[Review] Wings: Wings At The Speed of Sound (1976)

Paul pulls a page from Elton John by releasing a mediocre album with two great songs on it.

Kronomyth 7.0: I’m just a singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

For better or worse, Wings was Paul McCartney’s backing band. Paul sought to change that perception by balancing the band’s contributions on Wings at the Speed of Sound, only it backfired. There’s little debate that the best moments on here occur when Paul is front and center: “Let ‘Em In,” “Silly Love Songs,” the second half of “Beware My Love.” The rest of the record is uneven, by turns sleepy and clever, more or less what you could expect from 10cc at this stage.

That’s not to say the material is far removed from what came before (Venus and Mars) and after (London Town). You can even draw a line from some of this to such classics as Band on the Run (compare “San Ferry Anne” to “Mamunia”) and Abbey Road (“The Note You Never Wrote” sounds a lot like “You Never Give Me Your Money”). But the recurring reference point for me is the weaker side of Venus and Mars, such as “Medicine Jar” and “Spirits of Ancient Egypt.” The idea of giving drummer Joe English something to sing is cute—he has a better voice than Ringo at any rate—and Jimmy McCulloch proves a fair match for Laine as a singer and songwriter. Linda, unfortunately, is given the outmoded (in sound and sentiment) “Cook of the House” and the worse half of “Beware My Love” to sing. (Insert Yoko Ono joke here.) The record ends with a creaky piano ballad from Paul, “Warm And Beautiful,” that sounds only marginally better than John Lennon’s homemade tape of “Grow Old With Me.”

When the record was released, “Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs” had a stranglehold on the radio, which was enough to vaunt this to the top of my Christmas list that year (and you can imagine my delight at seeing this and Band on the Run side by side under the tree). Turns out, like a certain Caribou, that the hits were the meat of the matter, and everything around them was filler. Following the Wings Over America tour, this version of the group split up, and Wings was back to being a trio, at least until Back to the Egg. But that’s another story.

Original LP Version

A1. Let ‘Em In
A2. The Note You Never Wrote
A3. She’s My Baby
A4. Beware My Love
A5. Wino Junko (Jimmy McCulloch/Colin Allen)
B1. Silly Love Songs
B2. Cook of the House
B3. Time To Hide (Denny Laine)
B4. Must Do Something About It
B5. San Ferry Anne
B6. Warm And Beautiful

All songs written by Paul McCartney unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Walking In The Park With Eloise
13. Bridge On The River Suite
14. Sally G

2CD reissue bonus disc
B1. Silly Love Songs (demo)
B2. She’s My Baby (demo)
B3. Message To Joe (vocoder track)
B4. Beware My Love (John Bonham version)
B5. Must Do Something About It (Paul’s version)
B6. Let’ Em In (demo)
B7. Warm And Beautiful (instrumental demo)

The Players

Joe English (drums, lead vocal on B4), Denny Laine (guitar, lead vocals on A2/B3), Linda McCartney (keyboards, vocals, lead vocal on B2), Paul McCartney (bass, vocals), Jimmy McCulloch (guitar, lead vocal on A5) with Howie Casey (horns), Tony Dorsey (horns), Steve Howard (horns), Thaddeus Richard (horns). Produced by Paul McCartney; engineered by Pete Henderson.

The Pictures

Cover photo by Linda McCartney. Back cover photo by Clive Arrowsmith. Inside club photo by Bob Ellis.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on March 23, 1976 in the UK and Australia (MPL, PAS/TC-PAS 10010), the US (Capitol, SW/8XW-11525), Brazil (MPL, MPL-1002), Japan (Capitol, EPS-80510) and Venezuela (EMI, YEX-953) with picture innersleeve; reached #1 on the US charts and #2 on the UK charts. Some elpees included a Wings Over America poster. Released on elpee in 1977 in Uruguay (EMI, SLPE 500.615) with unique cover. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1984 in the US (Columbia, PC 36801).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1989 in the US (Capitol, CDP 7 48199).
  3. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1993 in the UK (EMI/MPL, CDMPCOL 7) with 3 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered 24k gold compact disc in 1996 in the US (DCC, GZS-1096) with 3 bonus tracks.
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on October 27, 1999 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-65506).
  6. Re-packaged with Single Hits I on 2-for-1 compact in 1999 in Russia (CD Maximum, CDM 0999-330).
  7. Re-released on expanded 2CD and 180g vinyl 2LP in 2014 in the US (MPL, HRM-35671-02/35674) with bonus disc.
  8. Re-released on limited edition 180g orange vinyl elpee in 2017 in the US (Capitol, 83674).
  9. Re-released on super high material compact disc on December 13, 2017 in Japan (Universal, UICY-78557).

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