McCARTNEY McCartney (Anfon)

Another Russian-pressed gem unearthed by Diverse, the ramshackle sleeve at least matches the quality of the music it contains. Predominately recorded in McCartney's remote Scottish retreat following his marriage to Linda , "McCartney" arguably sounds like the man having a whole "White Album" to himself, with rampant experimentation balancing the obvious pain and delight of a working alone. Whilst it's easy to envisage a great deal of the hit-and-miss nature of "McCartney" being pruned from a band product, it's also reassuring that the quiet beauty of the two versions of "Junk", or even the early ambient adventures of "Glasses" haven’t been lost to the world in the process. For every rambling pseudo-jam session ("Kreen-Akrore" - how exactly does that translate into Russian?) there's a shiny pop gem waiting to be uncovered (how about "Every Night", covered years later by Phoebe Snow, or the peerless "Maybe I'm Amazed", the most unfairly neglected of his big ballads). If you haven't yet shelled out on the "Wingspan" compilation, consider this instead, as an unsweetened representation of what Macca was, dare I type it, is, capable of, rather than what the EMI marketing machine would have you believe.

PAUL McCARTNEY Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (EMI)

As with the Stones’ latest, critics have been tumbling over themselves to award Paul McCartney with ‘best album since his last best album’ (which was what, exactly? “Flowers In The Dirt”?) gongs for “Chaos And Creation In The Backyard”. Which it may well be, but assessed on its own terms that doesn’t really amount to a whole hill of beans. Perhaps there’s a general acknowledgement that the involvement of 1998’s producer du jour, Nigel Godrich (Air, Beck, Pavement, Radiohead, R.E.M., Travis), has made it sound tolerably streamlined and modern for one of his one-man-band outings.

There are three good things about “Chaos And Creation In The Backyard”. The first is the cover photo, “Our Kid Through Mum’s Net Curtains”, taken by brother Mike in 1962. The vinyl version’s packaging is also notably lavish, with a gatefold sleeve and a series of 12-inch square prints of Brian Clarke’s sketches of McCartney’s hands Second is single “Jenny Wren”, a lovely approximation of the age-old “Blackbird”, all lilting acoustic melancholia. Finally, the drifting “Riding To Vanity Fair” addresses a cotton-wool coated verbal gumming to an unnamed party: it’s hardly “Steel And Glass” but it certainly stands out here. Tempting as it might be to speculate about its target’s identity – internet interpretations suggest John Lennon – it leaves no clues.

Otherwise, though, “Chaos And Creation In The Backyard” is the expected third-rate romantic mush set to hokey thumbs-aloft would-be ingratiating matey pop music. “Promise To You Girl” briefly offers up some tantalising “Because”-style harmonies before shattering the illusion with some mawkish domestically contented boogie of the kind you can practically hear Jools Holland scratching desperately to join in with at the post-pub end of BBC2’s Friday night schedule. “At The Mercy” (of, variously, a busy road and a busy day) closes with the lazy admission “I can think of nothing more to say” – still, thanks for showing up, at least – and “English Tea” is a palm court trifle speckled with croquet, fairy cakes and English gardens and the vivid self-assessment “Very twee”.

“Chaos And Creation In The Backyard” is almost certainly the best Paul McCartney album since his last best album. Don’t take that as a recommendation.

The Beatles