CK Retro Review: Back To The Egg by WingsPosted: October 27, 2016
Wings’ unexpected swan song, 1979’s Back To The Egg doesn’t quite deserve the critical lashing it often receives. To some it was dispiriting to see Paul McCartney trailing the blaze of New Wave and punk rock, although the other way to look at it is that at least he had his ear tuned to modern sounds. It is true that the album’s second half is unfocused and the songwriting on the whole is below Macca’s standards, but he throws himself into the thing with abandon, and the last version of Wings is at least an energetic bunch. Here is a song-by-song review:
14, “Reception”- The album’s abbreviated, discofied, instrumental intro seems to make the promise of a concept album that never actually materializes.
13. “We’re Open Tonight”- This meditative acoustic song is another example of an incomplete track that McCartney kind of wedges into the proceedings, albeit without the grace that he once managed on projects like Abbey Road of Band On The Run.
12. “Winter Rose/Love Awake”- These two songs aren’t much on their own and don’t really fit too well when assembled. Back To The Egg has its faults, but it generally isn’t boring. This is an exception.
11. “So Glad To See You Here”- The “Rockestra” band hangs around for this full-throttle track, but the sound and fury turns out to be an empty shell.
10. “Again And Again And Again”- Denny Laine’s lead vocal on the album suffers from weak lyrics, which is too bad, because the thing is halfway-catchy and benefits from some good harmonies.
9. “After The Ball/Million Miles”- McCartney as a gospel emoter hadn’t been heard from too much since his two formidable ballads from Let It Be. These two tidbits of song are nowhere near that category, and the repetitiveness of the thing can be wearying, but it’s an interesting curve ball.
8. “The Broadcast”- It sounds like it wandered in from some forgotten Pink Floyd album. But that stiff-upper-lip voice is strangely compelling, even if it’s completely out of sorts with the rest of the album.
7. “To You”- A serviceable rocker played and sang with gusto. As is the case with much of Back To The Egg, the performance outstrips the songwriting.
6. “Spin It On”- Maybe this was meant to be an answer to punk, but it honestly comes off more like adrenalized rockabilly. Nice guitar work throughout by Lawrence Juber in his Wings debut, and it packs an unfussy punch.
5. “Rockestra Theme”- I’ve always thought it was the height of indulgence to gather a rock supergroup in the service of a pretty basic instrumental (why no solos?). If nothing else though, it showed that Paul’s Rolodex was impeccable, and the melody he composes works nicely in the bombastic setting.
4. “Baby’s Request”- Bing Crosby meets Sam the piano player at Rick’s in this standard-esque closer. Paul has proven time and again he can do this kind of thing; one wonders if he would have been a Cole Porter-type had he been born about a half-century earlier.
3. “Getting Closer”- If McCartney was regurgitating sounds he may have heard from newbies like Cheap Trick or Squeeze, well, turnabout is fair play. “Getting Closer” is taut and freewheeling all at once, a nice single that probably deserved a better radio fate than it actually enjoyed. The escalating, unresolved finish scores it points as well.
2. “Old Siam, Sir”- This song attempts to construct a narrative of sorts and ends up making “Jet” sound like great literature. That said, McCartney’s screaming melody and the muscular, dramatic rock arrangement makes for an engaging, even powerful track. In that way, it resembles a distant, slightly lesser cousin of “Beware My Love” from Wings At The Speed Of Sound.
1. “Arrow Through Me”- McCartney is back in the same kind of quiet storm mode as he inhabited on “Girlfriend” from London Town. The Stevie Wonder vibe is strong with this one, but, hey, in the 70’s, there was no better pop artist to emulate, right? The horns are great, and one of Paul’s more underrated couplets is here: “Ooh, baby, you wouldn’t have found a more down hero/If you’d started with nothing and counted to zero.”
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For more on Paul’s “other” band, check out the link below to pre-order my new book Counting Down The Beatles: Their 100 Finest Songs, due out in March of 2017. And to check out all of the books and e-books in my Counting Down series, the link below that leads to my Amazon page.)