Released when I was at perhaps the absolute peak of my Paul McCartney fandom, Give My Regards to Broad Street is an album I want to argue is much better than it really is. I still remember distinctly the day the album was released, and in my early teens this was probably my most-played McCartney album. Yet as I discover again and again in my current Paul kick, nostalgia only goes so far.
This album, like the film from which it is drawn, is a strangely pleasant but undeniably hollow experience. Paul mixes new songs with Beatles remakes and new takes on more recent solo hits, creating a weird career retrospective in the "artist's choice" vein. I still love the album, mainly because it reminds me of a time when I thought McCartney could do no wrong (I've since heard Red Rose Speedway and Flaming Pie).
"No More Lonely Nights" is the only bonafide classic on the album, appearing in the original ballad version (one of Paul's very best, for some reason neglected in the set lists of Paul's 90's tours --- the man has never been able to gauge what his actual best songs are) as well as the "playout version" (assumedly written specifically to play under the credits of the film and it shows). The remastered UK version adds two more versions of it (the "Extended Version" and the "Special Dance Mix" lighting up dancefloors everywhere in '99!), amounting more or less to "No More 'No More Lonely Nights' Syndrome" but not unlikable, really.
The other new tracks are "No Values" (ending with yet another take on "No More Lonely Nights," by the way), "Not Such a Bad Boy," and "Goodnight Princess." The first two are Wings throwbacks that find Paul commenting on um, something. "Goodnight Princess" is a big-band ballad that features some spoken word from Paul thanking the listener for listening to the album. Chalk this one up to Paul's "Country Hams" side. As I said, I've got a soft spot for these songs, and at any rate compared to a lot of the songwriting on Pipes of Peace, they're nearly "Yesterday" caliber.
Even closer to "Yesterday" caliber is "Yesterday," which appears in a remake medley with "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Wanderlust" a lot of critics cried foul, but it works pretty well even given the fact that there was absolutely no point for Paul McCartney to record new studio versions of "Yesterday" and "Here, There and Everywhere."
Still, you have to admire the guy's self-direction. I mean, say you write a song that subsequently gets recorded by over 1,000 other artists, can you imagine sitting down and cranking out a new version? George Martin must have been like "Um, you want to record 'Yesterday' again? Uh, well, yeah, sure we can do that."
The medley really works, though, especially with a grander version of "Wanderlust" than the original Tug of War version. This leads into another overlooked Tug of War gem, "Ballroom Dancing," complete with Paul's "directing calls" ("That's it kids!" "Wave the sword!") as I recall, the set-up for this in the film was that Paul was directing a video for "Ballroom Dancing."
What a kooky movie that was, and don't worry, there's lots of reminders peppered throughout the album (soundbites like the fake feedback and Paul saying "Sorry, my fault" at the end of "No Values").
"Silly Love Songs" is refreshed (it might actually be a better version, never mind the memory of Paul & Co. painted up like futuristic breakdancers in the movie), "So Bad" is redone nearly to the letter, and for the most part the first half of the album is pretty solid (minus the pallid "Good Day Sunshine" idiotically placed at track two). By the time you trek through a very tedious "For No One," a very much less impressive "Eleanor Rigby," and a smooth jazz "Long and Winding Road," the essential shallowness makes itself fully known.
It's ironic that Paul, who supposedly detested Phil Spector's overschmaltzification of "The Long and Winding Road" on Let it Be, would go even further down that road with this miserable version. I don't object to Paul redoing these "classics" as much as that he doesn't do them all that well (the 80's sax solos don't help).
And yet, in some improbable game of three-card monty wherein I have to choose between Tug of War, Pipes of Peace, and Broad Street, I will pick Broad Street every time.
I can't honestly say it's a great album, but overall it's a step up from its two predecessors. It's definitely more fun to listen to (nothing along the lines of "Hey Hey" here), but I'd be kidding you and me both by arguing for Broad Street being a misunderstood masterpiece. It may have been the first step in Paul's ensuing decade and a half of resting on his considerable laurels, but you can't blame the guy too much for wanting to contextualize all of his achievements in one new project. You can blame him, however, for choosing for that project to be a movie about "the missing master tapes."
Review by Wimpempy Tarlisle