With a title borrowed from John Lennon's spoof article on the origins of the name of The Beatles ("It came in a vision. A man appeared on a flaming pie . . .") and with his own sense of his proud legacy inevitably restored both by the Anthology project and all things Britpop, Paul McCartney's first album as a knight is anything but stuffy. Much of Macca's solo career both in and out of Wings has found him recoiling from his illustrious past and the major delight of his first album since 1993's Off The Ground is that it is the work of a man who sounds profoundly at ease.
Flaming Pie isn't the work of a careerist looking over his shoulder or worrying about his reputation, it's the sound of a pop genius remembering that his primary gift is that of an instinctive simplicity. Macca's brand of simplicity has often walked perilously close to the merely simple-minded and, inevitably, there's some cloying moments here, not least among a trilogy of comforting, even folksy, acoustic songs - Calico Skies, Little Willow and Great Day. Yet each of these tunes also recaptures much of the sweetness and charm of, say, Blackbird, without ever descending into the merely toe-curling. Sure, domestic love and even global peace remain his favoured themes, but, as the nostalgic opener The Song We Were Singing suggests (one of eight tracks co-produced and recorded with George Harrison's old mucker, Jeff Lynne), McCartney's overriding faith has always rested in the moment, "The song we were singing at any particular time".
Much of this album, therefore, sets off in pursuit of a simple R&B or rock'n'roll beat with plenty of the one-take freshness to which the Fab Four aspired in those ill-fated Get Back sessions. Particularly effective are two bluesy pop tunes recorded with Steve Miller, The World Tonight and Young Boy, Miller adding harmonies and some effortlessly blistering guitar work. A couple of other more jam-oriented work-outs are rather less tuneful and rather more drawn out, but these are far outweighed by triumphs like the gorgeous ballad Somedays, complete with Eleanor Rigby-style strings (arranged by George Martin) and the epic Beautiful Night, one of two songs featuring Ringo Starr. Arise, then, Sir Paul, once a Beatle, always a Beatle, but now with your faith restored in the moment at hand and, without standing on ceremony, in yourself.