Paul McCartney: Flaming Pie

May 5, 1997 – Paul McCartney: Flaming Pie is released.
# allmusic 4.5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Flaming Pie is the tenth solo studio album by Paul McCartney, released on this date in May, 1997.
His first studio album in over four years, it was mostly recorded following McCartney’s involvement in the highly successful The Beatles Anthology project. In Flaming Pie’s liner notes McCartney said: “(Anthology) reminded me of The Beatles’ standards and the standards that we reached with the songs. So in a way it was a refresher course that set the framework for this album.”
The critical reaction to Flaming Pie was very strong, with McCartney achieving his best reviews since 1982’s Tug of War. The commercial reaction was everything McCartney could have hoped for. Flaming Pie debuted at #2 in the UK in May, giving McCartney his best new entry since Flowers in the Dirt eight years before.
In the US, reaction was also very positive. The album debuted at #2 (the best chart peak for a McCartney album there since Tug of War) with 121,000 copies sold in its first week, also behind the Spice album that sold only 16,500 more copies that week. In both the UK and the US Flaming Pie managed to be the best new entry of the week, and also reach gold in both countries.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album had sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide up to June 2007.
The singles “Young Boy”, “The World Tonight” and “Beautiful Night” became UK hits, all making the top 40 in the sales charts. The only single in the US from the album was “The World Tonight”, a top 30 entry on the Billboard mainstream rock listing.
Some consider Flaming Pie to be one of Paul McCartney’s finest solo outings. It did, indeed, receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, although Bob Dylan won the award with his back-to-form album Time Out of Mind.
The Beatles’ “anthology” projects clearly left Paul McCartney in a reflective frame of mind. Too often in the past, that would mean a douse in a nostalgia bath, but on Flaming Pie, McCartney’s look back is a genuine search – as though he were uncertain about what he might find there. The confusion becomes him, complicating his typically all-too-settled point of view and lending Pie a needed edge.
The best example is “The World Tonight,” a brooding track driven by a nasty electric guitar. “I don’t care what you wanna be/I go back so far, I’m in front of me,” the 55-year-old McCartney sings, as if he were stunned to find himself still standing in the wake of grunge, rap, techno and every other sonic assault on the world since the ’60s. It’s assertive without being defensive, aware without being trendy.
The title track is similarly winning. Over an easy-rocking boogie-woogie piano vamp, McCartney wails surreal non sequiturs, a writing style he excels at: “Tucked my shirt and unzipped my fly/Go ahead, have a vision/I’m the man on the flaming pie.” The title derives from John Lennon’s wry description of how the Beatles got their name: “A man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them: ‘From this day on, you are Beatles, with an a.'” Having invoked Lennon, McCartney seems more willing to stretch.
Musically, the album is sparer than McCartney’s recent efforts. Jeff Lynne and George Martin are sensitive collaborators in their coproductions with the singer; and guitarist Steve Miller displays muscle and finesse on four songs. Even Ringo Starr turns up on “Beautiful Night,” a song he co-wrote.
Unfortunately, Flaming Pie is not all good news. “The Song We Were Singing” suffers from the self-congratulation of that most cliched of genres, the boomer reminiscence. And, against the troubling issues the album raises – aging, the meaning of the past, the instability of the future – McCartney tirelessly waves the magic wand of love. “Somedays” assures us that “inside each one of us is love”; “Young Boy” urges us to “find love, whatever you do”; and so on.
Still, Flaming Pie finds McCartney grappling with history, both personal and public, in intriguing ways. As a figure who has shaped the course of pop history, he knows that he could get away with doing less these days. But only at his peril. (RS 763)
~ ANTHONY DECURTIS (June 6, 1997)
All songs written by Paul McCartney, except where noted.
“The Song We Were Singing” – 3:55
“The World Tonight” – 4:06
“If You Wanna” – 4:38
“Somedays” – 4:15
“Young Boy” – 3:54
“Calico Skies” – 2:32
“Flaming Pie” – 2:30
“Heaven on a Sunday” – 4:27
“Used to Be Bad” (with Steve Miller) (Steve Miller, McCartney) 4:12
“Souvenir” – 3:41
“Little Willow” – 2:58
“Really Love You” (McCartney, Richard Starkey) – 5:18
“Beautiful Night” – 5:09
“Great Day” – 2:09

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