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Red Rose Speedway
Paul McCartney And Wings

Apple 3409
Released: April 1973
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 31
Certified Gold: 5/25/73

Paul McCartneyThe lavishly packaged Red Rose Speedway was originally conceived as a two-record set. But Paul wisely decided to siphon off extraneous material, such as Linda's and Denny's, and boil the sessions down to one highly commercial disc. The billing was changed to Paul McCartney and Wings, as it was supposed that the disappointing sales of those first Wings releases might have been due to people's not knowing exactly who Wings was.

Paul McCartney and Wings - Red Rose Speedway
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
Like the previous album Wild Life, Speedway consisted mainly silly love songs that sounded as though they could have been composed 15 years earlier, before the Beatles came along to add new dimensions to pop music. But both the tunes and the performances were far better than anything on Wild Life. Speedway was pleasingly plump music -- charming, harmless, chance encounters along Regent's Park canal, and the Miracle of Love. Just right for the brand-new summer, a perfect background to lazy afternoons in the sun.

One of the selections, the smoochy "My Love," caught the public's fancy in a bigger way than anything McCartney had written since the Beatles. The single version, like Red Rose Speedway itself, was an almost instantaneous Number One in the U.S.; and of all the Fabs' post-Beatle compositions, only George's "My Sweet Lord" has inspired more renditions by other artists.

Speedway was the first of several McCartney albums to contain a lyric sheet. Normally these are nice to have, but it didn't help McCartney's dissolving reputation as a Lyricist of Consequence any when people fastened their specs to read lines like "wo wo wo wo, only my love does it good." As far as "meaning" went, Paul was now evidently less interested in the words themselves than in how he sang them. And his voice could certainly still convey an impressive range of emotions. (The L.P. jacket also featured a fan message in braille to Paul's blind idol Stevie Wonder.)

Red Rose Speedway first appeared on the Billboard chart on May 12, 1973, reaching #1 and spending a total of 31 weeks.

- Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, pp. 157-58.

Bonus Reviews!

Best effort from McCartney since his break with the Beatles, featuring powerful rock material as well as the great ballads he was so well-known for when the band was together. Arrangements are tighter than on previous LP's, with guitar work of Henry McCulloch and Denny Laine, as well as vocal backup of Laine and Linda McCartney, giving added strength to disk. Set should receive extremely strong play on MOR as well as AM and FM pop stations. Best cuts: "My Love," "Little Lamb Dragonfly," "When the Night."

- Billboard, 1973.

After the debacle of Wild Life, Paul McCartney spent 1972 rebuilding his reptutation with a series of one-off singles, then released this, his fourth post-Beatles album, which restored his commercial fortunes by hitting #1 and spawning the #1 single "My Love." Like Ram, the album is awash in interesting musical ideas, most of which aren't finished off, and what sound like dummy lyrics that were never replaced with good ones. The only substantive song other than the single is the lead-off track, "Big Barn Bed." (The CD version adds three non-LP B-sides: "I Lie Around," "Country Dreamer," and "The Mess." The last, a live cut that was the B-side of "My Love," is the best uptempo rocker of McCartney's solo career up to this point.) * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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