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Reviewed by Jeff Giles
is the season for pointless compilations, and a three-DVD collection honoring McCartney – who has, of course, been compiled more extravagantly and often than most – would seem, on the surface, to be among the most pointless of all. Seriously, “The McCartney Years”? Has he done something important since releasing the Wingspan compilation just a few years ago? Is he changing his name or something? Is there a reason for this, other than McCartney and a few dudes in suits deciding that a holiday season can’t go by without another damn repackaging of his greatest hits?
Probably not, but this is still pretty righteous. “The McCartney Years”collects most of the videos McCartney has released over the course of his post-Beatles career, tacks on some live footage and bonus goodies, and drops the whole kit and caboodle on store shelves for under $30. Yeah, it’s a low blow to fans that have gone back to the well repeatedly for McCartney, but in terms of reissued material, it beats the pants off the so-called “deluxe edition” of Memory Almost Full that’s clogging the racks at your neighborhood Starbucks right now.
The first two DVDs will be of special interest to fans, offering a cornucopia of McCartney videos, watchable in hand-picked or chronological order, with or without commentary from the Quiet Beatle himself. There’s no denying his solo catalog is as spotty as it is large (and at 36 albums and counting, it’s definitely large), but there’s also no denying that McCartney joined the video revolution before there even was such a thing, and in the early MTV era, when many of his contemporaries were filling their promo clips with flashpots and fractured plots, Macca was doing some pretty cool stuff.
Of course, it also bears mentioning that these videos make a couple of things painfully clear; namely, that McCartney started trading on his Beatles career as early as “Band on the Run” (the video for which is at least 75% Beatles imagery), and that starting in the early ‘80s, pretty much every single one of his videos consists of some variation on Paul being “cute.” If you winced your way through Phil Collins’ ‘80s videos, you know exactly what this entails – McCartney, for all his musical gifts, just cannot stop mugging for the camera. This isn’t exactly news, per se, but watching all these clips in chronological order really drives the point home; at a certain point, you either want him to stop making goofy faces, or just hit him until he’s unconscious.
Still, most of these clips are entertaining, and a number of them were ahead of their time, as McCartney occasionally points out in his audio commentaries. (To answer your question, no, at no point does he ever break down crying and apologize for “Give My Regards to Broad Street” or “Spies Like Us.”) There really is a ton of content in here – as if the videos and commentaries weren’t enough, McCartney tacks on interview footage, extra videos, and even the documentary filmed alongside his Chaos and Creation in the Backyard album. You really can’t beat it for the price – but that doesn’t mean hardcore fans won’t find nits to pick, such as the missing videos (such as “Jet,” “Let ‘Em In,” and – thank God – “Freedom”) and truncated live footage (chunks of Wings’ “Rock Show” and McCartney’s “MTV Unplugged” performance appear on the third DVD). And honestly, it’s true that this isn’t the perfect collection for McCartney diehards, but criminy, it’s still 406 minutes long, and it’ll still be an awful lot of fun for fans. Time to open your wallets for Sir Paul one more time.