Paul McCartney must not only have been conscious of his slipping commercial fortunes, he must have realized that his records hadn't been treated seriously for years, so he decided to make a full-fledged comeback effort with Flowers in the Dirt. His most significant move was to write a series of songs with Elvis Costello, some of which appeared on Costello's own Spike and many of which surfaced here. These may not be epochal songs, the way many wished them to be, but McCartney and Costello turn out to be successful collaborators, spurring each other toward interesting work. And, in McCartney's case, that carried over to the album as a whole, as he aimed for more ambitious lyrics, themes, sounds, and productions for Flowers in the Dirt. This didn't necessarily result in a more successful album than its predecessors, but it had more heart, ambition, and nerve, which was certainly welcome. And the moments that did work were pretty terrific. Many of these were McCartney/McManus collaborations, from the moderate hit "My Brave Face" to the duet "You Want Her Too" and "That Day Is Done," but McCartney also demonstrates considerable muscle on his own, from the domestic journal "We Got Married" to the lovely "This One." This increased ambition also means McCartney meanders a bit, writing songs that are more notable for what they try to achieve than what they do, and at times the production is too fussy and inextricably tied to its time, but as a self-styled comeback affair, Flowers in the Dirt works very well.
[The 2017 Archive Edition of Flowers in the Dirt arrives in two editions: a double-disc Special Edition and a Deluxe Edition that contains three CDs and a DVD, along with a download card and a host of liner notes. Both editions share the initial acoustic demos Paul McCartney recorded with Elvis Costello, which is the centerpiece of the set. McCartney and Costello seem to delight in each other's company as they rush through songs that would show up on Flowers and Paul's Off the Ground, in addition to Elvis' Mighty Like a Rose. A few of these never showed up on record and they're all excellent, particularly "Tommy's Coming Home" and "Twenty Fine Fingers." On the Super Deluxe Edition, these nine songs are given full-band renditions and while these demos do feel somewhat under-produced, they have more snap than the finished record. All the original B-sides -- including 12" mixes -- are available on the download card; some of the 12" mixes feel stilted and silly, but the non-LP songs are solid, particularly "Back on My Feet." The DVD is filled with music videos, but the highlight is an hourlong documentary of the making of the album. All and all, it's the most lavish Paul McCartney Archive Edition to date.]