styled orchestration. For his part McGear sounded tentative and uncomfortable with the tune. Kind of an odd way to start the album. rating: ** stars
- Opening with some tasty Jimmy McCulloch guitar, the jumpy 'What Do We Really Know?' found McGear trying out his best McCartney impersonation. Mike wasn't Paul ... With a series of melodic twists and turns, the song had a throwaway feel until the very end when it unexpectedly erupted into a full fledge rocker that could have been really good (I believe Paul handled lead vocals). rating: *** stars
- Co-written by McGear and McCartney 'Norton' seemingly tried to meld Grimms-styled English humor with Wings-styled rock. To be honest the lyrics were simply too quirky (read too English), to make much of an impression on the American audience. McCulloch's solos stole the show on this one. rating: ** stars
- Full of strumming guitars, shrieking sax, and on of those melodies that crawled in your head and wouldn't leave, 'Leave It' finally revealed McCartney's magic touch with pop melodies. With the brothers sharing the lead vocals, this one actually sounded like a first-rate Emmit Rhodes or Badfinger tune which probably went a long way to explaining why it was tapped as the lead-off single. One of my favorite tracks on the album, my only complaint was the somewhat abrupt fade out. rating: **** stars
- Another collaboration between the brothers, 'Have You Got Problems? ' continued in the Wings pop vein. Not quite as good as the previous track, this one had a slightly more rock feel, though the Beach Boys-styled harmonies were sweet. rating: **** stars
- Co-written with former Scaffold compatriot, 'The Casket' was a pretty acoustic folk ballad, though McGear's thick accent left me clueless with respect to what the song was about. It certainly seemed maudlin.  rating: ** stars
- 'Rainbow Lady' returned to prime Wings-styled pop, complete with Linda McCartney's somewhat clumsy synthesizers and backing vocals.  Another one that was clearly meant for radio airplay. rating: ** stars
- McCartney always had a way with crafting simple, but attractive melodies and that was seldom displayed as well as 'Simply Love You'. Like many of his other mid-1970s efforts, it sounded like a nursery rhyme set to a pleasant, but forgettable melody. Paul and Linda McCartney's voices were quite prominent on this one.  rating: *** stars
- The album's best rocker and another one that sported a distinctive Wings feel (complete with blazing McCulloch guitar and plodding Linda synthesizers), 'Givin' Grease a Ride' was cut from the same cloth as 'Jet' and "Band On the Run' which put it in very good company. Even McGear sounded good on this one.  rating: **** stars
- On the epic 'The Man Who Found God On the Moon' McGear sounded very much like his brother. The song's elaborate structure which somehow managed to blend images of Hare Krishnas with astronaut Buzz Aldrin's religious awakening (along with some prominent Paul and Linda harmony vocals), has always reminded me of something that might have been recorded for McCartney's "Ram" album.  Not necessarily one of McCartney's best compositions, but it was interesting ...  rating: **** stars

In the UK the album spun off a pair of follow-on singles with a third non-LP single including an album track as a 'B' side::

- 1975's 'Sea Breezes' b/w 'Giving Grease a Ride' (Warner Brothers catalog number K 16520) 
- 1975's 'Simply Love You' b/w 'What Do We Really Know' (Warner Brothers catalog number K 16658)
- 1975's 'Dance the Do' b/w 'Norton' (Warner Brothers catalog number K16573)

Curiously, Warner Brothers didn't do a great deal to market the collection in the States. I remember reading a review of it in some magazine and then being unable to locate a copy anywhere in town. I actually didn't stumble across a copy for another five years.  

"McGear" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Sea Breezes (Bryan Ferry) - 4:52
2.) What Do We Really Know? (Paul McCartney) - 3:28
3.) Norton (Paul McCartney - Mike McGear) - 2:25
4.) Leave It (Paul McCartney) - 3:44
5.) Have You Got Problems? (Paul McCartney - Mike McGear) - 6:16

(side 2)
1.) The Casket (Mike McGear - Roger McGough) - 4:19
2.) Rainbow Lady (Paul McCartney - Mike McGear) - 3:26
3.) Simply Love You (Paul McCartney - Mike McGear) - 2:47
4.) Givin' Grease a Ride (Paul McCartney - Mike McGear) - 5:35
5.) The Man Who Found God On the Moon (Paul McCartney - Mike McGear) - 6:26
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