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Author Topic: Microscope: Venus And Mars  (Read 4317 times)

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Bobber

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Microscope: Venus And Mars
« on: February 15, 2012, 10:02:26 AM »

To be honest: I've been struggling with this review and it took me a long time. It's not even complete. Sometimes it's nothing more than my opinion about a song. Maybe that's the problem I'm having with this album: I like it, but there's something missing or wrong and I can not get my finger on it. Give me a hand.

Venus And Mars
A nice introduction to an album that sounded much rockier than I remembered. Tho I must admit I can hardly remember playing the album in the right order and listening to all the songs. Somehow I can imagine Paul asked John Lennon to join in on the album. It’s almost as if Paul had John in mind in certain songs. Not especially this one. Venus And Mars (the song) has a nice atmosphere. Acoustic guitar sounds great and so does the sound effect on the voices. Nice transition to Rock Show as well.

Rock Show
Great rocker. Excellent vocals by Paul.

Love In Song
Listening to the album in the car in the past few weeks, this song has grown from a hardly known to a very beloved song for me.

You Gave Me The Answer
I’m not sure why Paul keeps bothering us with songs like When I’m 64, Honey Pie and this tune. It’s not bad and actually has a great melody line in my opinion, but the arrangement in top hat twenties style is not my piece of cake. I prefer the more rockier version of this song on Wings Over America. Especially Paul’s ad libs like ‘Shall we dance?’ are a pain in the ass.

Magneto And Titanium Man
Another rocker that I like.

Letting Go
Maybe I’m becoming monotonious here, but I like this song as well. Great guitar lick.

Venus And Mars (reprise)
What’s that with Paul and reprises? Ram On, Mumbo and now Venus And Mars. A song I don’t need on the album.

Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
Denny Laine makes it painfully clear that he shouldn’t be a lead singer in a band with Paul McCartney in it. His opening lines are a disaster. When Paul is joining Denny on the chorus, the song gets an immediate uplift.

Medicine Jar
Jimmy McCulloch handles the lead vocals a little better than Denny Laine, but the song is a forgettable rocker. Not bad, nothing special.

Call Me Back Again
A showcase for Paul’s voice and he makes it clear why he and nobody else should take the lead vocals within Wings.

Listen To What The Man Said
In fact a lightweight song within the context of the complete album, but one I always get happy about. I can listen to this song a hundred times in a row.

Treat Her Gently/Lonely Old People
Is Paul trying to create a great finale here? If so, he didn’t succeed. If he was trying to give us a slow ballad, he did succeed. Nothing special song to me.

Crossroads Theme
Why?
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tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2012, 11:54:28 AM »

Yeah, but dammit if I dont have to listen to this one again. I dont think i've cared for it as well as other people have, but we'll see.

JimmyMcCullochFan

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2012, 01:15:38 PM »

Probably my favorite Wings album.
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Bobber

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2012, 01:37:27 PM »

Probably my favorite Wings album.

Why? Alright, Jimmy plays very well on this album, but don't you agree something (what?) is missing?
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peterbell1

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2012, 02:06:30 PM »

It's a good album but it's missing the couple of real classic songs that would have turned it into a GREAT album. I don't think there's anything on V&M that can rival songs such as BOTR or Jet.

Perhaps if he'd left off the Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch songs and added in two more of his own numbers then it would have been an improvement. I think it's great that Paul was happy to hand the limelight over to the other members of Wings (he often gets criticized for being egotistical but moves like that show that it doesn't all have to be about him), but to be honest even the best songs written by the other Wings members were only ever as good as a mediocre McCartney song. They add very little to the album for me (and it's the same on albums such as Wings at the Speed of Sound and London Town). Denny and Jimmy were both fantastic instrumentalists and helped Wings become a brilliant live band in the mid '70s, but as songwriters they were way below the standard of Macca.
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JimmyMcCullochFan

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2012, 03:59:10 PM »

Why? Alright, Jimmy plays very well on this album, but don't you agree something (what?) is missing?

I enjoy the songs and that album was made to be played live, as was Speed of Sound. They translate much better on stage.
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Bobber

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2012, 06:36:31 PM »

I enjoy the songs and that album was made to be played live, as was Speed of Sound. They translate much better on stage.

I agree with you on that. But I like the songs on V&M much better than those on SOS. I'll be dealing with that album soon, but I think it's one of Pauls worst albums.
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tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2012, 02:42:17 AM »

Its been awhile since I’ve spun this album. I’ve just never associated it with being one of my favorites. Everybody else seemed to like it a little more than I always did, but that’s nothing new. Cor said that he thought it was missing something and he couldn’t put a finger on it. Lets see if we can find what that might be.

Venus And Mars – The title track to start out. Love the acoustic sound and the recorder(?). Pauls vocals are monotone to a point, but fine nonetheless. 0.53 mark he double tracks a background vocal which is nice. 1.00 the full sound comes in and gives the song some urgency. Electric guitar accompanies and sounds good. I love the atmosphere of this song, but its just too short.
 
Rock Show – I’ve always complained about the production of this song and will do so again. It reminds me of Lennons solo stuff. It just sounds muddy to me when in contrast to the first song, it shouldn’t. I guess I’m wishing for something that wasn’t meant to be and I think it reflects on how I like the song overall which is silly, but true nonetheless. Electric guitar sounds ok, but I hate the slide guitar or steel guitar of whatever it is. Drums sound good from Joe English (love his playing anyways). Pauls voice is good. 0.55 always liked the chimes there. 1:10 song changes speed and I love the echo effect on the drums. 1:39 hate this part where the screaming occurs. Piano sounds good. 2:10 cool electric guitar strums via ‘Jet’ (I think that’s what it is). Hate the ‘Oy’s’ during the middle break and the silly voices. Cowbell is cool. Oh well, enough with this song. Nice rocker, but I think it’s a bit overrated in Pauls catalog. I do love the ending jam part though.

Love In Song – After the worst fade in in pop history, we have this song. Kind of brings back the ‘Venus And Mars’ theme with the guitar and piano. Although the momentum slacks off some, I like this song. I like it a lot. 0.58 when Paul brings it here, its sublime. Best part of the song. I just love his vocals. 1:55 we finally have some Linda in the backgrounds and I like it even though its subtle. The background harmonies are top notch. The weird keyboard sounds throughout this song and the entire album are off putting, but I suppose they work within the context. 2:29 is that a harp? Beautiful. Short song, but I love it. Big string finish.

You Gave Me The Answer – Nice piano intro that flows into another one of Pauls 1920’s ragtime tunes. Its cool that he can write these types of songs (not many people probably can), but he might dip into the well a little too freely (When I’m 64, Honey Pie). I’m not sure this is what his target audience is wanting, but when has that ever stopped Paul? Strings are nice as are the woodwinds. It’s a well done song and its nice enough, but I feel its out of place.

Magneto And Titanium Man – Maybe my least favorite on the album. Pauls a comic book fan and so am I, but that cant save my dislike for this tune. Hate the keyboards and the whole silliness of it all. Drums sound great though. 0:39 the high pitched ‘I didnt believe them’ makes me cringe. It doesn’t help that Paul just seems to be telling a story instead of actually singing. Background harmonies seem tight with plenty of Linda. 2:06 like the guitar tone. Jimmy I presume? Not much more to add. Just not a fan of this song. Sorry.

Letting Go – Never liked this one either. Muddy production again. Don’t like the rhythm guitar sound or the drum sound. The horns are too much when they come in also. This song is nothing but filler in my opinion and I couldn’t believe that Paul chose to take this one out on the road recently. Of all songs, he plucked this one out of the archives. It was a beer break moment for me.

Venus And Mars (reprise) – I don’t know why he does all these reprises, but whatever. Same as the first one with some added keyboards. Nice enough again, I guess.

Spirits Of Ancient Egypt – One of my favorites, but I admit it’s a guilty pleasure. I usually don’t care at all about lyrics, but these are so dumb I had to comment on them. Oh well. I hate Denny’s voice (or lack of I should say), but his shortcomings are the reason I like the song so much. More in just a second. Decent rock shuffle throughout. 1:14 remember when I said I hate Denny’s voice? Well, that just made Pauls vocals here all that much grander. Pure McCartney magic. This little part causes me to love a rather average song. That’s how powerful those vocals are. I wouldn’t blame anybody for disliking this song, but I cant as much as try sometimes.

Medicine Jar – Worst song on the album. Cant stand the vocals or the constant ‘Wah Wah’s’ of the keyboard in the background. Guitar playing is good enough, but overshadowed by the mediocrity of the song itself. The tone of the lead solo sucks in my opinion. Too far in the background with the mix if that’s possible. The Linda heavy backgrounds bother me on this one for some reason. Just don’t like this song at all.

Call Me Back Again – ‘Let Me Roll It’s’ little brother. A blues style tune that’s well played with great harmonies, big horns, good piano, and nice guitar playing, I’m on the fence about Pauls lead vocals here. They aren’t bad, but its not ‘Oh Darling’ good. He falters a few times throughout. I don’t know. I like the song, but then again I think it could be better than what it really is.

Listen To What The Man Said – The big hit, but I love this song and its because of the drums. I cant lie. It’s a small part of the big picture but its what I dig. The clean production is welcome. There’s a lot going on in this song. Guitars, keyboards, flute, fuzz bass(?), percussion, and more that I cant even pick out.  Just a great slice of 70’s pop with plenty of Linda’s stamp on the backgrounds. Geoff Brittons drums are huge though.  Love the groove and especially the simplistic fills. Its enough for me.

Treat Her Gently – Lonely Old People – How did Billy Joel get on this record? Seriously, I always liked this one. Nice vocals from Paul with stellar sounding piano, harmonies, drums, and guitar playing. The Lonely Old People part reminds me of some hymns I play at church. Good stuff. The more I listen to this song, the more it kicks ass. This is a really beautiful song. How does this song hover under the radar? Its moment like this that remind me of how freaking good Paul was. Here’s a song I would dismiss any other day, but after listening to it closely for this review, it blew me away. This is the best song on this album. Wow.

Crossroads – Seems like George Harrison slid a song on the record too. Pretty strings and guitar playing, but a song with no purpose. I would have left this little snippet off.

***Bonus Tracks***

Zoo Gang – Love the guitar tone and playing on this strange little instrumental. Neat little piece of ear candy. Funky and interesting enough.

Lunch Box/Odd Sox – Love this instrumental. I had the 45 of ‘Coming Up’ and this was on the B-side. Nice piano and keyboards with a cool bass line. Love the drums and used to play to this one all the time. I just like the mood of the song. Love the piano at the 1:09 mark. Cool little jam.

My Carnival –This one sucks. Goofy talking and silliness. I don’t like how Paul sings Carnivaaaal either. Hate the overpowering background vocals. Drums are awesome though. I never let this one play all the way through. The cd stops with the song before this in my opinion.

Ok, lets see what we have. All in all, it’s a good album. It may suffer some effects of following ‘Band On The Run’ but its still solid. The one thing it does miss is consistency, but most Wings album miss that. Looking back, there’s no one song that sticks out as being awesome either. Sure, ‘LTWTMS’ was a hit, but like ‘Silly Love Songs’, its more of a pop hit than masterpiece material. I also seriously doubt that anybody is going to think as highly of ‘Treat Her Gently – Lonely Old Road’ as I did tonight (although you should have another listen), but that’s probably as close as Paul was going to get to something great on this record.

One other thing I would like to touch upon is that I don’t know the history of the album or the thinking behind it, but its as if Paul was going to try another concept album, but didn’t have the discipline to pull it off (ala Sgt. Peppers). The record starts off with the space themed title track and slips into the cosmic jam that is Rock Show and then the idea get abandoned. After the first two songs, it’s a crap shoot. Like a typical Wings album, it just doesn’t flow well.  Maybe I’m just overthinking things as usual.

Anyways, good record and thanks Cor. I’ve been waiting for you to get back on the horse.

tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2012, 02:56:41 AM »

Just read your review Cor and I see we are pretty close on our opinions. Some differ but not many. Do me a favor though, can I please ask you to listen to 'Treat Her Gently - Lonely Old People' one more time and tell me if its as good as I think it is or if i'm just bat sh*t crazy tonight for some reason. You wont hurt my feeling either way, but please give it a close listen for me.

tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2012, 02:59:57 AM »

One other tidbit, I was looking to see who played drums on what because I knew Geoff Britton left and I found that he only played on three tunes for Wings. I thought it was more than that. He played on 'Juniors Farm', 'Sally G' (had that 45), and 'Listen To What The Man Said'. Joe English handled the rest. Cool, but I would have liked to hear more from Geoff. He did a good job on the tunes he played on.

Bobber

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2012, 08:29:02 AM »

Just read your review Cor and I see we are pretty close on our opinions. Some differ but not many. Do me a favor though, can I please ask you to listen to 'Treat Her Gently - Lonely Old People' one more time and tell me if its as good as I think it is or if i'm just bat sh*t crazy tonight for some reason. You wont hurt my feeling either way, but please give it a close listen for me.

I will.

And thanks for your review. It was much more decent and complete than mine! ha2ha
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 08:30:51 AM by Bobber »
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Kangaroo Kev

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2012, 08:48:35 AM »

I dont know if you guys are aware that the Crossroads tune was the them tune to a popular British soap opera from the 80's, Ive no idea why Paul decided to re-record it, maybe he was a fan..

Crossroads 80s British TV Soap Titles 80s
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Bobber

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2012, 08:58:33 AM »

I dont know if you guys are aware that the Crossroads tune was the them tune to a popular British soap opera from the 80's,

He wanted to make a link with the previous song on the album, Lonely Old People, which is much what Crossroads is about.
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tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2012, 12:47:49 PM »

It's a good album but it's missing the couple of real classic songs that would have turned it into a GREAT album. I don't think there's anything on V&M that can rival songs such as BOTR or Jet.

Just read your post Pete and I think you hit the nail on the head.

tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2012, 12:50:19 PM »

I dont know if you guys are aware that the Crossroads tune was the them tune to a popular British soap opera from the 80's, Ive no idea why Paul decided to re-record it, maybe he was a fan..

I'm confused. When did 'V&M' come out? I have to look this up for some clarity.

tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2012, 12:55:11 PM »

Ok, I guess 'Crossroads' ran from 64' to 88' so that makes sense. It was said that they would sometimes play the Wings version at the end of the show when there was a cliffhanger or something sad happened.  ha2ha Still dont know why Paul felt the need to include it on the album, but maybe he needed to fill a tiny bit of space.

glass onion

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2012, 09:39:36 PM »

v & m has always been one of my strong wings albums,admittedly there probably isn't many.it was the first wings album i really listened to as an adult,i mean REALLY listened to from a music/musician point of view.standout tracks for me are 'you gave me the answer',which has already been said is just typical paul 20s pastiche,but i like that.'honey pie' is a fave number of mine and i also love '64' so to me it's a no-brainer.'magneto and titanium man' is another i really like,i just feel it grooves along lovely,the bass and drums sound nice.obviously 'listen to what the man said'(i had no idea it was geoff britton;thanks todd)is a lovely song,a strong single very of it's time.and i also like the crossroads theme!!jimmys' song is alright;don't care too much for dennys',the line about cooking a stew is awful.the others are serviceable,so all in all as a quick review it gets a 6.5/10.not bad.better than speed of sound,but give me london town over it.but that's another review,aint it? ;)
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tkitna

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2012, 12:44:54 PM »

Good to hear from you GO. Glad to see you posting because I fear Bobber gets a little p*ssed with the lack of participation in these threads (I dont understand it either), but I dont want these threads to stop. They are my favorites. It seems that I learn something new in each one of them.

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2012, 08:14:23 PM »

I think Rockshow is just as good as anything on BOTR, and it rocks harder!

I absolutely love Listen To What The Man Said, one of McCartneys best singles.

Call Me Back Again, is one of McCartneys best vocal performances, blue eyed soul done right!

Medicine Jar, Magneto and Titanium man, Spirits Of Ancient Egypt, are just good rocking songs, performing them live proved that.

I do agree about some of the production issues though.
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Kangaroo Kev

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Re: Microscope: Venus And Mars
« Reply #19 on: February 21, 2012, 08:40:44 PM »

This album (and others like it) sum up everything I hated about Paul and his Wings, and I was going to give my views but this guy (from Rolling Stone) says all I wanted to say and is much better writer than me so I will leave it to him, its not that Im chickening out but more a case of him finding the right words & phrases that my smaller brain struggles to come up with  :( , phrases like 'vacuum-packed smugness' and 'the product of assembly-line manufacture' say and sum up my entire feelings about Wings output.
When Paul was a Beatle I loved him to death, but when he became a Wing I just wanted him and his twee sillyness to fly away (and preferable take Magneto and Titanium man with him)


By PAUL NELSON
May 3, 2001
As time goes by, John Lennon's importance to the Beatles becomes more and more self-evident. The same old story we've been hearing for years — that Lennon's wit and abrasive probing were needed to balance Paul McCartney's melodic charm and sweetness — is obvious but true; Lennon's career has certainly had fewer ups and downs (the first Plastic Ono Band LP being his only real success), but his strivings, if at times embarrassing, have never seemed to be the product of assembly-line manufacture. None of the ex-Beatles has survived the first half of the Seventies heroically — George Harrison has become a musical Kahlil Gibran, Ringo Starr, a likably mediocre Everyman, Lennon, the confused method actor unsure of what role to play, and McCartney, a latter-day Burt Bacharach trying to invent his Angie Dickinson — but, of the four, only Lennon's plight still reaches the rock & roll part of the heart.

Lennon probably had nothing whatsoever to do with Venus and Mars, the new Wings album, but somehow the ghost of his sincerity not only haunts but also accentuates the cool calculation of the McCartney project, and a jarring primal scream or two might make me feel less enraged by Paul and Linda's chic, unconvincing and blatant bid to be enshrined as pop music's Romeo and Juliet. One can point out that John and Yoko were no better, perhaps even worse, in their similar public insistence — or Bob Dylan on Planet Waves, for that matter — but what makes such a comparison appalling is that John and Yoko and Dylan believed what they were saying, or at least desperately tried to, while the McCartneys serve it all up with the offhand air of two uncaring jet-setters presenting us with the very latest in prefabricated TV dinners.

Venus and Mars begins with Paul and Linda's casual and false assumption that the whole world is tremendously interested in the state of their union (whereas John and Yoko and Dylan were driven, I think, more by individual inner needs to say what they did), so they concoct a slick, Broadway / Hollywood exterior romance that is an insult to the very "lovers everywhere" to whom they dedicate the LP. For all I know, the McCartneys may love each other passionately, but it is self-aggrandizement, not private ardor, that shines through the computerized smoothness of their insubstantial songs; no blood on the tracks here, and no connection with reality either. Perhaps this is too harsh; perhaps Paul and Linda's image of themselves as rock & roll's mythical couple is real in their minds but, as this album proves, an extended trip across that arid area is apt to make even the night thoughts of Johnny Carson appear positively Dostoevskian.

"Venus and Mars are all right tonight," the lovers keep telling us, persistently answering a by-and-large unasked question with a press-release concept, generally uninspired melodies and some of the dumbest lyrics on record. As a card-carrying romantic, I bow to no one caught in the occasionally moony state of yearning, but I can't imagine ever telling anyone I liked, let alone loved, something like, "My, you're so fine/When love is mine/I can't go wrong"; or, "Ah, she looks like snow/I want to put her in a Broadway show" or, "You're my baby and I love you/You can take a pound of love/And cook it in the stew...." The last song on the LP carries the galactic couple all the way to the old people's home, where we are asked to pity the doddering old McCartneys because "nobody asked [them] to play." "Here we sit," they cry, "Two lonely old people/Eking our lives away." Pretty damned unlikely. If the musical career doesn't pan out, guys, you can always get a job writing soap operas or the verses for Hallmark cards.

So much for the banal ballads — "Venus and Mars," "Love in Song," "You Gave Me the Answer" (done Rudy Vallee style), "Letting Go," "Spirits of Ancient Egypt," "Treat Her Gently — Lonely Old People" — all treacle so far from the mainstream of amorousness that, if one were to make a joke, only a drip or two could sneak through. Unfortunately, some of the nonlove songs ("Magneto and Titanium Man" especially) on Venus and Mars are more galling and impudently silly than that pun, or just rather ordinary ("Rock Show," "Medicine Jar"). The only two real exceptions are the well-sung, urban-blues-and-Sixties-soul-influenced "Call Me Back Again" and the LP's certain hit single, the deliciously catchy and creamily produced "Listen to What the Man Said," the latter as fine an example of slick, professional entertainment and carefully crafted "product" as has ever hit the airwaves.

Although I have always had doubts about McCartney, before this album was released I would have offered an opening argument that he, not Lennon, was the only one of the ex-Beatles whose career seemed to be going somewhere. Band on the Run wasn't great, but it was good and did suggest that its creator wasn't all vacuum-packed smugness and unmatched ego. Now, I don't know. Were his talent behind him, McCartney's current disaster wouldn't matter much, but what is really worrisome here is the almost gleeful enthusiasm with which he makes trivial anything meaningful. It is symbolic that Venus and Mars comes with more extraneous junk (not all of it in the grooves) than it can sustain: two posters, two gummed decals, a flashy inner cover, etc. Perhaps this is the ephemera of fame, but it's really not as cosmic as Paul and Linda think it is; indeed, it seems more an inadvertent definition of artistic emptiness. These are two geese who have laid a golden egg in a land where Michelangelo Antonioni and Norman Rockwell have somehow become soulmates, and all of us are going to be expected to pay the price.



Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/venus-mars-20010503#ixzz1n3BrFDkF
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