Alright, he's made a record with his wife and a record with his pickup band where democracy is allegedly the conceit even if it never sounds that way, so he returns to a solo effort, making the most disjointed album he ever cut. There's a certain fascination to its fragmented nature, not just because it's decidedly on the softer side of things, but because his desire for homegrown eccentricity has been fused with his inclination for bombastic art rock à la Abbey Road
. Consequently, Red Rose Speedway
winds up being a really strange record, one that veers toward the schmaltzy AOR MOR (especially on the hit single "My Love"), yet is thoroughly twisted in its own desire toward domestic art. As a result, this is every bit as insular as the lo-fi records of the early '90s, but considerably more artful, since it was, after all, designed by one of the great pop composers of the century. Yes, the greatest songs here are slight -- "Big Barn Bed," "One More Kiss," and "When the Night" -- but this is a deliberately slight record (slight in the way a snapshot album is important to a family yet glazes the eyes of any outside observer). Work your way into the inner circle, and McCartney
's little flourishes are intoxicating -- not just the melodies, but the facile production and offhand invention. If these are miniscule steps forward, consider this: if Brian Wilson
can be praised for his half-assed ideas and execution, then why not McCartney, who has more character here than the Beach Boys
did on their Brother records? Truthfully.
Red Rose Speedway
is the album where Wings
came into view, evolving from a lark to a rock & roll band who'd conquer the globe. The Paul McCartney Archives
edition reveals this was no easy process. In addition to a remastered version of the album as it was released in 1972, there's a "reconstruction" of the original version of the album, which was planned as an 18-track double-LP, along with a disc of non-LP singles, early mixes, demos, and outtakes. This is a wealth of unreleased material, all of which turns an already sprawling album into an intentionally wild mess. All of the released Red Rose Speedway
is buried in the Reconstruction
, which doesn't mirror the known sequencing at all. Outtakes and B-sides, including the smooth-rolling Denny Laine
showcase "I Would Only Smile," pile up next to the familiar tunes, having the end result of highlighting the versatility of Wings. Hard-rocking boogie sits alongside sappy soft rock, song suites, flights of whimsy, open-ended jams, and the occasional pop song. It doesn't cohere, but it does showcase a band who could do a lot and were anxious to find the right songs to bring out on the road. Its scattershot nature not only means that the disc of companion audio feels like another couple of sides in a never-ending multiple album. The bonus audio has hits and singles -- "Live and Let Die," "C Moon," "Hi, Hi, Hi" -- but it also unveils a studio version of the hard-rocking "The Mess" and the evocative midtempo jam "1882," which was played on-stage but never made it onto an album. Another highlight is an alternate version of "Live and Let Die" containing no overdubs. Stripped of strings and brass, "Live and Let Die" sounds like a tight rocker from a band with something to prove, and that makes it an ideal closer on a set that is designed to offer a reminder of how weird and wonderful Wings were at their birth.