STUDIO: EMI Classics
MSRP: $24.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 67 minutes
• Creating Ecce Cor Meum documentary

Note Review by Steve Murphy

The Pitch

Paul McCartney meets Terror of Mecha-Godzilla!

The Humans

The tremendous Paul McCartney, soprano Kate Royal, three choirs composed of English people, and a massive orchestra full of people rocking out to Sir Paul’s latest offering.

The Nutshell

Following the successes of his previous three classical albums, coupled with his historic standing in the music industry as a whole, the great Paul McCartney was approached by the President of Magdalen College in Oxford to compose a piece that would commemorate the schools’ new concert hall. What was finally presented on November 3rd, 2006 (and featured here in this release) was a commercial triumph for ‘Macca’, which is hardly a surprise.

The Lowdown

If you’re one of those people who are not fans of McCartney’s classical excursions, well… then it’s all my fault.

In 1991, ex-Wings frontman Paul McCartney released an album composed entirely of classical music (Liverpool Oratorio).  I gave it a quick listen, totally rejected it, and went back to waiting for his next “proper” record. In 1997, he again tried my patience by releasing Standing Stone.  I became so infuriated with him that I bought the CD, enjoyed it, then went back to waiting for a “proper” studio album from him. In 2000, he released A Garland for Linda, which, because it was written for his deceased wife, I gave him a pass on by not getting angry with him, which I know he appreciated.  Instead of being pissed off, I held a silent protest by buying the album not once, but TWICE!

I have no earthly clue why, but I think one was a gift.

So, you see, I think Paul knew that because I kept buying his classical albums that he may as well keep churning them out.

Joking aside, I was never keen on McCartney veering away from his traditional pop/rock roots to do what I viewed as an ego-driven pretentious exercise. I felt that he was simply dabbling in a medium he didn’t really have a grasp on, much in the same way he tackled the Give My Regards To Broad Street nonsense. It seemed to me that it was something he did simply because he could, not really thinking if he should. 

So, when Ecce Cor Meum was announced I thought “here we go again”. Why on earth was he wasting his time with this classical nonsense when he could be pumping out vintage McCartney excellence like Chaos and Creation in the Backyard and Memory Almost Full?

To my surprise, it turned out better than I expected.

Filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the concert that unraveled in front of me proved to be more enjoyable than his previous three classical works combined. While the music is quite doleful for much of the proceedings, to me it felt wholly appropriate. I saw this as an excuse for him to write something else for Linda. Something that wasn’t a ballad. Something that would have more weight and emotional power. To me, this was evident during the first segment (Spiritus), obviously during Interlude (Lament), and partially in the last piece Ecce Cor Meum. It lets loose in parts, but never really feels completely free. I am no master at critiquing classical works, but it felt like to me that it was a little too cluttered at times.  This piece works best during the slower sections, when it allows you to hear more of the voices and orchestrations. It looses something when it tries to be bombastic. It almost seems like when he was writing it he forgot to put in the uptempo themes, so that when he went back over it and noticed this he just shoved in brassier moments.

I could be totally wrong (and probably am), but to my untrained hear just didn’t feel smooth enough. I really liked the quieter, sadder times, as I felt these were the real McCartney bits.  Those were the times where he wasn’t trying to be Mozart: he was letting his feeling pour out and for me this is were Ecce Cor Meum works best, in the personal moments.

It is certainly a flawed opus from essentially a novice in the classical field, but when that novice is as awesome as Paul McCartney, it demands to at least be noticed.

The Package

There is an 8-part documentary explaining all that went into creating the event at the Royal Albert Hall, and in some ways it is more interesting that the piece itself. Here McCartney explains how great he is, as well as what went into his writing of the concert. It becomes especially moving during the segment in which he discusses Linda and her death. I would definitely suggest watching that segment before venturing into the music itself, because it helps you understand what was going on with him during the more somber moments.

Overall, however, it is a fairly bare disk, but at least it does have an effective documentary, and plenty of Paul.

6.5 peg legs out of 10