CK Retro Review: “Wild Life” by WingsPosted: October 3, 2016
The idea of an off-the-cuff, no-frills album first enchanted Paul McCartney in the late-60’s, which led to The Beatles bickering their way through Let It Be. Perhaps reviving that ethos for the first album by his post-Beatles band, which included drummer Denny Seiwell, guitarist Denny Laine, and wife Linda, before it had established itself wasn’t the best idea. In retrospect however, it wasn’t so much the idea of Wild Life, Wings’ 1971 debut, that was its downfall, nor the execution of the idea; it was Macca’s punchless material, which, for the most part, no amount of improvisational jamming could enliven. Here is a song-by-song review:
10. “I Am Your Singer”- When the best thing you can say about a song is, “Hey, that’s a nice recorder solo,” well, it’s probably two-star material, folks.
9. “Mumbo Link”- The instrumental belching that ends the album. McCartney always liked to take the pomp out of grand closing statements (see “Her Majesty”), so instead of ending with the high drama of “Dear Friend,” Wild Life bows out in appropriately anticlimactic fashion.
8. “Bip Bop”- One fun little throwaway on an album is fine, but having the first two songs be made up on the spot is testing everybody’s patience. This one doesn’t compensate for the nonsensical lyrics with anything memorable in the music.
7. “Bip Bop Link”- Short, acoustic guitar interlude that’s just all right.
6. “Wild Life”- The groove is ominous enough if a tad monotonous, while the message is honorable if a bit muddled. My main problem is that McCartney oversings the song to the point where it almost seems like a parody, thereby undercutting whatever points he might have wished to make.
5. “Mumbo”- Could it have been improved with intelligible lyrics? I say yes. But it’s a fiery jam, if nothing else, which seems to be all that McCartney was after. So I can give this one a pass.
4. “Tomorrow”- Nothing spectacular here, but the piano-based melody is ingratiating as are the backing vocals, which McCartney had a knack for arranging quite sumptuously in this era.
3. “Love Is Strange”- That ain’t a bad little reggae groove that McCartney, Seiwell and Laine conjure; certainly as creditable as The Stones of “Cherry Baby” and others of its ilk. And it’s a good song choice for the genre, kind of wise in a simple way.
2. “Some People Never Know”- It’s an interesting concept for a love song, as you have a narrator deep in a blissful relationship still poking his head out to worry about those who would denigrate the positives of love. The melody in the verses is a bit sleepy, but the bridge is a real beauty. Nice acoustic arrangement as well, but there’s another long, jammy outro that doesn’t add much (bongos, anyone?) Such were the times, I guess.
1.”Dear Friend”- Lovely and sad, this quiet piano meditation was apparently an olive branch to John Lennon after he and Paul had been sniping back and forth in the press and in song following The Beatles demise. McCartney doesn’t back down from embracing his new life, but he wonders if there’s a way forward for the friendship in the new reality of their lives. Those vocals are so piercing they’re spooky in parts, and finally here’s a track where the extra instrumental flourishes add to the desired effect. The one song on the album where the creative spark is not only apparent, it’s vibrant.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter at JimBeviglia. For more on Paul’s “other” group, check out the link below to pre-order my new book, Counting Down The Beatles: Their 100 Finest Songs.)