Red Rose Speedway

Paul McCartney & Wings

Capitol Records, 1973

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Every once in a while, I get a request from one of our readers which just happens to fall in place with what I planned to do here at "The Daily Vault".

One long-time reader, who goes by the handle "Waiter", happened to suggest that I dust off Red Rose Speedway from Paul McCartney & Wings. (I'd quote some of the things he said about this album, but unfortunately, his e-mail is on my computer at work.) The same day I got his request, I had just finished listening to the copy of Tripping The Live Fantastic! that I won on eBay. But, because I love you all sooooo much (warning: bullshit meter reaching overload), that tape went back into the Pierce Memorial Archives, and out came my old vinyl copy.

A word of warning, before we begin: I am well aware that I am far behind the times, and that the CD release of this album contains three extra tracks. Unfortunately, the funds to upgrade everything to CD are low this month (guess I'd better not hold my breath for the NEA to fund this site), so I hope you'll cut me a little slack.

When McCartney threw his two-album-old solo career into neutral in 1971, it might have shocked some people that he chose to start up a new band so soon after the implosion of The Beatles. But Wings indeed took flight at the end of 1971; one of these days, we'll get to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Wild Life on these pages.

Red Rose Speedway, the 1973 sophomore effort from the band, became their second top 10 album in America (and the group's first to top the charts), thanks in no small part to the ballad "My Love". And while this might be the best-known track from this album, I would dare to argue that it's not the best track overall. (Save the flame mail, gang; for all the wishy-washy love ballads McCartney's done over the years, this is one of the better ones.)

The album opens up with "Big Barn Bed," a track which might not have been a potential chart-topper, but it sure is a foot-stomper. It's a great way to kick off this album, and is sure to lock you in the groove almost instantly.

For almost the entire first side, it seems like McCartney and his group can do no wrong - until you hit one particular song. Remember how I just said some of McCartney's love sonnets were wishy-washy? Three words: "One More Kiss". 'Nuff said.

Two tracks which I think never got the attention they truly deserved are "Get On The Right Thing" and "Little Lamb Dragonfly". "Get On The Right Thing" is a powerful rocker that allows each member of the band to shine in their individual performances. (If I ever were given the opportunity to land a radio show where I could play the closet classics - you listening, CD 94.7? - this would be one of the first ones I'd play.) "Little Lamb Dragonfly" is a track that does need to grow on you, but it does so rather quickly, and turns out to be a hauntingly beautiful number.

The second half of Red Rose Speedway continues in this vein with strong, underrated numbers like "Single Person" (which clocks in at under two minutes), "When The Night" and the instrumental "Loup (1st Indian On The Moon)". The only time where Red Rose Speedway really falters is in the 11-minute closing medley of "Hold Me Tight," "Lazy Dynamite," "Hands Of Love" and "Power Cut". It's not that the track is bad, it's just that McCartney's ambition gets in the way. Simply put, this one is too much of an okay thing. Had these tracks been broken up and scattered on the album, I think they would have come out sounding better.

If you're not the kind of vinyl fossil that I am, you already know that three other songs - "I Lie Around," "Country Dreamer" and "The Mess" - await your listening pleasure. All of these were B-sides to singles that Wings released around this time, so consider these to be enhancements to the original album.

I don't know if Waiter is going to agree with everything that I've said, but I think we both pretty much agree that Red Rose Speedway is, for the most part, a very enjoyable album that is noteworthy not for the hit single, but for the "shoulda-been hit" tracks.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+


I mostly agree with this review. Red Rose Speedways has been kind of forgotten over the years but it's a mostly terrific record. While a little rough and under-produced at times, it sets the stage nicely for the super-stardom of the band that was right around the corner.

© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.