Chicks With Disks

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Flowers In The Dirt

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Paul McCartney: Flowers In The Dirt
The Paul McCartney Archive Collection

The album.

In 1989 Paul McCartney released »Flowers In The Dirt«, and he was finally able to step out of the »established superstar/middle of the road« trap that be created with all his George Martin/Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson/frog chorus collaborations. With a little help from Elvis Costello he nodded to his Beatle past, and at the same time tried to get to grips with new methods of production by teaming up with Trevor Horn – and suddenly he was accepted by the NME/Q editors and their readers. While the Costello/McCartney collaboration produced some georgeous songs, the real pearl on this album is »This One« – a wonderful love song with a nice message, some surreal twists and turns to keep it from resembling another silly love song, and arranged like a late outtake from »Magical Mystery Tour«. And, strange as it seems, the album and its various styles and producers are held together by a certain 80s gloss and a reliance on craftsman-like arrangements (Yes Paul, we know certainly well that you can tart up a nice riff like »Rough Ride« to become a four-minute hit single, thank you very much…).

The deluxe edition.

Like the previous nine entries in the series this comes with audio and visual additions: two sets of McCartney/Costello demos (acoustic and band rehearsals), the music videos from this album plus a couple of documentaries, a 112-page book with background and interviews, and three more scrapbooks with photos, handwritten lyrics and letters. There’s also a download section with 13 B-sides and remixes plus 4 additional demos. All this in a solid slipcase which (as expected) fits in nicely with the other Archive collections. The presentation, manufacturing and care for detail is really exceptional. There’s carefully selected paperstock, embossed covers, intelligent design choices (see the »Flowers« exhibition catalogue or the »This One« photobook) – and it all gives a real insight into the making of the album and its reception. And it will certainly keep you busy for a couple of days at least.

The complaints.

As soon as this release was announced there was a storm of complaints from fans. The decision to offer all the collectors rarities (the B-sides etc.) as »dowbload-only« is surely one of the all-time stupid record label mistakes – the SDE website pointed out why it was especially silly to produce a deluxe package, appealing to hardcore collectors and fans who want to have a physical product, and then failing to include a quarter of the content in the actual box. And with 60 minutes of demos spread over two CDs, why not include a couple of the non-Costello songs? (Three of those have been made available on McCartney’s website since.) But: this isn’t some record company repackaging gone wrong. Like the recent Bowie reissues, this was curated by The Artist himself, and it’s his vision that is presented here. If he wants to dedicate a whole book to his wife’s pictures, or doesn’t want certain songs or demos included – like it or not: he’s the one who’s doing the decisions.

The people complaining about the price, however, should look around a bit. If this set wasn’t released as a »record industry« item but instead as an art book, no-one would think twice about it – they would rather be pleased about the »bonus CDs and DVD« included! Considering the production quality of the whole set (not counting the two typos I spotted…) this really is a bargain. Let’s just hope that further installments will be released without interference from the marketing department – just keep ‘em coming and we’ll buy them all.

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