Flaming Pie was originally released in 1997, and is now remastered with extra tracks in 2020.
Here’s the original 1997 CD along side the new Remaster, which has a cardboard cover like the vinyl album I also bought in 1997. Over the years, I’ve purchased nearly all of McCartney’s albums, and Flaming Pie is my second favorite after Band On The Run. There are two main reasons I like Flaming Pie so much…”Calico Skies” and “Somedays”.
McCartney says in the liner notes that this album was recorded after he, George, and Ringo had worked on The Beatles Anthology albums and videos. He allowed himself to incorporate some of The Beatles’ style into Flaming Pie. “Calico Skies” & “Somedays” would have sounded good on Beatles albums. “Beautiful Night” (with Ringo), “The World Tonight”, and a few other cuts, would probably have fit in too.
Although a more extensive box set is available, I bought the two-disc version. The second disc contains 21 cuts that are mostly home demos and early run-throughs. As interesting as it is to hear Paul’s early efforts, the home recordings seem like Paul was just trying to get the basic songs on tape, and he wasn’t singing like he expected anyone to ever hear them. They sound like they were recorded with a portable tape recorder, and one of the songs even has a phone ringing loudly in the background.
The bottom line is: The album itself is worth buying if you don’t have it, but the 1997 CD sounds just as good as the remastered album, and the extra disc has no cuts that are major additions. I also didn’t find any “must have” tracks when I listened to the box set on Apple Music.
Let’s look at the quality of the original album itself.
Paul recruited some talented people to help him. George Martin did some production and orchestral arranging. Jeff Lynne helped produce some tracks and added vocals, guitar and more. Steve Miller added some lead guitar & vocals, and co-wrote a song. Ringo Starr provided some drumming and backing vocals. Linda McCartney added harmony vocals, and their son James has a featured guitar part.
Album buyers know there are extremely few albums that are all good. For many decades I’ve put onto tape, and then playlists, the good songs from each album. Here’s my playlist for Flaming Pie:
- Calico Skies
- The World Tonight
- Heaven On A Sunday
- Used To Be Bad (with Steve Miller)
- Little Willow
- Young Boy
- If You Wanna
- Beautiful Night (with Ringo Starr)
- Great Day
It’s rare that we ever get ten songs to enjoy from one album. “Somedays” and “Beautiful Night” feature orchestrations by George Martin, and are very Beatle-sounding. Upon release of the album, Paul McCartney mentioned in an interview that “Calico Skies” ranks with his best songs. It’s mostly about his love for Linda, who was dying of cancer at the time. “Little Willow” is a beautifully gentle song that Paul wrote in tribute to his friend (and Ringo’s ex-wife) Maureen, who was also a cancer victim. “Used To Be Bad” is a solid blues duet with Steve Miller, who’s also on “If You Wanna”. “Heaven On A Sunday” features Linda and James. The two singles are “The World Tonight” and “Young Boy”. The album and this playlist conclude with a slight but fun little tune, “Great Day”.
The original album was hurt by starting with one of the weakest tracks, “The Song We Were Singing”. Sure it’s a song about John & Paul, and we want to like it, but it doesn’t quite work. Unfortunately, it created a poor first impression for an album with a lot of good songs.
Flaming Pie came out 23 years ago, and 27 years after The Beatles split. The album is one of the highlights of Paul McCartney’s 50 years of solo work.