Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paul McCartney 7: Wings At The Speed Of Sound

Somehow Paul managed to throw together another album in between touring various countries around the world. The packaging on Wings At The Speed Of Sound wasn’t as lavish as on its predecessors, except for the custom labels, and he gave half the space on the rest of the album to the other band members. He’d been trying to prove to the world that Wings was a band for five years, and now he had the clout to do it.
“Let ‘Em In” is an awfully tedious song that managed to be a hit anyway, and we’re still not sure why it works. Most of the people mentioned are McCartney family members. Denny Laine sings “The Note You Never Wrote”, a spooky tale that is interesting despite itself. The jaunty “She’s My Baby” follows, and it’s also grown over the years. “Beware My Love” fades up from this, with an early acoustic vocal section as a diversion, then wham! This one was made for the stage. It’s got a relentless, driving power to it, and the band sounds great. “Wino Junko” is Jimmy McCulloch’s second, and ultimately, last writing contribution to Wings. Both songs warned against drug abuse; considering he would die of an overdose within two years it’s odd he didn’t take his own advice.
“Silly Love Songs” has 1976 slathered all over it, and is one of those songs you can’t help liking. The bass line pulls you right along, and all the sections weave nicely at the end. This is Paul sticking his tongue out at the critics, and getting a blockbuster #1 hit in the process. Linda sings “Cook Of The House” to nobody’s pleasure but Paul’s, followed by Denny’s own “Time To Hide”, which would also work well on stage; another stomper with heavy wah-wah guitar. Joe English gets to sing “Must Do Something About It”; he’s about as unique a singer as he is a drummer. (It’s interesting to see which songs Paul kept for himself, isn’t it?) “San Ferry Anne” is insignificant, and simply refuses. But “Warm And Beautiful” is another sneaky underrated one, extending the “Maybe I’m Amazed” theme both musically and lyrically. An elegant if anticlimactic end to a schizophrenic album.
A world tour was underway when this hit the stores, and the setlist leaned heavily on this and Venus And Mars. The best songs on stage were also used well as hit singles. Wings At The Speed Of Sound was a monster hit, but was also an obvious rush job, and has not improved with age as a whole. Paul had started to follow trends instead of setting them, so that increasingly his albums didn’t transcend eras or genres as they depended so much on contemporary production styles.
The first CD version of the album included three anachronistic bonuses: the B-side “Sally G” and both sides of the Country Hams single, all recorded in Nashville in 1974 and originally released the same year. These have since been appended to Venus And Mars, so the bonus audio on 2014’s Speed Of Sound Archive Collection is entirely previously unreleased. At 21 minutes, it’s also too short, but we get piano demos of four songs, Paul’s guide vocal for “Must Do Something About It” and, most interestingly, a take of “Beware My Love” with John Bonham on drums. At first he seems restrained, but once that foot starts going you know it’s him.

Wings Wings At The Speed Of Sound (1976)—3
1989 CD reissue: same as 1976, plus 3 extra tracks
2014 Archive Collection: same as 1976, plus 7 extra tracks (Deluxe Edition adds DVD)

1 comment:

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