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James McCartney - Available Light

by Kevin Wierzbicki

The Lennon boys, Dhani Harrison and Ringo's kid have all gotten through it but there's no doubt that being a son of a Beatle and putting your own music out is tantamount to throwing yourself to the wolves. Of all the Beatles progeny perhaps James McCartney, son of Paul and the late Linda McCartney, has the best chance of being judged on his own merit. A couple of things factor into this possibility; for one he has waited until he's thirty-three years old to put out recorded product, and secondly he has chosen to debut with an EP containing a mere five songs, not enough to tell if he's a chip off the old block or not. He also keeps dad a bit at arms length; Paul is listed as Available Light's co-producer but he does not play or sing on the effort. But mostly James will stand or fall on his own because he sounds nothing like daddy and his music is in no way Beatlesesque. Macca Jr. has a high, slightly nasally singing voice and the EP's opening cut, "Angel," is a jangly pop number that's reminiscent of early Tom Petty. "Glisten" is layered and a little ethereal like something the Verve might do but nowhere near as compelling as that band's material; "My Friend" is Petty-lite again and "Denial" is another in the Verve groove but better done than "Glisten." The EP's fifth and closing song is a cover of Neil Young's "Old Man," a wry choice since James is well aware that no matter what he'll never escape the long shadow cast by his father, one of pop music's most creative and influential artists ever. EPs are usually meant to be teasers, something to get the listener excited about all that's to come in the future; if that's the idea behind Available Light then it is a failure. This recording is not going to have people clamoring for more. But even though the audience for these tunes will be limited you have to hand it to James for not just asking his dad to give him a few songs or maybe a duet. In that available light, it's a big success.

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