In times of crisis, music plays a vital therapeutic role. The famed physician Oliver Sacks wrote of its healing potential having been struck by the strong "susceptibility to music" in patients suffering from neurological conditions.
Music's capacity for solace and cure is well demonstrated on this excellent solo album.
In March 2020, Steve Mayone's musical partner Matt Keating contracted the Covid-19 virus while the two were working on the debut album for their band Bastards Of Fine Arts. Mayone had no choice but to go into quarantine with his wife and two young children.
This enforced isolation his home studio in Brooklyn became his refuge and there he was inspired by Paul MacCartney's home-produced album which was made in quite different, but equally stressful, circumstances in 1970.
'McCartney' was made and released as The Beatles were imploding. It was recorded in relatively secrecy in McCartney's London home in St John's Wood. McCartney later said the making of the album was "very necessary at that time, cause otherwise, I wouldn't have anywhere to go to get away from the turmoil."
Steve Mayone hit upon the idea of pay a musical homage to this record as a way of coping with his own personal turmoil. Confronting his own mortality, he recalls thinking " What if I was next to get sick? Would this be the last thing I make?” Fortunately, this worst case scenario never materialized but, as a bonus, the worries motivated him to write some fine songs.
One possibility would have been to do cover versions of each of McCartney's 13 songs but he decided instead to follow the example of Liz Phair's 'Exile In Guyville' (1993) - a song-by-song tribute to The Rolling Stones' 1972 album 'Exile On Main Street'. Mayone resolved to replicate McCartney's experimental and intuitive approach which he refers to as a "haphazard alchemy of painting with sound."
McCartney's album is akin to a sophisticated demo and, having no choice but to work alone, 'Mayone' has a similar homespun quality. As with the original, all the tunes are quite short so the total playing time is under half an hour.
The album marks a departure from the singer's previous Alternative Country albums and, coincidentally, the release date is the same as ex-Beatle's own impressive lockdown album - McCartney III.
'McCartney' and 'Mayone' both have four instrumentals but there are some points of departure. Mayone's The Sweet Suzanne, written for his wife, is a wordless response to McCartney's brief opening love ditty to 'The Lovely Linda'.
The other variation is with the closing song, Airport Goodbyes, which works as a superior send off to Macca's weak instrumental filler 'Kreen-Okrore' and includes the telling line "There must be a better way to say goodbye."
Otherwise, the arc of both records is broadly the same. For example McCartney's 'Junk' and 'Singalong Junk' prompted Mayone's to pen Stuff (an ode to de-cluttering) and the karaoke twin Singalong Stuff.
Perhaps inevitably, there is no instant classic to match the peerless 'Maybe I'm Amazed' and Mayone throws in the towel at this point in the record with a lightweight festive song called Happy Alcoholidays.
His finest composition is the touching Like You've Never Been Away that actually outdoes McCartney's 'Teddy Boy'. This is the high point for an album that is, transparently, Mayone's Beatle-esq pop record and one can safely be described as pretty fab.
Steve Mayone's website