Paul McCartney: Memory Almost Full appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. When I had to consider the “main program” and the “extras” of this set, I ran into trouble – at least as far as a DVD review goes. Clearly the Memory album is the meat of the package, so the DVD is really a bonus, and my extras grade above reflects the contents of the DVD plus some added tracks on the CD that I’ll discuss later.
But I gotta look at something DVD-based as the main program, so I decided to consider the live performances in that way. During 2007, McCartney did a handful of gigs in front of very small audiences, and the DVD captures five songs from his June 7 show at the Electric Ballroom in London. The DVD includes the Beatles’ classic “Drive Your Car” plus four Memory tunes: “Only Mama Knows”, “Dance Tonight”, “House of Wax” and “Nod Your Head”.
How do Macca and band sound here? Pretty decent, though not in tour shape yet. McCartney’s vocals tended to strain for the songs that stretched him into a higher register. Since three of the five required such effort, Paul could sound off to a moderate degree. Some of this just reflects the state of Macca’s 65-year-old vocal cords, as he’s sounded the same for “Drive My Car” for quite some time. It’s a little more off-putting to hear the strain in “Nod Your Head” and “Only Mama Knows”, though, since Paul sounds much better on the studio versions.
The band helps bring a little life to the tracks. “Dance Tonight” remains lame, but “Knows”, “Wax” and “Head” gain energy. “Car” is a little on the sloppy side, though, and not an especially memorable rendition. Overall, these live performances are nice to have for serious McCartney fans, but they’re not stellar.
For these tunes, the visuals were average. The biggest distraction of the night came from the wild strobing off of McCartney’s striped shirt. Boy, did that sucker go nuts! I thought it’d cause a seizure at one point.
Otherwise the image appeared acceptably concise. Sharpness was a little iffy in wide shots but usually appeared fairly tight. No other issues with shimmering occurred, and I noticed no jagged edges. Source flaws appeared absent.
Colors tended to be subdued. The event displayed a rather amber tint to it that overwhelmed everything else. Lighting could become somewhat dense, but the hues usually appeared acceptably clear and accurate. Blacks were pretty deep and firm, and the low-light shots of the crowd displayed fair clarity. This wasn’t a great image, but it seemed satisfactory.
As for the PCM Stereo audio of the live songs, I thought matters were listenable but not great. The stereo imaging was fine for the most part, though a distraction came from the way the placement matched with the visuals. Usually instruments came from the appropriate spots, but for “Wax”, Paul’s piano emanated from the left half of the spectrum even though he sat on the right side of the screen. This wasn’t a fatal flaw but it created an odd distraction.
Audio quality was okay. The higher register was marred by a mildly crackly sense at times. I didn’t think the elements seemed distorted, but they lacked great sonic clarity, and a bit of roughness resulted. The mix lacked much breadth as well. Matters didn’t seem horribly compressed, but the songs sounded a bit mushy and without the desired warmth and range. This remained a listenable display but not any better than that.
A few other extras appear in this “Deluxe Edition” of Memory Almost Full. On the CD itself, we find three bonus tracks: “In Private”, “Why So Blue” and “222”. These also appeared on the “Deluxe Limited Edition” of the CD that came out at the same time as the “basic” version in June 2007. (This DE doesn’t render the earlier DLE totally superfluous, however; the latter includes some McCartney interviews absent from this one.)
Do these three “bonus tracks” fall into the “hidden treasures” category? No – I’d actually refer to all three as eminently forgettable throwaways. “Private” and “222” are essentially instrumentals, and not particularly interesting ones at that. “Blue” is a more traditional vocal song, but it fails to sound like much more than something Paul tossed off over a break. “Bonus tracks” can often be very good, but these three are negligible and ummemorable.
In addition to the live performances, the DVD also presents two music videos. We get clips for “Dance Tonight” (presented windowboxed 1.33:1) and “Ever Present Past” (anamorphic 2.35:1). For “Dance”, Paul gets a mandolin in the mail. When he starts to play, a ghostly crew of nutty folks emerges and causes havoc. I like the parts with the annoying mailman, but the wacky ghost characters get on my nerves. It’s a clever video, though, and consistently interesting. Note that Mackenzie Crook of Pirates of the Caribbean plays the postman, while Natalie Portman appears as the main ghost.
As for “Past”, it finds Paul in an art museum surrounded by a crew of nearly identical dour redheads. It’s a weird one, largely because it forces Macca to dance – in a limited way, at least. Well, at least the girls are pretty sexy.
Is Memory Almost Full the best original Paul McCartney album of the last 10 years? That’s debatable, but I can say I think it’s the most enjoyable Macca release since at least 1997’s Flaming Pie. It’s a loose and brisk affair that proves almost completely delightful. As for this DVD, we get a handful of live songs that offer a nice memento for big fans. We also find some interesting music videos and a few audio-only bonus tracks.
I definitely recommend Memory as an album, but the question becomes whether or not this “Deluxe Edition” deserves your attention. If you already have the original CD and don’t have a need to own every piece of Macca material out there, I’d say no; you’re fine with the basic album. The DE is best saved for the more serious Macca collectors, especially those who skipped the “Deluxe Limited Edition” since this set includes that one’s three bonus songs.