It’s never easy being in a band with Paul McCartney. This is the man who wrote the first long stadium song (She Loves You), the best-selling UK number 1 (Mull of Kintyre), the best James Bond rocker (‘Live and Let Die’), the best song seventies love song (‘Maybe I’m Amazed’), Michael Jackson’s superb pop duo (‘Say Say Say’), the perfect disco number (‘Silly Love Songs’), the song with the most covers of all times (‘Yesterday’), the most accomplished of the many John Lennon tributes (‘Here Today’), the Beatles’ biggest hit (‘Hey Jude’) and Kanye West’s 21st century zeitgeist (‘ Four Five Seconds’). So when you write an album with him, you will surely lose out. So is the summary of Wings’ fifth album, an album that assured its listeners and that the Wings were a true band, but suffered at the hands of democratic leeway.
And it’s not the band’s fault. They all tried to write (yes, Linda too). Everyone took turns singing, everyone took turns expressing themselves, everyone worked. But they were in the company of Paul McCartney, who alone with ‘Let Em In’ and ‘Silly Love Songs’, blew the band away with his lesser works. No wonder these songs became the hits of choice, the first a quintessential piano ditty, the second one of the most accomplished bass-heavy disco works of the ’70s (the Bee Gees joined the act the following year). ).
With mainstays Denny Laine and Linda McCartney complete with guitar wizard Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English each spotting a lead vocal, ‘Speed’ turned out to be the only studio album where the entire unit had the opportunity to act; with mixed success. ‘Wino Junko’ crafted with sharp honesty, but smacked of ’70s excess. Joe English’s spot on ‘Must Do Something About It’ had an interesting opening line, but nothing more. Linda’s ‘house cook’ did little to dispel the rumor that she could not sing, write or dance. Only Denny Laine provided anything of value, his ‘Time to Hide’ a worthwhile song, but too pale in comparison to ‘The Note You Never Wrote’, the McCartney song for him. Floydian in its atmosphere, Beatly in its delivery, ‘Note’ featured McCartney’s best set of lyrics on the album, reminiscent of the chilling imagery it brought to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘She’s Leaving Home’, brought to life on guitar. McCulloch’s law. only.
The rest of the album was pure McCartney, embellished with his pop genius, simmering rock guitar lines, disco beats, and pop ersatz. ‘Let Em In’, the album opener, smeared with perfect pop horns not heard since ‘Lady Madonna’, the biggest Wings album opener after the unsurpassed ‘Band On The Run’. ‘Ella She Ella’s My Baby’ oozed a 1950s pastiche that no one but McCartney could pull off. ‘Warm and Beautiful’ happily joined ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and ‘My Love’ as one of McCartney’s greatest post-Beatles love songs, lovingly rearranged for string quartet to commemorate the untimely death of Linda McCartney in 1998.
A throbbing dance track, ‘Silly Love Songs’ brought credibility to disco-hopping Sixties musicians (Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger followed suit). McCartney’s most indelible and enduring bass line, ‘Silly’, was born from the funk ersatz, a natural stadium anthem and one of the highlights of the ‘Wings Over America’ album.
A very strong half-album, it’s even more disappointing how much better it could have been if McCartney had written the whole thing (unlike ‘Red Rose Speedway’, which could have benefited from a second writer).
As McCartney writes, the album is a hard-hitting ’70s rocker, an excellent four-star follow-up to ‘Venus and Mars’. When the others write, the songs sound like a two-star amateur record. ‘Speed’ is centered in the middle, a three star album, worthy of more potential than the released album.