Island 1972 / Esoteric 2017
Stray Scaffold follows his calling with a free fall into the sea of sweet seriousness.
It might run in the family, but Mike McGear, the brother of Beatle Paul, wasn’t ready to let their love for show tunes overshadow his satire routine once a prospect of a solo album started looming large. As a result, “Woman” – entertaining and sardonic in equal measure – failed to find a home on EMI and landed on Island where its retro wrapping, embossed by the likes of Zoot Money and Brian Auger, received somewhat progressive spell. With the playful “Jolly Good Show” grasping the record’s gist, there’s a vague concept to these songs, yet most of the pieces in display expose the artist’s critical view on various aspects of eternal values.
While the hymnal title track, “Sister” and a two-part “Young Man” suggest a familial angle – it’s the McCartneys’ Mother Mary on the cover, after all – and provide the album with its overtly heartfelt moments, vaudeville-inspired cuts such as a PM-poking rock ditty “Edward Heath” and religion-lambasting “Witness” go much deeper. The pseudo-spiritual “Bored As Butterscotch” and the bluesy “Wishin” bear no Catholic guilt, though, but the tribal beat of “Tiger” takes the listener through orchestral motions to a genuine pleasuredome. A pity McGear objected, for political reasons, to including B-side “Kill” in 2017 reissue, thus preventing it from being a definitive statement, which remains one of the really appealing musical extravaganzas this side of “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” – period-minded, if rather relevant.