CK Retro Review: Red Rose Speedway by WingsPosted: October 6, 2016
Wings’ 1973 album Red Rose Speedway doesn’t deserve the clunker reputation that generally hangs about it. The first side is actually pretty good, with a classic ballad surrounded by a decent collection of songs rendered imaginatively. That second side certainly seems like Paul McCartney had run dry on ideas, however. Certainly better things were just around the bend for McCartney and friends, but this one, while not even in the ballpark of a classic, aims to please and hits the mark at least until halfway through. Here is a song-by-song through
9. “(Loup) First Indian On The Moon”- Pink Floyd need not have fretted; Wings’ entry into the spaced-out instrumental genre stays stubbornly earthbound.
8. “Hold Me Tight”/”Lazy Dynamite”/”Hands Of Love”/”Power Cut”- For a guy who pioneered the art of smushing bits of songs into wholes so much greater than the sum of their parts, he took a huge header with this one. There’s little musical invention here, just a lot of refrains and, most surprising of all, plodding melodies. I sat through eleven minutes of this so you shouldn’t have to.
7. “Single Pigeon”- In another life, McCartney had to have been an ornithologist, such is his songwriting interest in using birds as metaphor. Alas, this ain’t no “Blackbird” or “Bluebird” or “Jenny Wren,” for that matter. It’s not objectionable, but it’s not memorable either.
6. “When The Night”- McCartney’s always solid Fats Domino impersonation (he even lets out an “Oh Darling”) is somewhat undercut here by lyrics that make “Blueberry Hill” seem like James Joyce. And still it’s catchy, effortlessly so, so you can’t be too mad at it in the end.
5. “Big Barn Bed”- Slightly funky music and nice harmony vocals attached to some lyrics that hint at paranoia when they hint at anything at all. It works itself up into a decent lather by the end, just enough to make it worthwhile as an energetic opener.
4. “One More Kiss”- I guess after all these years he still has to follow the sun, so, in this song anyway, he leaves behind a saddened paramour. It’s genial enough, even if it doesn’t change the world.
3. “Little Lamb Dragonfly”- Call me a Beatles obsessive (I’ll own it), but I hear the lyrics in this one as a message to John Lennon, full of regret and yet still holding out hope for some kind of rapprochement. If that were true, the good intentions might be cancelled out by the subtle condescension. In any case, it’s an effectively atmospheric ballad, even if it’s not quite the epic that it seems like it was intended to be.
2. “Get On The Right Thing”- Left over from the Ram sessions, it has that kind of one-man band feel to it. McCartney’s hyperactive but fun drumming calls to mind his work on “Dear Prudence,” and the melody takes so many twists and turns that it keeps you on your toes. The backing vocals are a tad overbearing for my taste, keeping it from four-star territory.
1. “My Love”- Maybe the most polarizing song of McCartney’s solo career, and this ranking should tell you what pole I’m straddling. People get after the lyrics, but my take is that complicated words would only have distracted here. The point here is to keep the sentiment as simple as possible and let the music do the talking, and boy, does it ever. This is one of those Macca melodies that hits all the emotional peaks and valleys, rising to intense moments and then relaxing again to luxuriate in it all. And Henry McCullough’s guitar solo is one for the ages, as it somehow lives inside the lush walls of the song and explodes into the ether all at once. Be cynical if you want, but I’m slow dancing with the missus to this one at every opportunity.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For more on McCartney’s “other” group, check out the link to pre-order my upcoming book, Counting Down The Beatles: Their 100 Finest Songs, due out in March of 2017.)