Paul McCartney and Wings: Red Rose Speedway (1973)
Paul McCartney and Wings: Red Rose Speedway (1973)

Paul McCartney and Wings: Red Rose Speedway (1973)

This one’s strong, if uneven. Neither worthy of the vicious kicking it received on initial release (where ‘Wild Life’ certainly was), nor an unsung jewel hidden beneath Wings’ feathers (that belongs to ‘London Town’), ‘Speedway’ has many moments of brilliance, with a fair array of bafflingly poor moments, with very little middle ground to cover in the middle. When ‘Speedway’ works, it works beautifully and when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. But there’s enough melody here for the converted to pay for and some moments of substance for the unconverted to listen to. Treasury management System

Stripped from a double album, ‘Speedway’ took the decision to remove some of the recording’s stronger tracks. ‘I Lie Around’ and ‘Country Dreamer’ would later find their ways to the public as the B-sides to ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Helen Wheels’, though both were substantially better songs than either ‘Loup (1st Indian on the Moon)’ (those of the politically correct nature should beware) or opener ‘Big Barn Bed’. McCartney, the most musically accomplished of The Beatles, strove again to write a medley to rival his ‘Abbey Road’ behemoth, but Speedway’s ten minute closer falls far short of the mark. Divided into four distinct sections, only ‘Lazy Dynamite’ had the makings of a strong standalone song, undercut with the orchestrated brilliance of ‘Golden Slumbers’ and ‘Carry That Weight’. The other three ranged from the childlike ‘Hold Me Tight’ to the forgettable ‘Power Cut’ to the excruciating ‘Hands of Love’, proof that McCartney had temporarily lost his magic (thought not for long, the era defining ‘Band On The Run’ only months away) though Henry McCullough’s accomplished guitar playing glued the four pieces into something of a passable whole.

‘When The Night’ proved a good ensemble could bring a mediocre lyric to life (Linda is very, very good here). ‘Single Pigeon’ was sweet sounding, if lyrically twee, a gorgeous piano sidling the song, while ‘Indian Loup’ sounded passé even for 1973. ‘Get On The Right Thing’ proved a strong rocker, though it would be better served in a live setting, whilst ‘One More Kiss’ is a sweet piece that would not have seemed out of place on ‘The White Album’. ‘ Big Barn Bed’ should not have been demoed, let alone released.

Some albums are saved by a track, ‘Speedway’ is saved by two: the seductive ‘My Love’ and the excellent ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’. ‘Love’, a beautiful pop AOR ballad, had a keyboard resonance not heard again until Queen’s ‘You’re My Best Friend’. Masterful in its delicacy, ‘Love’ provided Wings with a much needed credible hit following the cool reception that greeted ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ and ‘Hi Hi Hi’ in 1972. McCullough, unsure of the guitar suggestions dictated by McCartney, was given reluctant permission to compose his own guitar solo (McCartney recollected that ” he played the solo on My Love, which came right out of the blue.”) It proved his finest contribution to a Wings song; despite his lack of longevity, McCullough proved an asset to Wings- take his guitar solos off ‘My Love’ and ‘Live and Let Die’ and they’re instantly demoted from classics to great songs.

‘Dragonfly’,cut from a similar cloth as ‘Hey Jude’, shimmered in heavenly acoustics (largely performed by Hugh McCracken, this an outtake from the ‘Ram’ sessions), as fine a melody as ‘The Fool On The Hill’, as easy on the ear as ‘Your Mother Should Know’. The three part harmony segway between the McCartneys and Laine brought the joie de vivre of the mid seventies further exemplified on the next two Wings albums. The album’s finest song, it is a greater shame it has been discarded from Paul McCartney’s live set since the seventies.

Just as ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ made ‘McCartney’ a more palatable album, so did ‘Dragonfly’ bring credence to Wings second record, if his grandiose musical ambitions weren’t as they were three years earlier, at least he could still write a hauntingly killer song like no one else.

‘Speedway’, to crudely use a motor metaphor, finds itself racing and halting, gearing well, but stalling just off the finish line. But where ‘Wild Life’ was the sound of a car crash, ‘Speedway’ sounded like a car re-starting her engine. And with the ejection of two members, their next record would be the sound of a band roaring through Grand Prix!

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