RECORDS / A magical history tour: Andy Gill listens to Paul McCartney, Apache Indian, 'J' and Fish

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The Independent Culture
PAUL McCARTNEY

Off the Ground

(Parlophone 0 77778 03622 7)

MACCA's latest must be one of his stronger solo efforts, despite the preponderance of lyrics presenting his anodyne New Man personality. Though much of Off the Ground is a blend of pleasantly innocuous, melodic pop tunes and trite lyrical diatribes against vivisection or in favour of everybody being friends, there is enough variegated inspiration and craft to tip the balance in its favour. McCartney always was the Fotherington- Thomas of The Beatles, and on tracks such as the light, fluffy 'Hope of Deliverance' and ponderously anthemic 'C'mon People' (complete with instantly recognisable George Martin arrangement), he summons echoes of the Fabs' later hippy heyday, whilst the concluding 'Cosmically Conscious' offers a contemporaneous slice of Traffic- style psychedelic whimsy.

Mostly, though, the influences are from the quality end of Seventies rock. 'Get Out of My Way' is like a minor rocker from the Band canon - antique but sprightly - while the ensuing 'Winedark Open Sea', with its eerie organ and impassioned vocal, could be from a Robbie Robertson album. 'Off the Ground' is a Little Feat- style slide-guitar rocker, and 'Peace in the Neighbourhood', otherwise a saccharine grotesque, is made bearable by Steely Dan chords and a sophisticated style that lets you take its gauche daydream sentiment as an ironic joke.

Elvis Costello sticks his oar into a couple of compositions, and it is easy to spot which, even listening blind. The very word 'soubrette', for instance, is a dead giveaway. And while Macca is more at home on unabashed expressions of marital harmony such as 'I Owe It All To You', the collaborations 'The Lovers That Never Were' and 'Mistress and Maid' continue Costello's excavation of the distance between people, the latter confirming his apparent desire to become both the Brecht and the Weill of his day. Waltz-timed and lumpily Germanic in a Cabaret manner, it cries out for an oompah band, and almost gets it from the Carl Davis horns that come in at its conclusion.

APACHE INDIAN

No Reservations

(Island CID 8001/514 112-2)

J

We Are The Majority

(A&M 517 710-2)

LIKE THE Sex Pistols, Asian ragga-rapper Apache Indian is more important for the cultural implications of his existence than for his music. So while it is a fascinating cross-over, No Reservations shares some of the more tiresome aspects of ragga, especially the sheer monotony of delivery. Since Apache's raps also slip freely between English, Punjabi and various Asian-Jamaican patois, some of his messages are obscure to most English ears. Which is, perhaps, just as it should be. The result is a patchy album.

The grooves of Simon & Diamond, who furnish most of the backing tracks, are lighter than most ragga grooves, and it is just as well, given the sometimes tongue-twisting phrasing that Apache sets himself. Sly Dunbar's production on 'Magic Carpet' is noticeably rootsier than that on other tracks, though the lyric is one of several - 'Chok There' and 'Come Follow Me' included - that rely on listing places for their effect, Apache taking us on tours of India and, in this case, Jamaica.

As you would expect from someone of his cultural background, there is a greater sense of social responsibility than in roots ragga, with the self-explanatory 'Drink Problems', for instance, considering the effects of alcohol on Indian communities. The current single, 'Arranged Marriage', though, offers an unexpected allegiance from a supposedly rebellious young fellow, supportive of, rather than protesting about, what seems to many a restrictive tradition.

Jens Mueller, who goes under the initial 'J', is a young rapper / multi-instrumentalist from East Berlin whose vocal condemnations of his compatriots' xenophobia and latent Fascist tendencies have resulted in threats upon his life. On We Are the Majority, he demonstrates an ease with English that renders his raps less parochial, though their subject matter is still his homeland. 'The Beast No One Ever Tamed', for example, represents Germany in Ridleyesque terms, and it is interesting to hear a 'Born on the Wrong Side of Town', which actually has a significant contemporary meaning. J's rap treatment of 'First They Came', Pastor Martin Niemoller's verse on the inadequacy of self-interest when faced by Fascism, also makes an old lesson all the more relevant once more.

FISH

Songs From The Mirror

(Polydor 517 499-2)

YOU MIGHT think it a little odd for a chap to call himself 'Fish', but then you probably weren't named Derek Dick. It must have been a purgatorial childhood for the young Dick - whence, presumably, come these covers.

As you'd expect from the former singer of Marillion, this is a parade of burly progressive-rock chestnuts such as Argent's 'Hold Your Head Up', Genesis's 'I Know What I Like' - virtually indistinguishable from the original - and similar fare from such as the Moody Blues, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Pink Floyd. The surprises are an understated version of Sandy Denny's 'Solo' and the two glam-rock classics that conclude the album, T Rex's 'Jeepster' and Bowie's 'Five Years'. The cover least restricted by the original, however, is that of The Kinks' 'Apeman', which develops here into a full- blown prog-rock production complete with fuzz chords and splashes of African colour.

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