[Review] Paul McCartney & Wings: Red Rose Speedway (1973)

A return to the sketchbook feel of his first album, but with a few extra hands.

Kronomyth 4.0: Nothing with the face of a poet really which is a flower and not a face.*

Bah and humbug on you, haters. Red Rose Speedway is Christmas come early: a stockingfull of sweet candies from the standing master of the melodic pop song, Paul McCartney. I would rank this right below Ram (and maybe even above Venus And Mars) as one of the better McCartney/Wings albums. The opening “Big Barn Bed” isn’t political, philosophical or intellectual. It is, however, eminently hummable, and that counts for a lot in my world. The same goes for “Single Pigeon,” “When The Night” and “Little Lamb Dragonfly.” And then there’s “My Love,” the biggest ballad of his solo career so far.

Any one of the songs on Red Rose Speedway could run rings around what turned up on Wild Life. Is the album a work of art? No, it is not. It’s an album of pop songs from a guy who wrote some of the best pop songs on the planet. That Paul McCartney should have to apologize for doing what he does best is baffling. John Lennon was cut more slack for the superior Mind Games, but critics were clearly using a different yardstick to measure John, Paul and George than Ringo and the rest of the field.

That’s not to say that Red Rose Speedway doesn’t have its flaws. The closing medley is a lazy endeavor that cobbles together leftover melodies, and “Indian Loup,” while interesting as a instrumental, is the sort of thing that one expects to find on the cutting room floor, not on the final cut. Ultimately, it’s a matter of melody winning out over mind. I enjoyed McCartney’s first two records, and have logged in many miles with Red Rose Speedway over the years. It’s not the smartest thing he’s ever done, and it won’t make you forget The Beatles, but forty minutes have rarely passed so pleasantly.

*e.e. cummings, “Thy Fingers Make Early Flowers”

Original elpee version

A1. Big Barn Bed (3:49)
A2. My Love (4:07)
A3. Get On The Right Thing (4:16)
A4. Only One More Kiss (2:29)
A5. Little Lamb Dragonfly (6:21)
B1. Single Pigeon (1:52)
B2. When The Night (3:35)
B3. Loup (1st Indian On The Moon) (4:25)
B4. Medley: Hold Me Tight / Lazy Dynamite / Hands of Love / Power Cut (11:18)

All songs written by Paul McCartney.

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. I Lie Around
11. Country Dreamer
12. The Mess

The Players

Paul McCartney (vocals, piano, bass, guitar, electric piano, mellotron, celeste, Moog synthesizers), Denny Laine (vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica), Linda McCartney (vocals, piano, organ, electric piano, electric harpsichord, percussion), Henry McCullough (guitar, backing vocals, percussion), Denny Seiwell (drums, percussion) with Hugh McCracken (electric guitar on A5), David Spinozza (electric guitar on A3). Produced by Paul McCartney; engineered by Alan Parsons except A3/A5 by Dixon Van Winkle.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on April 30, 1973 in the US and Canada (Apple, SMAL 3409), on May 4, 1973 in the UK (Parlophone, PCTC/TCPCTC 251) with gatefold cover and poster; reached #1 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #5 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in Japan (Capitol, EPS 80234) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in the US and Canada (Capitol, SMAL-3409) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in the US and Canada (Columbia, JC 36481) with gatefold cover and booklet.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the 1980s in the US (Columbia, PC 36481) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1993 in the UK (MPL, CDPMCOL4) and worldwide (EMI, 89238) with 3 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1999 in Japan (EMI Toshiba, TOCP-65503).
  7. Re-packaged with McCartney II on 2-for-1 compact disc in Russia (CD-Maximum, PM-328).

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