Paul McCartney
Back in the World – Live
(Capitol/Parlophone 83005)
& Back in the US – Live 2002 (Capitol 42318)

Really more an exercise in marketing than music, Uncle Paul's new live releases are, fortunately, a step up from Paul is Live, but nowhere close to Wings Over America or even Tripping the Live Fantastic. Those records at least had some daring to them; this new crop is about as edgy as a McDonald's commercial.

But then, if you want edgy you're hardly reaching for a Paul McCartney album anyway. Still, this guy must have something left in him, right?

Probably not. Compared to 1968 Paul, the man is musically as one-legged as the New Linda. (Um, wait, who exactly got the worst of that one, Paul, Heather, or Linda?)

You have essentially already heard the album simply by reading the tracklisting. Which is not to say it's bad, but getting through it is a chore nonetheless.

If you, like me, fall under the inexplicably Mesmeric sway of buying Beatles-related albums more often than not, then by all means, snag Back in the World over the US equivalent. Aside from the benefit of not inviting the insulting cover art of Back in the US into your collection, you get a better assortment of songs.

The US version gives you the Vaudevillian flag-waver "Freedom," which you would do well to actively avoid, "C Moon" (which ought to have remained a delightfully obscure b-side), and "Vanilla Sky" (that's a song?). The UK version has some actual moments of joy – "She's Leaving Home," "Let 'Em In," and "Michelle" – all of those surprisingly refreshing to my jaded ears.

The set is worthwhile mainly for an extended acoustic segment in the middle with some interesting choices: "Carry That Weight," "We Can Work It Out," "Mother Nature's Son." He tosses in a couple of plastic tributes to his dead friends – George Harrison's "Something" receives a rather disrespectful ukelele treatment, while "Here Today" comes off more sincere.

The new songs ("Lonely Road," "Driving Rain," and "Your Loving Flame") are where you want to go off and get a beer, even if you're listening in your car. He truly has run out of melody. I blame Steve Miller.

And you'll notice that the "big" Beatles songs ("Let it Be," "Hey Jude," "The Long and Winding Road," "Yesterday") have migrated toward the end of the set, whereas in '76 those were thrown in around the middle, which is cooler. But whatever, 99% of people watching these shows probably would have it no other way.

I'll speak for the other 1% and call for a fucking great Paul live album, recorded in a small club (NOT the Cavern), which would include "Goodbye," "I Will," "Too Many People," "Back Seat of My Car," "Some People Never Know," "Till There Was You," "Hope of Deliverance," "Veronica," "You're Sixteen," "Mamunia," "You Gave Me the Answer," "Listen to What the Man Said," "Take it Away," "I'll Give You a Ring," "No More Lonely Nights," "Only Love Remains," "Teddy Boy," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Rock Show," "I'll Follow the Sun," and covers of "I Felt Like Smashing My Face in a Clear Glass Window" by Yoko and "Valotte" by Julian Lennon.

See, this is why I drink so much. Can't you see how far away my world is from the one everyone else lives in?

Review by Mary Manilow