Paul McCartney

March 14, 2019

Paul McCartney

There have been many major Beatles reissues of late. There have also been some exceptional reissues from Paul McCartney.

There were a variety of reissue configurations for the first two albums McCartney recorded with his post-Beatles group Wings from the Paul “McCartney Collection” on Capitol. They were not the first albums McCartney recorded outside of the Beatles. In addition to the soundtrack album from the 1966 film The Family Way that McCartney composed while a member of the Beatles, he released his first official self-titled solo album, McCartney, in 1970. He also released Ram in 1971.

The two new reissues are of the first two albums McCartney recorded with his group Wings: Wild Life, released in 1971, and Red Rose Speedway, released in 1973. The original Wings lineup was McCartney, his wife Linda, former member of the Moody Blues Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell. For Red Rose Speedway, McCartney added guitarist Henry McCullough. Session guitar aces David Spinozza plays on “Get on the Right Thing” and Hugh McCracken plays on “Little Lamb Dragonfly.” Both albums were engineered by Abbey Road veteran engineer and superstar producer Alan Parsons, who also leads the Alan Parson Project, who are currently on tour.

Red Rose Speedway, which was the album McCartney recorded before what is probably his best post-Beatles album, Band on the Run, is actually, in retrospect, a vastly underrated album and one that deserves a serious reevaluation.

There are several configurations of the album out, including two double-album vinyl sets. Aside from the already sold-out massive super-deluxe edition that includes material from Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway and a super deluxe box set of just Red Rose Speedway, one of the vinyl editions of Red Rose Speedway reissues reflects a running order of an originally proposed version of the album, referred to as the “reconstructed” edition, augmented with original acetates and master tapes, along with live recordings.

There are seven tracks on this two-LP set not on the original album or on the other two-LP set of the album. Those tracks have a more stripped-down and almost country or folk feel. There are also various fairly unpolished live tracks recorded in the Hague and Antwerp. While the album was a big leap forward from Wild Life, one is immediately struck by its warm, quiet sound, unlike much of the over-processed, loud digital music of today.

The album contains some Wings classics, including the massive hit “My Love,” and album tracks that received considerable FM airplay, such as “Get on the Right Thing” and “Big Barn Bed.” “Get on the Right Thing” and “Little Lamb Dragonfly” were from the Ram sessions. “I Would Only Smile,” sung by Laine, was previously on one of his solo releaes.

As for the other double album, known as the remastered version, it contains some excellent bonus material such as the single “Hi Hi Hi” and two versions of “Live and Let Die,” including a stripped-down band version. There is also a live track of “1882” recorded in Berlin. There are eight tracks on this version not available on the reconstructed set. “Hands of Love” is included free through a download card.

Wild Life is the other reissue available in this series and, like Red Rose Speedway, is also available in various configurations. The album came out after Ram and was the debut album from Wings. Along with McCartney, the group consisted of Paul’s wife Linda, Denny Laine, previously of the first incarnation of the Moody Blues and Danny Seiwell on drums, a session drummer, who was also on Ram. Five of the original eight tracks were recorded in one take, with the whole album taking one week to record.

The second LP from Wild Life contains material not on the original album. Side three features seven home recordings, including a cover of “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” a 1947 Roy Brown composition which in 1954 was covered by Elvis Presley and became one of his seminal recordings. Among the other rare home recordings are “Hey Diddle,” “She Got it,” and “I Am Your Singer.”

Side four includes “Indeed I Do, “When the Wind is Blowing,” “The Great Cock and Seagull Race” and “African Yeah Yeah.” There are two versions of the single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” “Dear Friend” is included free through a download card.

The cover of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange” is a real charmer, with “Bip Bop” adding some trippy fun. The real standouts are the title cut and the rarity “Africa Yeah Yeah.”

It’s safe to say the album did not fare as well as McCartney’s first two post-Beatles works or anything he would subsequently do with Wings, but it was a personal, unfettered, almost pastoral recording that offered a ragged intimacy and simplicity. Hearing it with other material from this period on the bonus disc provides a bit more insight into this somewhat unplugged phase of McCartney’s early solo career.

Another recent McCartney release was a new studio album, Egypt Station (Capitol). The album was aided by various producers, mostly American Greg Kurstin, who has worked with a variety of artists including Sia, Lily Allen, the Shins, Adele, and Liam Gallagher. One track was produced by Ryan Tedder of One Republic, and all songs were co-produced with McCartney. It’s McCartney’s first solo album in five years and easily one of his best albums in a long time. Instead of trying to just sound contemporary or going for solely a retro feel, McCartney has found the perfect balance, along with adding offbeat, experimental musical touches, resulting in his first number-one album since 1982’s Tug of War. The lyrics are exceptional, finding the ex-Beatle in a reflective mood without coming off tired or merely nostalgic.

– Steve Matteo

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