Album Review: Red Rose Speedway - Paul McCartney And Wings
"Red Rose Speedway" had its release in 1973. McCartney had a less than stellar year in 1972. Though he took his band Wings across Europe on a bus tour, showing up unannounced to local universities, he was touring to support a less than stellar album of "Wild Life" and ran afoul of the law for growing Marijuana.
McCartney guided Wings through its second album and while he thankfully got rid of the Dylanesque recording techniques (eight tracks in five days on the last album), he still could not get back to that standard quality that many had come to expect from him.
Big Barn Bed
The album opener works off an electric guitar riff, also repeated with the bass. This track has a slight John Lennon Plastic Ono Band feel on the "Keep On..." chorus. Unfortunately, McCartney was still insisting on having his wife sing background vocals in a lower range which still, not mixed properly, dull an otherwise interesting musical track. Based on the throw-away track from Ram, Big Barn Bed was used to open up McCartney's TV show special "James Paul McCartney". It is quite clear from the special and from the album that both McCartneys were going to share the spotlight while the other band members played in the shadows.
Well it had to happen sooner or later. Though McCartney had written for his wife with songs like "The Lovely Linda" and more indirectly "Maybe I'm Amazed", he had still yet to write for what he was well known for in the Beatles, a ballad. McCartney knocks this one out of the park as it shows that he had not lost his touch for a moving melody and an awesome arrangement. "My Love" would go on to be one of the top ballads of the seventies. A very noteworthy performance here is Henry McCullough on lead guitar who solos and brings the song to its climax with the accompanied strings. Backing vocals were done very nicely here almost to a Beach Boys feel.
Get On The Right Thing
Another great sounding track with great vocals all around. It is a shame that this was not a great follow up to "My Love". Judging from McCartney vocals here, he may have decided that the "Little Richard" vocals that he had been doing since the Beatles was being put away for good. Indeed, from "Red Rose Speedway" onward, McCartney would mostly rely on his comfortable range for singing. His voice would noticeably get raspier from the increased fatigue of live performances. Almost Gospel in its exuberance, "Get On The Right Thing" features a good interplay of instrumentation, decent background vocals and the song goes places.
One More Kiss
McCartney followed up "Get On The Right Thing" with a nice country-tinged ballad "Only One More Kiss". It would be at least another year before McCartney got "country" music off his brain and this track here follows in a slower tradition of "Another Day". Although some of the guitar work here is slightly overdone, "One More Kiss" is a typical McCartney charmer.
Little Lamb Dragonfly
Some guitar playing and the arrangements are reminiscent of Lennon's "Across The Universe". However McCartney's vocals here are strangely subdued in that they don't seem to be in control of where the track is going. Though track is lushly layered, the melody is not that memorable and nothing sticks long enough to catch on as a hook.
McCartney rolls out his Broadway musical side with this brief piano interlude. Though the track is humorous and quaint in its feel, it is so brief that there is no chance to build on its theme. Like so many of McCartney solo music, it seems to have been an afterthought and treated as such.
When The Night
Another track that still shows that mixing background vocals or lack thereof can absolutely ruin the track. A distant cousin of "Tomorrow" from the previous Wings Wild Life album, one wonders why McCartney was so brutal against his Beatles band mates to get every detail just right yet here being so equally lacks to let so many imperfections through on his solo projects.
Loup 1st Indian On The Moon
An interesting instrumental that reminds the listener a bit of "El Condor Pasa" by Simon and Garfunkel. The melody hook is a catchy one and McCartney is careful to avoid an over-panache to the point of stereotyping. The bass and drums are prominent here and ironically they are not similar to traditional native music. Again, the track here feels a little wandering and unfinished, giving the listener the feeling that McCartney did not know what else to do with it.
Medley: Hold Me Tight-Lazy Dynamite-Hands Of Love- Power Cut
The album closes off with more unfinished McCartney works strung together. The first, Hold Me Tight seems to wander high and low before settling on a 4/4 beat. The melody is not strong enough because it does too much traveling though it is repetitive. It slips right into Lazy Dynamite which is slightly calmer but still without a foundation melody. Lyrically, it is puzzling how "Holding someone tight" and "Lazy Dynamite" are connected. It does not matter as nothing grabs the listener's ear here. A couple of more chords and a jump happens into "Hands Of Love".
"Hands Of Love" works a little better here and is the stronger melody hook in the medley. This should have been reworked into a major song. There is a fun element in this portion of the melody. The fade out then leads to Power Cut a reggae influenced number about a power outage. Ugh. More Linda McCartney vocals that have just been mixed all wrong.
While Red Rose Speedway is not as raw as McCartney or Wild Life , it shares the common traits of the previous McCartney solo efforts. It still shows McCartney displaying attention deficit towards the writing and production details of his work. The music throughout the album shows that the group was starting to gel and McCartney was showing an increased confidence in his songwriting skills which he would take even higher before the year was out.
As the touring finished to support Red Rose Speedway , the McCartneys and Denny Laine would find themselves down to a trio. Announcing that the group was flying off to Lagos, Nigeria for the next album, McCartney was surprised to hear that both Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell both left the band. It was left to the remaining three to produce what would become Band On The Run .
- Classic Album Review: Wild Life Wings
- "McCartney" Album Reissued And Revisited After Forty Years.
- Paul McCartney's "Ram": Another Day, Another Look
Review of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram