Recording information: A&R Studios, New York; Avatar Studios, New York; CBS Studios, New York; EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London; Hog Hill Mill, East Sussex; Morgan Studios, London; Park Gate Studios, East Sussex; Sea-Saint Recording Studio, New Orleans; See Squared Studios, New York; Spirit Of Ranachan Studio, Scotland; Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles; Wally Heider Studios, Los Angeles.
Photographers: Richard Haughton; M.J. Kim; Mary McCartney ; Linda McCartney; David Dagley.
Touted as a personally curated compilation by Paul McCartney, Pure McCartney is the first McCartney compilation since 2001's Wingspan: Hits and History. A full 15 years separated this and Wingspan, longer than the span between that double-disc set and 1987's All the Best, but the 2001 set also stopped cold in 1984, leaving over 30 years of solo McCartney recordings uncompiled on hits collections. In both its standard two-CD and deluxe four-disc incarnations, Pure McCartney attempts to rectify this, going so far as to include "Hope for the Future," his song for the 2014 video game Destiny. A fair chunk of the compilation rests upon songs heard on Wings Greatest, All the Best, and Wingspan -- "Jet," "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," "Another Day," "Mull of Kintyre," "Let Em In," "Band on the Run," "No More Lonely Nights," "Live and Let Die," "Say Say Say," "Listen to What the Man Said," and "Silly Love Songs" are all de rigueur -- so the interesting things lie in the margins, or in the music made since 1984. The standard edition contains three selections from Flaming Pie -- the 1997 album that kicked off a latter-day streak of excellent records from McCartney -- and a couple of cuts from both Chaos & Creation in the Backyard and Memory Almost Full, but it bypasses Flowers in the Dirt entirely. Flowers is also entirely absent on the deluxe edition, which nevertheless offers plenty of room for digressions -- here, the new wave future shock of "Temporary Secretary," the rockers "Junior's Farm," the hippie come-on "Big Barn Bed" and "Hi Hi Hi," and the frivolous synth pop of Press can all be heard -- so it paints a much richer portrait of McCartney's solo work, but even then it feels slightly incomplete. Hits are missing, including the brassy Brit-pop of "Take It Away," "My Brave Face," and the seasonal "Wonderful Christmastime," as are electronic risks like "Check My Machine," but their absence only underscores one fact: McCartney made more great music than what can fit on even a four-disc box. Pure McCartney gets closer to capturing the full range of his career than any of his previous compilations, but it's still only an introduction to one of the richest bodies of work in pop music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine