Off the Ground

Paul McCartney

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Off the Ground Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Flowers in the Dirt did earn good reviews but perhaps more important was its accompanying tour, McCartney's first full-fledged world tour in years. Given the tour's enthusiastic reception, McCartney could wait until 1993 to deliver the album's proper sequel, Off the Ground. Though it isn't as consciously ambitious, Off the Ground certainly picks up where Flowers left off, as McCartney feels no shame in making an album that doesn't aim for the charts (though success would certainly be welcomed), yet is still classy, professional, and ambitious. Two key differences appear: it's a leaner production (making the midtempo numbers seem less cloying and giving the rockers real kick), and McCartney's social conscience dominates the record (which is easily his most politically active, as he rails against animal testing and pleads for world peace several times). He doesn't leave love or whimsy behind ("Biker Like an Icon" is easily his worst, most studied stab at whimsy), and he still has a pair of fine McCartney/MacManuss songs ("Mistress and Maid," "The Lovers That Never Were") to pull out. This all results in a record that has its virtues -- it's clean and direct, where many of his solo albums are diffuse and meandering, and it's serious-minded where many rely on cutesiness -- but, overall, Off the Ground feels like less than the sum of its parts, possibly because the seriousness is too studied, perhaps because the approach is a bit too stodgy. Nevertheless, this has nearly as many successful moments as Flowers in the Dirt, standing as a deliberately serious comeback record by an artist who spent too much time relying on his natural charm, and who feels no shame in overcompensating at this stage of the game.

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