Friday, February 3, 2023

The Albums of 1973: Paul McCartney and Wings: Red Rose Speedway

Release Date: April 30, 1973

Produced by Paul McCartney

Personnel: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, Denny Seiwell

Side One: Big Barn Bed; My Love: Get on the Right Thing; One More Kiss; Little Lamb Dragonfly

Side Two: Single Pidgeon; When the Night; LOUP (1st Indian on the Moon); Medley: Hold Me Tight; Lazy Dynamite; Hands of Love; Power Cut

Originally intended to be a double album that was recorded mostly in 1972, Red Rose Speedway met with a tepid critical response. It produced a lone hit single in "My Love" that hit #1 in America and became a 70s/80s staple of FM radio. Despite the criticism, Red Rose Speedway has aged well with its retro good time vibe. In 2018, the double album version was released as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection.

While all the former Beatles released strong albums in 1973, it would be a standout year in particular for McCartney and Wings. In June they released the popular "Live and Let Die" for the James Bond film, and then went off to Nigeria and recorded Band on the Run, arguably their best record of the decade. 

"Big Barn Bed" is a strong opener with Paul's whimsically surreal imagery that becomes a singalong rock song. Written for Linda, "My Love" features a nice guitar solo by Henry McCullough. Criticized for being corny and a far cry from his previous work by a mostly pro-Lennon press, the song has since become a standard. "Get on the Right Thing" is well produced, a sly update of early rock and roll reimagined as epic power pop. "One More Kiss" is more in the country rock vein and the mini-suite "Little Lamb Dragonfly" is both melodic and folkish. 

A piano ballad, "Little Pigeon" resembles "Martha My Dear" from the White Album. "When the Night" is another modernized ode to '50s rock with energized background vocals, a highlight of the record. An instrumental, "LOUP (1st Indian on the Moon)" provides a glimpse into Paul's more experimental side in what sounds like the theme of a quirky Sci-Fi film of the era. 

Ending the record with a medley was an attempt to emulate Abbey Road. Once again, the critical knives were out, and while the Red Rose suite may have a tossed off feel, the songs are fun and include a variety of instruments and contrasting styles, evoking the mood of the album in microcosm. 

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