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Paul McCartney and Wings: Review of the "Wild Life" and "Red Rose Speedway" Archive Editions

Marshall Fish is a remote trivia writer for Hasbro and Screenlife Games. He also enjoys writing music reviews.

Paul McCartney and Wings, Red Rose Speedway (1973)

Paul McCartney and Wings, Red Rose Speedway (1973)

Special Archive Editions

Since 2010, Paul McCartney has gone back into the archives to reissue expanded albums from his back catalog. This time, he revisits the first two albums released by his post-Beatles band, Wings.

Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway have both been remastered at Abbey Road Studios. The Special Editions each include the original album on one CD, with another disc comprised of bonus audio tracks.

Wild Life (1971)

Wild Life was recorded in two weeks during the summer of 1971. The idea was to emulate Bob Dylan's recent quick recording schedule.

Released in December 1971, this album hit stores just seven months after the Paul and Linda McCartney album Ram. While not as strong a Wings album as Band on the Run or Venus and Mars, Wild Life still exudes a certain charm.

"Mumbo"

The experimental jam “Mumbo,” with no lyrics and recorded in one take, opens the album. The song is full of guitar riffs and Little Richard–type “woos.”

“Love Is Strange”

A reggae cover of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” features some tasty guitar and nice drumming by Denny Seiwell, noticeable in this new release. The track would have made for a fine 12-inch vinyl dance single remix if released later in the decade, like “Goodnight Tonight."

"Wild Life"

The title track contains solid McCartney vocals, similar to “Monkberry Moon Delight” from Ram. The inspiration for the song came from McCartney going on safari and seeing a sign that read, “The animals have the right of way.”

“You just realise the sort of dignity and strength of wild animals because here they’ve got the right of way,” McCartney said in an October 2018 interview on his website.

"Dear Friend"

The album’s best two tracks are near the end of the album. “Dear Friend” is a piano-based ballad written about John Lennon. McCartney is trying, via song, to smooth out their friendship after the breakup of The Beatles. Such lines as “Dear Friend, what’s the time/Is this really the borderline,” and describing his marriage to Linda as “I’m in love with a friend of mine/Really truly young and newly wed” are quite poignant.

"Tomorrow"

“Tomorrow” is another piano-driven song, with “ooos and aaahs” Wings harmonies from Denny Laine and Linda McCartney until the guitars kick in at the end of the tune. The song includes an alluring melody, with such lyrics as “Honey, pray for sunny skies, So I can speak to rainbows in your eyes” and “Bring a bag of wine and cheese/And find a shiny spot beneath the trees.” When McCartney sings, “Baby, don’t let me down tomorrow,” you feel like he means what he says.

Stereo separation on the 2018 Wild Life CD is very good, particularly on “Love Is Strange,” “Some People Never Know,” and “I Am Your Singer.”

Wild Life Bonus Audio

The bonus audio disc consists of 17 tracks, with a running time of 42 minutes. Seven of the first eight songs are listed as home recordings, with most taken from the soundtrack of a film made at the McCartney farm in Scotland. Paul is on acoustic guitar with Linda adding vocals, while kids Heather and Mary McCartney play in the background. The recordings are lo-fi.

"Hey Diddle"

McCartney invokes Elvis with a version of The King’s Sun Records single, “Good Rockin’ Tonight." “Bip Bop” and “Hey Diddle” were featured in the Wings Over The World and Wingspan documentaries, respectively. Surprisingly, they sounded a little brighter on the UK 2001 Wingspan compilation CD than they do here. “She Got It Good” is brief, at just 42 seconds, as is the minute and 16 seconds long Buddy Holly-esque “Indeed I Do.”

“Give Ireland Back to the Irish”

Wings’ first single, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” which was banned by the BBC upon its release, is also included on the bonus disc as well as an instrumental version of the tune. The song was written by Paul and Linda McCartney in response to Bloody Sunday, in which 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot by British army paratroopers in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in January 1972. The single would reach the top of the charts in the Emerald Isle. By the way, Wings guitarist Henry McCullough was from Northern Ireland.

"Give Ireland Back to the Irish," a 1972 vinyl single

"Give Ireland Back to the Irish," a 1972 vinyl single

Red Rose Speedway (1973)

Red Rose Speedway, released in April 1973 in the U.S. and May 1973 in the U.K., is the more polished of the two archive titles.

It reached the top of the U.S. Billboard album chart, and also featured a U.S. number-one single in “My Love.” Two tracks, “Get on the Right Thing” and “Little Lamb Dragonfly,” were originally recorded for the Ram album. The first song, “Big Barn Bed,” definitely has more punch and is more dynamic than the 1993 remastered Red Rose Speedway disc.

“My Love”

Moreover, the blend of Henry McCullough’s great guitar solo in tandem with the orchestra conducted by Richard Hewson in “My Love” sounds excellent on this new disc. And as McCartney said in the 2002 book Wingspan (transcripts from the TV documentary), the tune was recorded live with an orchestra instead of piecing it together and overdubbing. McCullough's lead guitar work also shines in the laid-back, country song, "One More Kiss."

“Lazy Dynamite” (Abbey Road-esque)

“Single Pigeon” and “When the Night” are both piano-based tunes, too, with the former having a jaunty melody and the latter being a Fats Domino style rocker. “Lazy Dynamite,” part of the 11-minute Abbey Road-style medley that closes out the album, has the “Wings harmonies” sound again, almost like “Mamunia” on Band on the Run.

Red Rose Speedway Bonus Audio

Red Rose Speedway was originally planned to be a double album. The nine songs nixed from this album are included on the bonus audio disc here. Along with nine more tracks, and a running time of 69 minutes, this is the best bonus disc in the McCartney Archive series. On its own, separate from Red Rose Speedway, it makes for a very fun listen.

“Mary Had a Little Lamb”

The opening track is “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” with McCullough on mandolin and McCartney's daughters, Heather and Mary, singing on the chorus. Some people believed “Mary” was recorded in response to the BBC banning “Give Ireland Back to the Irish," but McCartney has said that wasn’t the case.

“C Moon”

The B-side of the “Mary” single, the bouncy “Little Woman Love” follows. Next is another track banned by the BBC, “Hi, Hi, Hi,” this time for its suggestive lyrics. The reggae track—and flip side of “Hi,Hi, Hi"—“C Moon” has the Wings members switching instruments. Guitarist McCullough takes over on drums, guitarist Laine is on bass, and Seiwell plays the xylophone. The McCartney kids return for the song, too.

“Tragedy” (Thomas Wayne and the DeLons)

The true gem of the bonus audio tracks is a cover of “Tragedy,” a 1959 Top 5 U.S. hit for Thomas Wayne and the DeLons. Had “My Love” not been written, this could’ve been released and would have been a hit. Includes a harp accompaniment in parts, an understated vocal from McCartney and Wings harmonies.

“Night Out” would have been the lead track on the proposed Red Rose Speedway double album. It features a call and response of “Night Out” in the right and left audio channels, while a fuzzy/distorted guitar and other guitars are heard.

Live Material

Two live songs from Wings’ first European tour, “Best Friend” and “The Mess (Live at the Hague)” are included, and show the band in fine form. “The Mess” played back to back with “Junior’s Farm” would make for a solid Wings setlist pairing if McCartney added them to his current “Freshen Up” tour.

Laine’s “I Would Only Smile” is a nice, breezy, catchy song with a 1970s soft rock flavor. “Seaside Woman,” written and sung by Linda McCartney, is another catchy reggae song. It would be released in 1977 with the band billed as Suzy and the Red Stripes (as in the Jamaican beer).

Super Deluxe Edition Box Sets

Both Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway are available in Super Deluxe Edition box sets. Wild Life adds in a third CD of rough mixes, as well as a DVD of the acoustic home videos mentioned above, rehearsals, and more. A 128-page book is contained in the set as well as much memorabilia.

The Bruce McMouse Show

Red Rose Speedway features a CD of the proposed double album, another disc of bonus audio, and a DVD with music videos, the 1973 James Paul McCartney TV special, and more. An intriguing addition is a DVD and Blu-ray of The Bruce McMouse Show (see "Wild Life" below), a previously unreleased film mixing live Wings concert footage with animated segments.

An 11-CD limited and numbered set, Paul McCartney and Wings 1971-1973, combines the Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway editions with an exclusive live album, Wings Over Europe. Housed in a seven-color screen-printed box inspired by the 1972 Wings Over Europe tour bus, a replica of the tour program and a photo book are added.

Final Word

Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway provide a nice look back at the early portion of Paul McCartney’s solo career. Recommended.