Jun 182022

Go back to the beginning

30. Margie Joseph – My Love

Oh, how the schmaltzy but well-meaning “My Love” has suffered. It has been savaged by critics since the day it was born. Its mushy coating and sentimental message landed it right in the wheelhouse of the cheesiest easy-listening “heartthrobs” ever to grace a Vegas stage. Andy Williams, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Wayne Newton all recorded covers, which out of kindness I will spare you. Rob Sheffield dished out an incredibly brutal (but hilarious) takedown of the song in his book Dreaming The Beatles. Despite its hitting #1 in the pop charts and featuring an inarguably gorgeous guitar solo from Henry McCullough, “My Love” has had a pretty tough time proving its worth. But to all the haters, we offer you this humble gift in an attempt to change your mind and enable you to finally feel the love. Mississippi-born R&B diva Margie Joseph’s 1974 cover was produced and arranged by the legendary Arif Mardin and rose to #10 on the Billboard R&B chart. With dramatic strings, flanging guitar, churchy organ, mournful horns, and Margie’s big, beautiful voice, the maligned cornball is magically transformed into a slow-dancin’ country-gospel butterfly. – Hope Silverman

29. James Bay – FourFiveSeconds

I admit that I did not expect a trio collaboration between Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney, but 2015’s “FourFiveSeconds” brought McCartney back to the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 (breaking the record for longest gap between hits). James Bay captures the essential elements of the acoustic song. He nails Rihanna’s almost strangled yet soulful opening and transitions to a spoken-word singing style for West’s part. Alone, Bay can’t overlay the vocals of McCartney that ended up sped up in the background of the original, but his guitar ends up acting as a subtle back-up voice. – Sara Stoudt

28. MUNA – Pipes Of Peace

“Pipes of Peace,” the title track of Paul’s fourth solo album, was not overtly released as a song with Christmas in its heart. Though its music video drops a wide-eyed Macca in the center of a late-December 1914 World War I battlefield truce, the song mostly plays out (like so many early ‘80s indulgences) as a tricked-out Fairlight-CMI-type pop experiment: chintzy reggae piano stabs, wacky electronic drum sounds, soundscapes that go for broke. Yet the original version also had comforting musical signifiers baked into its arrangement – British Isles penny whistles; a children’s choir, singing in gleeful unison; an optimistic let’s-all-hold-hands refrain – that it’s easy to envision “Pipes of Peace” passing as a full-on holiday song. Indeed, whether of their own volition or expressly for the purposes of Capitol Music Group’s 2017 compilation Holidays Rule Vol. 2, the pop trio MUNA fully commit to the yuletide spirit of “Pipes of Peace.” Frankly, MUNA make a wonder of the tune; the group deliver the rare Christmas cover that makes you feel better, not worse, about a song being so blatantly decked out for the holidays. Their version feels startlingly pure and deeply felt: airy harmonies resounding in a vast studio hall, impressively pointillist guitar work, and a chillwave-y saxophone burbling artfully (but not overwhelmingly) in the song’s new epic landscape. “Pipes of Peace” may not yet be modern Christmas canon, but MUNA do a great job of making a case that it should be. – Ben Easton

27. Buddy Rich – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

Paul and Linda first released “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” on their 1971 joint album Ram. With its unapologetically English lyrics, the goofy, bouncy track feels like a lost cut from the Yellow Submarine film. “Admiral Halsey notified me/He had to have a berth or he couldn’t get to sea/I had another look and I had a cup of tea and a butter pie.” Jazz drummer Buddy Rich took a more serious view of the song, transforming it into a sprawling big band jazz odyssey clocking in at nearly eight minutes. It features a multitude of sounds and styles, enough to leave Uncle Albert and Admiral Halsey feeling at sea. – Curtis Zimmermann

26. The Merrymakers – No More Lonely Nights

There aren’t a lot of nice things to say about Macca’s 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street. It is an interminable watch even for a hardcore fan like me. Its singular redeeming quality comes in the form of a single song, namely the epic and wondrous power ballad with the oh-so heavenly bridge “No More Lonely Nights.” It is one of the finest tracks from Macca’s erratic and quality-challenged ’80s period. On their 2002 cover, The Merrymakers turn up the volume and turn “Nights” into a ginormous power-pop lovefest, full of chunky guitars and Cheap Trick-style air-punching joy. There’s no point in being coy: they give it balls, and it’s totally awesome. – Hope Silverman

25. Susan Werner – Maybe I’m Amazed

McCartney credited his wife Linda for helping him survive the mess that was the Beatles’ breakup and wrote this love song to her for his first solo album from 1970. And solo, it is, with McCartney playing all of the parts. It got a second wind in 1976, when a live version of the song was released as a single from Wings Over America, and it’s become a standard of the rock canon ever since. Susan Werner, an incredibly talented songwriter and singer who has never broken through in the way that she deserves, recorded her cover for a 2009 album, Classics, which used classical instruments and arrangements to give a different perspective on classic rock songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Where Paul’s version relies on piano and guitar, and edges into blue-eyed soul, Werner’s is more sedate, and features a chamber music arrangement with strings and woodwinds. – Jordan Becker

24. Shane Hennessy – Live and Let Die

No surprise that Lawrence Juber appears in our top 50 McCartney covers list (#38), but the man doesn’t have a monopoly on fingerstyle acoustic guitar arrangements of McCartney material. Here’s Shane Hennessy to prove it. “Live and Let Die” may be McCartney at his most symphonic (with help from his friend George Martin) but Hennessy translates the song into something that six strings can satisfyingly recreate. It’s an impressive re-arrangement performed with a winning lightness. There’s a lot more to the Irish virtuoso than this song brings out, too — we’ve written about him before. Hennessy has mastered a few different genres, has forged his own percussive style, and he’s convincing as a singer, too. – Tom MacDonald

23. Phoebe Bridgers – Seize the Day

2020’s McCartney III album made the bold statement that here, just when you need it, is a legendary singer-songwriter in his late 70s who can still come up with killer tunes and still record them all himself. And, in the midst of a global pandemic, here indeed was Macca saving the day with a range of engagingly experimental songs in the mold of those on 1970’s McCartney and 1980’s McCartney II. These along with the more rounded, Beatlesque and philosophically inclined “Seize the Day,” complete with self-harmonies, trademark middle eight, and more than enough to persuade Phoebe Bridgers to record it for the subsequent tribute album (let’s call it that) McCartney III Imagined. So it was that she applied her own compelling brand of drama and woozy melancholy to lyrics such as “Yankee toes and Eskimos can turn to frozen ice” to make the song more surreal while basically telling us that, yes, everything can turn to shit at any moment and make us “wish that we had held on to the day.” Surreal and sobering. – Adam Mason

22. The Cimarons – With a Little Luck

When preparing their 1981 album Reggaebility, UK reggae band The Cimarons were digging deep into the McCartney catalog. They album included covers of The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” as well as three Macca solo cuts: “Mull of Kintyre,” “C Moon,” and, best of the bunch, their version of London Town lead single “With a Little Luck.” It translates easily to a island groove (and not the island of the United Kingdom). Paul himself was a fan; he directed the band’s video for “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and photographer wife Linda took the photo that appears on the album cover. – Ray Padgett

21. The Faces – Maybe I’m Amazed

As a Beatles fan and not really a McCartney fan, I long believed there wasn’t much in his solo career for me. then one day I listened to an album by a rock and roll band I’d read about, called Long Player. Faces were a product of the Small Faces losing their lead singer, and members of the Jeff Beck group getting let go. There are two live tracks on that record. One is a crowd participation number that doesn’t work so well as audio-only. But the other one… One critic once called Faces’ cover of “Maybe I’m Amazed” a “searing cry of devotion” and I’ve never been able to get the phrase out of my head. Though they don’t really do much different, what they do is lean into it. Ronnie Lane starts out singing the song softly only for Rod Stewart to take over as the song gets louder (and he gets raspier). The band extends the famous break long enough the audience thinks the songs over. The original is a pretty great example of the power of dynamics, but in Faces’ hands that power is magnified. – Riley Haas


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  One Response to “The 50 Best Paul McCartney Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. That Neil Young cover is amazing.

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