I’m actually working my way through a couple of things at the same time right now – Heart’s entire catalog (see my reflection on Heart), the Emerson Lake and Palmer’s boxed set Return of the Manticore and McCartney’s solo work. This particular trip through McCartney’s work started a couple of weeks ago when I felt like listening to Ram (his second solo album) and decided to go from there. So the next stop on my listening tour was the much maligned Wild Life, the first album with McCartney’s new band, Wings. This album is generally considered the weakest in the whole McCartney catalog (which, by the way, is a
Reason #1: The recording. McCartney loves to try gimmicks in recording his albums. Band on the Run was recorded in
Reason #2: The band. Sorry, I have to say it; this band wasn’t good enough to make an album this quickly. Linda’s vocals were never great but on this album they’re really poor and pretty high up in the mix, giving many of the songs a slightly out-of-tune feel to them. The combination of Paul, Linda and Denny’s voices gave Wings its unique sound but at this point they just aren’t together and it doesn’t work. The playing is, for the most part, uninspiring. Even Paul’s vocals on songs like the title track are weaker than almost any other album.
Reason #3: The songwriting. This is perhaps the weakest collection of songs that McCartney has released on an album over his entire career. “Mumbo,” the opener is just a jam that was recorded. “Bip-Bop” is as trite as it sounds like it might be from the title. Some of these songs could have been salvaged with better production – for example, there is a fully produced and arranged bootleg version of “Tomorrow” floating around that is quite nice. But overall these songs just don’t cut it. The
So I think this album deserves the poor reviews it gets. The good news is that Paul fixed almost all of these problems with his next album, Red Rose Speedway, which is better in every way and is a delight to listen to. It also featured the mega-hit “My Love” so Paul not only made a better album; he got back on track commercially. I loved it in 1973 and I love it now. I think I’ll listen to it a few more times before I move on to the next one.