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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Music Videos > Concert > Documentary > Interviews > Compilation > The McCartney Years (Rhino DVD) + Paul McCartney – The Space Within Us (A&E DVD) + Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full (CD/DVD Set)

The McCartney Years (Rhino DVD) + Paul McCartney – The Space Within Us (A&E DVD) + Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full (CD/DVD Set)


Picture: C+/B-/C+     Sound: B/B-/B     Extras: B/C+/C+     Main Programs: B+/B-/B-



Though he is too classy to brag about it, Paul McCartney has been one of the top singer/songwriter/musicians for a half-century now, starting with the early days of The Beatles in the late 1950s (!) to his split from the group, solo career, collaborations with wife Linda, formation of the wildly successful Wings and amazing survival as a solo force long after that band ended.  While The Beatles work has been slowly reissued in remastered form and long overdue upgrades (see the DVD set of Help! elsewhere on this site), his solo career is often ignored.  Yet he never stopped making music no matter what.


Many critics have tried to say he built it on his Beatles past, but that is simply not true, plus the idea that he should pretend to be someone else is idiotic.  If he did, the same critics would then say he was ripping off Sgt. Pepper, so the man can forget ever making these cynics happy.  In real life, after Ringo Starr had the most immediate big success of the four, McCartney would go on to be the most commercially successful of the four with seven more #1 albums, 9 #1 singles and counting.  Most of those hits can be found on the remarkable new compellation DVD set The McCartney Years featuring every Music Video (he was making them before they had a name for them) from 1970 (Maybe I’m Amazed) to 2005 (Fine Line, and that I not his last clip either) is in this set.


Besides taking the Pop side of his Beatles-isms to new heights with the band, he made some great, groundbreaking Music Videos (especially with director Kenneth McMillan; credits for all directors are thankfully on their respective DVDs) and found the cleverest ways to address new music trends without loosing his identity or credibility as an artist, whether it was Disco (Goodnight Tonight was a huge hit) or New Wave (the studio version of Coming Up, with its unforgettable Video and a song that drove some of his older psychedelic fans to reject it and embrace the live version for reasons other than music, which was on the flipside of the 45 of the time; also a hit) and he rightly saw each as just another growth of the music he helped to create.


But it is his work in and out of Wings with Linda that is the big untold story here.  Besides being some of the greatest music of the 1970s into the 1980s, they’re incredibly smooth vocalizing, collaborations and epic Pop Music works adds up to the greatest love affair in pop music history.  Linda was attacked (like Yoko Ono) for no good reason by those who think The Beatles should still be together, but Linda was far more relevant than anyone would give her any credit for and that they could project their love in a musical way and millions of fans got it is a monumental achievement we never see or hear again.


Like his Beatles work, most of these songs do not sound their age and in DTS, have never sounded better.  That makes this set highly archival in itself and would be more than enough to sustain it as one of the premiere music DVD releases of the year, but its concert footage and extras put it over the top and make it the best video set of his post-Beatles era.  Others have their moments, but nothing can compare or compete with The McCartney Years.  That includes the concert DVD The Space Within Us (2006) which is a good concert, but not one of his best and he has issued more than his share on DVD alone, so though it is good, it does not stand out from the many.  Running 115 minutes, he covers mostly Beatles classics, including Penny Lane and Yesterday in the 21 tracks played, though Flaming Pie is a then-recent solo track he was playing often at the time and it fits well enough.  It is a good, competent, professional Paul performance, but it just feels like it is missing some energy.


Having been at two record labels all his life, McCartney left Capitol and Columbia to launch Memory Almost Full with the new HearMusic label, owned by the Starbucks coffee chain, but the advantage is that they promoted it in a way a major would not have.  The result was a debut at #2 on the album charts, his best showing since Tug Of War back in 1982!  Additionally, it features some of his most interesting work in years and is one of the best album releases of the year, including some of his most striking tracks in a long time.


Whether it is the mandarin of Dance Tonight, the haunting existential realizations of Vintage Clothes or stretches outside of the protective space of his own distinct brand of pop on several tracks including Gratitude, there are times you have to listen twice to realize it is not him and he is not trying to hide who he is.  If anything, it captures him in rare form, a new level of advanced musicianship and proves he can work lyrics around a song like no other.  Looks like it was more than just a new company that made this the hit it deservedly became and note the new vocal phrasing he tries out.


When the album is finished, you hear a new McCartney, alone again, Linda no longer haunting his work directly and also sounding young again like the many pop singer/songwriters of the 1970s for which he is one of the last survivors.  This is an album that might remind fans (unintentionally) of Leo Sayer, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce or Harry Chapin, but the heart has much more to offer and say even if the memory is running out of space.  If you have missed how good this album is, get this set over the single CD.



In all three cases, the material is presented in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 widescreen, which in the case of the Years collection reformats most of the Music Video footage to be widescreen even when they were produced on tape.  It may annoy purist, but the larger problem is the amount of motion blur likely produced by unnecessary DVNR (digital video noise reduction) which betrays any remastering that would have been done to the clips.  Russell Mulcahy’s clip for Wonderful Christmastime is darker than it should be, with less detail and more blur.  Where is the master for this?


Most concert footage is shot in digital HD and looks good, but not great, while the older footage is more aged looking.  Because it could not be cut to 1.78, the video for the solo hit So Bad is presented full screen 1.33 X 1 as a bonus track on DVD 2 of Years, showing how these clips could look at their best.  Wonder how much better the non-analog material will look in HD.


The sound is best on Years in DTS 5.1 for the Music Videos from the original music masters, though hardcore fans likely have the DTS 5.1 albums of Band On The Run & Venus & Mars.  This DTS sounds better here than on those did, though those entire albums are not here.  Unfortunately, so is his first big post-Beatles hit, Admiral Halsey/Uncle Albert or later Wings hits Listen To What The Man Said or Let Em’ In.  They may not have a videos, but one wishes they were here somewhere in the one set of missteps on the set.  The Space concert is Dolby Digital 5.1 and offers the most disappointing audio of the three releases.  No DTS was a mistake there.  The Memory discs are PCM 2.0 16 bit Stereo across the board (44.1kHz on the CD, 48 kHz on the DVD) and are very clean and clear, with the DVD having a slight sonic edge.  I still would have enjoyed DTS on the DVD.


Extras are offered in all three sets with Years having the most, including subtitles that tell you behind the scenes information, several concert and interview pieces, a third disc devoted to only concerts we still consider main material (even when the Live Aid and Super Bowl XXXIX footage is dubbed bonus) and So Bad as noted before.  You can also arrange the clips on the first two discs in chronological order through the menu and you get to see the cover shoot of Band On The Run in DVD One.  Space includes a color booklet inside the DVD case with a Cameron Crowe essay, tour dates and comments about some of the places they visited.  The DVD adds sound check footage, interviews, on the road segment and pre-show film.  The new music videos on the Memory disc fit right in with the Years disc, including Michel Gondry (see his DVD collection elsewhere on this site) directing McCartney and Natalie Portman (V For Vendetta, Closer) in the Dance Tonight clip and yet another clever clip for Ever Present Past with multiple McCartneys; a signature of his groundbreaking Video history.   You also get five concert clips from a 6/7/07 Electric Ballroom concert in London.


Years turns out to be the best of the three simply because it is so overdue a collection.  If you must own Memory, get the set, which also includes three bonus songs on the DVD.  Space is for diehard fans and though entertaining, just cannot compete with the other releases.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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