Driving Rain is the twelfth solo studio album by Paul McCartney, recorded and released in 2001. It was his first studio album since publicly announcing his relationship with former model and anti-land mines activist Heather Mills, whom he married in 2002. The cover of the album was taken with a wristwatch that had a built-in camera.
Driving Rain features many songs inspired by and written for Heather. Clearly determined to follow the example of Run Devil Run's brisk making, Driving Rain-except for two songs-was cut with David Kahne co-producing in two weeks, starting in February 2001 and with a set of new musicians whom McCartney intended on backing him on tour.
On 11 September 2001, McCartney was sitting on a plane in New York City when the terrorist attacks occurred and was able to witness the events from his seat. Incensed at the tragedy and determined to respond, he composed "Freedom" and helped organise (alongside Harvey Weinstein) The Concert for New York City, a massive all star show at Madison Square Garden on 20 October where "Freedom" was performed to a very receptive audience. Impulsively, McCartney halted the pressing of Driving Rain so that "Freedom" could appear as a hidden track (since the artwork had already been printed). The just released, and somewhat daringly uncommercial "From a Lover to a Friend" (which only reached #45 in the UK) was repackaged with "Freedom", though the single failed to re-chart.
In May 2007, McCartney said there are those who ascribe "militant" connotations to "Freedom" and, because of this, his decision to remove the performing of it from his 2007 setlist, although suggesting it could possibly return when he next mounted a US tour. About the song, McCartney added "I thought it was a great sentiment, and immediately post 9/11, I thought it was the right sentiment. But it got hijacked. And it got a bit of a militaristic meaning attached itself to it, and you found Mr. Bush using that kind of idea rather a lot, in a way I felt altered the meaning of the song."
In November 2001, Driving Rain was released to generally strong reviews but stunned many with its very low sales, especially considering that McCartney's previous studio album of original material, Flaming Pie, was a Top 2 hit in both the US and the UK. Maybe due to the lack of a hit single to support it, Driving Rain peaked at #46 in the UK, and became McCartney's lowest selling album in his homeland. The US reaction was a little stronger, though still underwhelming, with the album making #26 and going gold. Once again, there were no major US singles for McCartney and his new album.
Beginning in April 2002, the "Driving USA" tour-a massive success which would lead to worldwide tour extensions-was launched. After a nearly ten-year break and a difficult period in between after losing Linda, McCartney was back on the road and enjoying himself again.
Firstly - it is hard, of course, to approach any new product from the estimable Macca without making reference to his new main squeeze (one track is called "Heather" for goodness sake, and she gets a name check in the sleeve notes) and herein lies the problem. An awful lot of this, Sir P's 28th album or so, is devoted to the transition between old and new loves, and when folk fret about the proper amount of time spent since Linda's demise and his renewed passion, it may have more to do with how it actually affects his output rather than whether it offends our sense of propriety. Nobody would deny the great man a little company, but there's nothing fires a great songwriter more than a touch of misery. The fact is that he sounds so, well, jolly contented, and perhaps a bit of lonely yearning would have made the material a little more challenging and rewarding. Let's face it, we haven't really had the chance to listen to a lonely Paul McCartney since about 1965.
Considered by afficianados as the third part of a trilogy to mark the end of his life with the world's most famous vegetarian, this album is, by no means, pointless, overly sentimental or even dated. By using a bunch of fresh young American musicians and allowing some of the material to stretch out into more experimental jamming territory ("Spinning On An Axis" and the 10 minute plus "Rinse The Raindrops"), Mr Thumbs-Aloft has injected a raw urgency into his sound which really does hark back to Band On The Run days. However, in attempting to keep his sound as contemporary as possible he also falls into the strange trap of often sounding rather similar to the legions of those heavily influenced by him. Whisper it, but parts of this album sound like Crowded House.
No one can deny the true worth of a man who, even when rich as Croesus and in no need of validation, still feels the need to create and comment on the world around him (the album finishes with "Freedom", his response to September 11th). Yet, McCartney's cardinal fault was always a tendency to slip into cosiness and songs such as "Magic" and "I Do" serve as little more than snapshots into his own happy little world, rather than resonate with the universality of his greatest moments - though let's hope he doesn't stop trying. User Comments