Classic Album Review: Wild Life Wings
The Start Of Wings
After completing his last album "Ram", McCartney must have felt the itch to get back in a group and get out to perform. The Beatles had stopped touring since 1966 so it had been a good five years since McCartney had seen the road (with the brief exception of a rooftop concert).
Eager to break this cycle, McCartney enlisted Denny Laine, a musician he had met when the Beatles shared the billing with the Moody Blues. Laine had left the Moody Blues shortly after their hit "Go Now" which he had sung lead vocals. McCartney also brought on Denny Seiwell who at that time was a notable session drummer.
Wings' debut album Wild Life was released late 1971 and despite being well promoted was panned by the critics, as well as being one of the few Wings albums to fail to reach the top 5. In America, Wild Life reached number eight before heading off to obscurity.
The big impetus and ultimately the demise of the album was driven by McCartney's inspired need to get the recordings done as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the great haste also reflects on the lack of finished polish on many of the songs.
Gibberish rock. McCartney probably decided that there was only going to be one take and declared that lyrics were optional. This could have been a whole lot better than it actually ended up. The result of a quick-put-it-down-already technique left this track as a garage band jam with vocals but no words.
A more coherent arrangement musically, McCartney seems still to be at a loss for words on his songs. Interestingly, the vocals here are actually cohesive with the rest of the track. A pity more time was not given to work on this track. Linda McCartney's backing vocals do nothing to help the track along. Judged on his previous high-polished writings with the Beatles, McCartney was in big trouble here.
Love Is Strange
Love Is Strange is the only cover on this album. The introduction is far too long. The listener is fooled into thinking this is an instrumental. Instead of doing all the vocals himself, McCartney insists on having Linda again contribute to some harsh background vocals to complete the project.
After a brief smooth intro, Wings launch into their title track. The track suffers from the over-simplified keyboard playing probably learned by Linda McCartney. Oddly enough, the backing vocals are actually mixed right almost throughout the song. McCartney's vocals while edgy are completely raw and conjure up an image of getting out of the pub with one drink too many. There are some nice guitar moments but the track is far too chaotic because of its uneven performances from its band members.
Some People Never Know
One of the nicer tracks on Wild Life, this one features a Paul/Linda duet and it is not half bad. The piano could mixed up a little more on this track. The drums also could be mixed a bit lower so as not to distract the melody. Though the track is radio-friendly, it is a tad too long. Background harmonies are nice in the middle section but McCartney whispering the lead melody throughout it makes it come off very amateurish. The song has a good range of dynamics from quiet guitar to an all out flourish of singing. It could be named the distant cousin of "Bluebird" from the "Band On The Run".
I Am Your Singer
One of the definite low-lights of the album, this track features Linda McCartney singing co-lead. While she is not as bad as a singer as Yoko Ono, she should not be featured on any album especially to an artist whose name was consistently associated with pop classics of the previous decade. The harmonies on the song aren't the worst but they could be a lot tighter. The true "ugh" moments are when both Paul and Linda are singing at the same time.
The song is not a badly written one and its arrangements are okay, however due to the vocal performance the title should have been aptly called "I am Your Singer (Unfortunately)".
Already forever immortalized for his composition "Yesterday", McCartney tries his luck with the future "Tomorrow". The background harmonies are nice in places (swell on the verses) but in other places they send the hairs up the spine in a bad way. "Tomorrow, where we both abandon sorrow" lyrically and vocally threaten to bury the track and McCartney in a deep shame. The lines "Bring a bag of bread and cheese" did nothing to save the track either.
McCartney's ode to John rounds out the album. One can see this inspiring Roger Hodgeson of Supertramp as the piano/vocal combination are similar. The track seems a little to high for McCartney vocal range and seems to take away from the track's seriousness. Maybe it might have been better to have a choir boy to sing it. The track stops and starts one time too many. One could not help but think what Lennon might have thought of this. He probably outrightly dismissed it, because it seemed to have escaped all of his later interviews.
Sadly, Wild Life saw McCartney's talent slip back to the same low quality offerings of his first solo album McCartney. While there were a few tracks here that were interesting and had potential to be something, they were ruined due to rushed raw performances. Critics were not off the mark by savaging the Paul and Linda show mostly because of the lack of effort in mixing the vocals with a more plush and distant effect.
Beatle fans were not kind to Yoko Ono's intrusion into their recordings in the final years and they were equally not enthused to have Paul McCartney's talented songwriting being compromised by less than stellar vocal contributions. It would take Paul McCartney two more albums to refine his songwriting and musical production before critics would finally acknowledge that he had risen back to familiar heights.