Although it probably won’t make Limp Bizkit, Staind or Linkin Park sound anemic by comparison, Paul McCartney’s Driving Rain should rock the house harder than anything the former Beatle has recorded since “Helter Skelter” – or at least “Helen Wheels.”
“It’s a more aggressive record, definitely,” said producer David Kahne, who has worked with Sugar Ray, Sublime, the Bangles and Tony Bennett. “It’s got real energetic guitar songs. They’re all original, and there’s a lot of power there. I think he really loved doing that because he hadn’t done it in a while.”
While Driving Rain’s guitar-blaring rockers will likely raise the room temperature, the record, which arrives November 13, also features McCartney’s trademark ballads and silly love songs.
“There’s a lot of variety, more than he’s had on a lot of records,” Kahne said. “It’s White Album-ish. It’s very broad, and he hops from one style to another.”
Session guitarist Rusty Anderson, who has played with Stevie Nicks and Ricky Martin; session drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., son of legendary jazz bassist Abraham Laboriel; and keyboardist Gabe Dixon, of the jammy Gabe Dixon Band, join McCartney. His son, James, played guitar on “Back in the Sunshine Again,” while Kahne played some guitar and keyboards on the record and handled all of the programming.
McCartney recorded the album at Henson Studios in Los Angeles in March and July during two half-month sessions. He recorded and mixed 22 new songs, 15 of which wound up on the record.
“It was all very spontaneous,” said Kahne. “There were no rehearsals. He just brought the songs in and we started playing them. Basically, he’d show us a song on the acoustic guitar and we’d learn it. He wanted to do it very much in the way the Beatles used to record. Ringo and George never really heard the songs before the Beatles recorded them. So we just did it on the fly starting the first day.”
The first single from Driving Rain will be the earnest, melancholy “From a Lover to a Friend,” which will also appear in the upcoming Tom Cruise film, “Vanilla Sky.”
“His voice is very emotional in that song,” Kahne said. “It starts kind of quietly but has a great ‘Come Together’-type bass line in the bridge. He sings, ‘How can I walk when I can’t find my way?’ and there’s a really great sound he makes. It has a sadness to it, but it’s actually a real hopeful song.” Some sources have reported that the tune is a heart-on-sleeve ode to Linda McCartney, but Kahne said the song doesn’t refer specifically to McCartney’s late wife. “There are a lot of ways to take the song,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion there. When you hear it, you think of his pain and what he and Linda went through together, but it’s not spelled out.” Other tracks on Driving Rain include the anthem “Loving Flame,” the acoustic “Your Way” and a 10-minute experimental epic called “Rinse the Raindrops.” “That’s just one verse repeated over and over, but he never sings it the same way twice,” Kahne said. “The song goes through different cuts back and forth between different takes. It’s a very aggressive, pushy song where he sings real low then real high – all over the place. It’s a great vocal performance. The whole record is really great.”