This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And Paul McCartney used to be one of those people.
But for much of the last decade, obviously, he’s had other things on his mind. When wife Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-’90s, Paul and his music took a reflective, inward turn into warm, homey comfort like Flaming Pie, neo-classical fare and various Wings and Beatles reissues and anthologies. After she died in 1998, McCartney continued to wax nostalgic even as he cut loose with the rollicking oldies-jam Run Devil Run, but you didn’t have to be a grief counsellor to know what he was up to — or perhaps, what he wasn’t yet up to facing.
Well, Paul has finally started to write songs about life after Linda. And as you’d expect of emotions buried so long, his grief comes out quickly, openly and often on his personal and powerful new album Driving Rain. “I tried to get over you / I tried to find something new / But all I could ever do / Was fill my time with thoughts of you,” he explains in the disc’s first seconds, crooning in his instantly identifiable voice over the darkly bouncing Lonely Road, one of several cuts that find McCartney laying his broken heart bare. “You can’t imagine just what I’ve been going through,” he protests on the groovy, organ-driven Tiny Bubble. “I wouldn’t wish it on a soul much less on you / I well remember when my soul was free / (My) heart could sing, so could we.” The swirling jangle of Magic even tells the tale of when Paul met Linda: “A few minues later / You’d have been out that door / And I’d have been lonely / For ever more.” Now, he continues, “This is the hour / That they turn out the light / Nothing but memories / Burning so bright.”
But before you head out to stock up on Kleenex, let me tell you that despite a lot of lyrics like this — and the title Driving Rain — this album isn’t a pity party. Paul’s life after Linda also includes his new romance with fiancee Heather Mills, and fittingly, many of these songs are about how her love has helped him pick up the pieces and start living again. “Something’s open, it’s my heart / If something’s missing it’s when we’re apart,” he joyfully admits on the jangly title cut. “You come walking through my door / Like the one I’ve been waiting for / Letting sunshine in the darkest places.” In Heather, he’s literally over the moon for her. And the title of I Do pretty much sums it all up: “All I ask of you / Please remember darling, I do love you.”
If this sounds like McCartney’s most revealing and direct work in years, it is. It’s also some of his most accessible. Like its confessional lyrics, Driving Rain’s music is straightforward, fresh and uncluttered, with an endless stream of classic McCartney hook-filled pop, some gentle folky ballads and even a few chunky rockers (although it’s not listed, the disc also includes the live version of Freedom he played at the telethon in New York last month). Sticking to the same recording approach as Run Devil Run and Flaming Pie, McCartney keeps the band small, the beats uptempo, the grooves funky, the production and overdubs minimal, and the vibe immediate. The result is one of most vibrant and meaningful discs in ages — a beautiful, moving tribute to two loves in his life and an artistic rejuvenation for one of pop music’s icons.
But even at their goopiest, these aren’t the silly love songs of Paul’s youth. These are the views of a guy who’s been around too long to be that carefree. But even so, it’s obvious he still believes that with a little luck — and a little love — he can make this whole damn thing work out. And nothing’s wrong with that.