The title of Macca’s potent latest sets up the premise: Present a pile of new songs to four young producers— Paul Epworth (Adele), Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse), Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon), and Giles Martin (son of George)—who can bring a fresh sound and perspective. The concept clicks early on “Alligator,” an open tune built around a grand guitar-bass-unison-riff hook that leaves plenty of space for Ronson’s atmospherics. For the throwback, “Penny Lane”-esque title track, Ronson scales back suitably (and dig Paul’s double-stop fill before the second verse). Halfway through, the 13-track disc really gets in gear. All under Martin’s guidance, “Appreciate” rides a funky swung groove awash in guitar and tape loops, and shifting minor-to-major tonality; “I Can Bet” is Wings-like in its driving pulse and scope; and drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. brings his fattest groove to the layered “Looking at Her.”
The ultimate blend of song, sonics, and slammin’ bass can be found on Epworth-produced “Road,” with it’s lilting feel, dark harmonic haze, haunting xylophone, Pet Sounds piano transitions, and Paul stretching with pick in hand—especially his build to sweeping double-time lines after the bridge. “Scared,” the “hidden” last track, is a pure gem and something of a wake-up call. Consisting simply of somber classical piano chords and heartfelt vocal, McCartney shows his mastery of non-root tones and voice leading in telling the tale of a reticent suitor. No production needed.