Album Review: London Town - Wings
The conclusion of Wings' world tour of 1975-6 was a highlight for the band. It brought Paul McCartney to the fore of the pop world once again. It also showed Wings as a competitive force in the area of the seventies soft rock/pop genre.
The band took time off and their next project saw them off to the Caribbean where they would rent two boats (one for living, and one for recording). The idea here was to record in another exotic local and at the same time evade the British tax man.
McCartney's vision here was to record another album with the intention of pursuing another world tour with the same band members. However, the best plans never fail to fail as both Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English both left the band. McCulloch left to join another group while Joe English was homesick from America. McCulloch would continue on his wild boy ways until his death in 1979. English faded off to obscurity never to drum seriously again for another band. Add to this that Linda McCartney was pregnant again.
It was left to the trio of the McCartneys and the ever faithful Denny Laine to tie up loose ends on the album. The departing members of McCulloch and English do make some great contributions on the album but McCartney decided to punish their exits by taking out any photos of them for the album and limiting their credits to the small print on the inside sleeve.
After the high climax filled with the legion of screaming fans the previous year, there could be no greater contrast to the calming "London Town". A Fender Rhodes with a slight tremolo opens up the first track. The track is light but has a certain melancholy feel and in certain areas of the song ("Oh where are there places to go..."), has great melodic lamenting to it.
Most of the track has a certain gray tone to it to match the black and white photo of the three going by the tower of London. The track then unexpectedly let's the sunny colors in with a Beach Boy-like segue before ending on two soft notes of its muse's names. Sadly, the song's subject and lyrical content have often caused this beautifully complex track to be overlooked.
Cafe On The Left Bank
McCartney seems to have left London to jump the English channel for his follow-up track about a small French town on the left bank where "English-speaking people drink German beer". The track would be just a mediocre one if not rescued by McCartney's arranging and more importantly Jimmy McCulloch's electric guitar work. The lead guitarist provides most of the excitement in bringing the song to a climax before its slow fadeout.
Jimmy McCulloch proves here that he is without doubt the best lead guitarist that Wings had had in its ten year existence. His arpeggio work when he was not soloing, gives the track an extra gel. His departure was a real blow to Wings as a rock band and though there was other talent to be harvested, McCulloch's death within the next two years could be seen as none other than a colossal waste of talent.
A nice little acoustic ditty, "I'm Carrying" picks up where "Mother Nature's Song" left off. While it is a typical McCartney acoustic/strings romantic ballad, its muse has been somewhat of a mystery. Was it about an ex-flame? McCartney being ever subtle is not telling and with his wife still involved with the music, why would he be?
Originally the track was supposed to intro another track "Name and Address" which was an Elvis tribute. Its intro explains its shortness and instead it leads to:
An instrumental featuring some guitar soloing with a bizarre effect (wah-wah plugged into a synth?) . However, the unique effect is not enough to sustain an interest in the track as a whole and it goes on far too long. For some reason, adding a trumpet and brass adds more to the track's mundane feel than something new and ground-breaking.
A delightful British folk song complete with recorders and just plain fun, "Children Children" features Denny Laine on vocals. Nothing more than a fun children song, it adds to yet another dimension to this folksy album with its harmless fun and youthful engagement.
McCartney explores his falsetto voice here in this saccharine romantic ballad. It is somewhat ironic that the happily married McCartney was still choosing "teen"subjects to write about as the center of his songs. The song was given to Michael Jackson who made his own version on his monster "Off the Wall" album. Though Jackson took on the song, it fared no better in terms of its popularity. The standout vocal here oddly enough is that of Denny Laine. He provides that top shrilly falsetto which contrasts McCartney's smooth falsetto. There is good interplay with the various instruments ranging from McCulloch's electric guitar charges, Fender rhodes and backing vocals. McCartney would not really venture down the falsetto road until 1983's "So Bad" off the Pipes Of Peace album.
I've Had Enough
Most of the tracks thus far being fairly lightweight must have pushed McCartney to end side one with this rocker. The track is further proof that McCartney's rock voice had been in decline due to the continuous strain from touring and just natural aging. Nevertheless, it is a decent rocker to close out half the album which was fairly decent overall.
With A Little Luck
It is quite the accomplishment that this fairly long soft-rock positive number got to number one in the US amidst the onslaught of the Bee Gees. The track is very strong vocally and musically. Its slowdown and pick up again tempo change is very McCartney in its feel as with its joyful optimism. "With A Little Luck" was hardly the mammoth hit single in the UK that "Mull Of Kintyre" was but it was definitely bigger in the US than its predecessor. Its charm lies in its author's ability to write a catchy singalong, something McCartney had been consistently doing for such a long time.
Probably one of the silliest things McCartney has ever written if not the silliest. Famous Groupies tells of a story of strange band members as well as the "groupies" themselves. McCartney seems to have been content to complete his lyrical rhyme with the first thing that pops into his head. While the melody and spirit of the song are endearing the lyrics are awful enough to sink this track as the peak of McCartney's cringe factor.
Deliver Your Children
From the whimsical folly of "Famous Groupies" we are mercifully delivered to the Denny Laine fronted "Deliver Your Children". Relentless in its drive, the track moves along even changing keys effectively to advance its urgent story. The track was used by a German television show in the early eighties. If you like "I've Just Seen A Face" but were more in the mood about a story of infidelity, cheating and family well-being, "Deliver Your Children" is for you.
Name And Address
Throughout his solo career, McCartney has been equally consistent in producing brilliant brief ideas as well as presenting things "half-baked" and here is yet another example. Great performance on bass guitar and sizzling lead guitar (McCulloch again?), "Name And Address" could be so much more of a polished tribute to the King if McCartney had put some more focus to it. This track could have been quite the precursor to the Stray Cats but instead it just peters out with a snicker at the end as if McCartney was taunting us with "That's all you get".
Don't Let It Bring You Down
McCartney explores both the upper and lower registers of his vocal range here and it does make the track more interesting as a result. More flutes, acoustic guitars and some nice background vocals make this an easy listening track. McCartney seems to be searching for more ways to paraphrase "It's Getting Better" and finds yet another one here.
Morse Moose And The Grey Goose
What happens when you combine disco, with a McCartney bass, a British song of the sea, Denny Laine's fisherman's vocals and long drawn out static? You get a concluding six minute plus track to end the album which is six minutes too long. Really, the whole thing could have been chopped in half and it is possible that it would still be too long.
Wings' London Town was much more of a folk album due to it being reduced to its trio core once again. It started to show cracks in the group, not only with the loss of two of its members but a growing fatigue in the ones that remained. Being bored with a standard format of rock seemed to have contributed to some of the strange tracks on the albums.
Though the McCartneys and Laine would regroup and reform Wings once again, the general feeling of boredom and fatigue seemed to be settling in for the remainder of Wings' existence. For further proof, look up Tom Snyder's interview of Paul and Linda with the promotion of their final album "Back To The Egg". Linda McCartney's boredom factor was evident and it seems that she could not wait to get on to better things. As with the Beatles, changes involving the destruction of the band were never immediate but always involved a slow death.
The slow death being culminated here would not reach its conclusion until the band's final enthusiastic oriented project "Back To The Egg".