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Paul McCartney 

Memory Almost Full (Hear Music)

Older artists rarely make pop music that rivals the best of their early works. Paul Simon and Bob Dylan have done it. But then again, neither one lives in the shadow of the Beatles.

Memory Almost Full possesses a wealth of songs, showcasing Macca's legendary talents for melody. But the greatest rewards come when he focuses his attention on the concerns of the 65-year-old musician.

Think back to the SNL skit where a bewildered Chris Farley interviewed Sir Paul.

"Remember when you were in the Beatles?"

"Yes."

"That was awesome!"

McCartney shares that bewilderment in "That Was Me": "Sweating cobwebs/In the cellar/On TV/That was me."

"The End of the End," meanwhile, would sound maudlin coming from a twentysomething. But in McCartney's hands, it's a rumination on mortality that makes for an enlightening chunk of pop.

The album peaks on its closer, "Nod Your Head," a ferocious rocker sung to someone too sick to lift her head off a pillow. The aggression is shocking, given McCartney's preference for strings and minor chords in the face of loss. It's a terrific closer to a solid album.

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