Various artists, "The Art of McCartney" (Arctic Poppy)
This two-disc Paul McCartney tribute is a decade-in-the-making labor of love by one man, producer Ralph Sall. So it would be churlish to throw cold water on it, right?
Sorry. Sall's interest in chasing down marquee names, rather than marquee performances, makes this a gigantic missed opportunity.
Sall enlists McCartney's current backup band to fill the same role on this 34-song effort (42 with the deluxe package). The result is musical consistency — consistently generic. He recruits primarily legacy artists whose best work is behind them, often decades behind. Billy Joel opens both discs with songs ("Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Live and Let Die") that are beyond his range now. And, trust us, the world doesn't need to hear Steve Miller sing "Hey Jude" or Alice Cooper do "Eleanor Rigby."
To be sure, there are fun moments, like Bob Dylan croaking through "Things We Said Today" and Brian Wilson's shimmering take on "Wanderlust." The compositions are excellent, even if the performances don't always rise to that level. But you knew that going in.
Bringing in some current and more diverse artists — maybe a Katy Perry or Pharrell — and letting them interpret the music freed from a band with its own preconceptions would have been infinitely more interesting. So would digging further into McCartney's vast catalog, including some work he's done this century.
While musical adventurousness is risky, the rewards are greater. McCartney's legacy deserved a more challenging environment.