Jun 182022

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20. Found Wandering – Ram On

McCartney’s unrivaled gift for melody sometimes leads him to write little throwaway songs that are undeniably pretty but don’t feel like they mean much. “Ram On” is the almost-title track to the only album he released as a credited duet with his late wife Linda. Despite the collage of the opening, it’s a classic simple Macca melody with just him, a ukulele, and a bass drum to start. Then he just layers on the overdubs, as he’s wont to do. Found Wandering wisely stick to the style of the first verse, with just vocals, ukulele and fiddle. It’s a simple song and the simple arrangement finds that perfect spot where a seemingly throwaway McCartney melody just works. – Riley Haas

19. Laura Groves – Waterfalls

Though it was panned upon release, the freewheeling, electronically experimental McCartney II album is now regarded as a prescient masterpiece. As such, it has become the cool choice to name-drop as your favorite Macca album, a way to show off one’s adventurous and maybe contrarian listening spirit (kinda like when people say they prefer Tusk to Rumours). Yet not one of the noodling tracks that have been showered in latter-day plaudits can hold a candle to the album’s most conventionally constructed track, the ethereal ballad of worship, longing, and untrustworthy polar bears(!), “Waterfalls.” Laura Groves’s 2013 version is oh so woozy-beautiful and even more otherworldly than the original. Groves resculpts the airy valentine into a lonely lullaby, perfect for floating in space while pondering the tiny earth below and love itself. – Hope Silverman

18. Odetta – Every Night

With her powerful spiritual music, the folk singer Odetta helped define the soundtrack to the Civil Rights era. She released this quiet folk-rock cover of Paul McCartney’s “Every Night” for her 1970 album Odetta Sings. Veering away from her more serious side, Odetta sings the track as a wistful, romantic love song. – Curtis Zimmermann

17. Martha A Tena Elefteriadu – Zpívám Si Jen Tak (The Heart Of The Country)

The original is a vaguely jazzy folk song about McCartney’s attempt to find a place in Scotland to escape media attention. Due to its creative arrangement, it’s become one of his better loved songs. Czech sisters Martha & Tena hear that jazz and run with it, going for an almost soul-jazz arrangement with plenty of Hammond organ. It’s simpler than the original, but they’ve really found something here, as if the song was always meant to be jazzier. And the Czech lyrics add another element of charm. – Riley Haas

16. The Airborne Toxic Event – No More Lonely Nights

Somehow Airborne Toxic Event’s cover of “No More Lonely Nights” is bigger and louder, but also more intimate. The song opens with a string intro but then it’s just lead singer Mikel Jollett and an acoustic guitar. His voice is way up in the mix and sounds great. As the chorus approaches the strings come back in, anchored by what sounds like a double bass that is a great foil for the vocals. The chorus has such a huge, full feeling with the range it covers. The only downside is the lack of the soaring guitar solo from the original. – Mike Misch

15. Eve St. Jones – Say Say Say

“Say Say Say” is Paul’s second duet with Michael Jackson, released a year after Thriller‘s “The Girl is Mine” and serving as the lead-off track to Macca’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. (It was technically his first duet with Jackson, recorded a year before “Girl” but left on the shelf). The song spawned an amazing, peak-1980s video featuring Paul and Michael as old-time snake oil salesmen hawking The Mac and Jack Wonder Potion. There’s nothing 1980s about Eve St Jones’ 2020 cover, however. She shifts the song into a cool bossa nova mode, while ably handling both the McCartney and Jackson vocal parts. – Tim Edgeworth

14. Solveig Slettahjell – Jenny Wren

This melancholic, sweet, electronic cover is a spiritual partner to the melancholic, sweet, acoustic original. It’s a slightly more modern take but certainly not a huge departure by Slettahjell. Her vocals are even pretty similar to McCartney’s in the delivery and tone. This is a nice tribute and changes just enough through the tempo change and the coldness lent by the keyboards to give the song additional sadness. It’s subtle but effective. – Mike Misch

13. Michael Jackson – Girlfriend

“Girlfriend” isn’t a particular highlight amongst McCartney originals. It’s not even a highlight of the 1978 Wings album London Town. That strained falsetto. That easy-listening vibe. That fussy arrangement. And that unnecessary length. But Macca wrote it with Michael Jackson in mind. And Jackson knew exactly how to handle it, with the inestimable aid of producer Quincy Jones. What we get, therefore, is a wonderfully pure and natural soul performance from Jackson, combined with Jones’ distinctively polished sound that somehow merges disco, soul, funk, and soft-rock and allows McCartney’s light and bouncy melody to breathe. We get, in other words, a heaven-made musical partnership. Jackson wisely dispenses with the middle-eight, the high-pitched backing vocals, and the proggy tempo changes, in service to a pop gem of a track that offers a welcome downshift after Jackson’s paeans to dancing (“Rock With You,” “Get On The Floor”) on his first album for Epic, Off The Wall. What more can we say but “do-do-do, do-do, do-do, do-do, do”! – Adam Mason

12. Blue Ice – Letting Go

This cover shares a similar reverence for a guitar jam with the original. It maintains the laid back style, comfortable with streaks where vocals are not the main attraction. Blue Ice emphasizes the spunky attitude that simmers under the surface in the original both in the vocal style and the accompanying instruments. The band brings a more pop-punk sound, swapping bluesy brass accompaniment for electric guitars and rasping their intentions more than smoothly opining them. – Sara Stoudt

11. Melvins – Let Me Roll It

When Band on the Run came out, many critics took note of “Let Me Roll It,” saying it sounded like McCartney was out to capture the sound of a certain Plastic Ono Band member. True or not, he wound up with an album highlight, an edgy blues number with hooks aplenty. The remarkable thing about the Melvins’ cover is how little they wound up changing it. The original arrangement turned out to be right in the wheelhouse of Kurt Cobain’s favorite band. It may be more a hard double off the wall than a home run, but so was the original, and as Paul has been known to say, what’s wrong with that? – Patrick Robbins


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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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