Wings – Wild Life (1971)

History: Paul got together with Linda, drummer Denny Seiwell (who has previously appeared on Ram), and guitarist Denny Lane (formerly of the Moody Blues) to record this album over a period of 8 days. This rushed recording schedule was meant to give more of the spirit of a live recording, and 5 of the songs on the album were actually recorded in one take.

My own personal history and initial prediction: The album name nor any of the song titles on this one ring any bells for me. After being so disappointed by Ram I’m hoping this one is going to be better. I’m also curious to see if there’s any clear difference between something being a solo McCartney track versus a Wings track.

What I worked on while I listened: I say that this was a perfectly on theme choice.

Review: While I wasn’t aware of how quickly this was recorded while I was listening, in retrospect it definitely makes a lot of sense. There are definitely elements here that feel a lot like a recorded jam session, though while those often sound a bit noodly and self indulgent, for the most part this does not. This is, by comparison, four musicians working well in sync and feeling each other out. It may not be polished, but it definitely gives you the feel that they’re having a lot of fun together.

That feeling is definitely there straight out the gate with “Mumbo” which is a fun bluesy number a little different than what Paul has been doing before, but I can’t help but feel like it gets its name from the fact that he seems to be mumbling his way through it. A similar feeling follows in “Bip Bop” where Paul puts a style on his voice so different than anything I had ever heard before I almost wondered if he was giving another member a turn at lead vocals. It’s definitely unique and one of those strange qualities where I’m not entirely sure if I like it or not, though it’s definitely the one song on the album the most easy to get in your head.

Scanning the track list I saw “Love is Strange” and the title was familiar but I thought “Oh I’m just confusing it with that 1950s song” and well, yes and no, because it is in fact a cover of that song. It was surprising to find since while Ringo has been letting others take the song writing reins up to now, I didn’t expect that from Paul. I will say though, that if you had played this for me without telling me the name of the song, I don’t know if I would have realized it was a cover. The notable spoken word portion from the Mickey & Sylvia rendition is completely absent, and the style is very different. It gives the impression that they were riffing, realized that the riff was actually from an existing song, and so just decided to lean into it and make it a cover.

“Wild Life” is notable not only for being an interesting bluesy ballad, and the first time in a while that Paul is bringing out a political message, a few years before he and Linda publicly announced their vegetarianism. The only failing to it, in my opinion, is that while there’s a good message here, the off the cuff recording means the lyrics quickly repeat themselves and I think a bit more work on developing them would have made the message that much stronger. The same can be said for “Dear Friend” a sorrowful tune that I immediately wondered was a response to John’s harsh criticism in “How Do You Sleep?” and it turns out I was correct. The song shows its sincerity in the emotion of it, but the fact that it repeats halfway through makes it feel like he literally just looped the recording in order to make it a full length song.

I don’t know for sure that it is the three remaining songs on the album that were done with multiple takes, but they do at least seem to feel tighter in their production qualities, far more polished than the rest of the album. I feel like “I Am Your Singer” should put to rest the idea that Linda was talentless. She may not top a best singers of all time list, but she sings really well and it was nice to hear her do a proper duet with Paul.

I find myself continually perplexed when I read up on these albums, hearing how people kept absolutely panning Paul’s early solo efforts. Growing up I was always under the impression that everyone hated Yoko for “breaking up the Beatles” but now I’m wondering if that was a narrative that was turned to in the 80s, and that in the 70s the blame seemed to be placed squarely on Paul’s shoulders. I suppose the still raw feelings, and how willing John in particular was to share about his disappointment, helped feed into the public’s opinions at the time, and in turn led the critics to be ready to rip him a new one at each new release he made. While I wouldn’t call this a masterpiece of an album, I do think it is overall a good one, and the positives on it outweigh the negatives. It feels a bit more focused than Ram, even if I don’t like it quite as much as I did McCartney.

Singles that came out around this time:

“Give Ireland Back to the Irish” – Speaking of Paul being political, he goes all in here on this song that was a response to the events of Bloody Sunday. It’s a catchy and pleasant sounding song even with its more grim subject matter at parts. It plays to Paul’s strength of humanizing situations, bringing it down to the individual level rather than looking at the big picture.

“Mary Had a Little Lamb” – This is exactly what you think it is. Paul wanted to write a single for children, and this was the result. It’s not the catchiest version of the rhyme I’ve ever heard, but it’s cute. The “la la la” sections in the chorus are a simple little bit that you could see children singing along to.

“Little Woman Love” – This is an interesting choice for a B-side to a children’s song. I enjoy it, it has a lot of Fats Domino influence showing in it that as a New Orleanian I can’t resist. The lyrics on the other hand, are a bit odd and I can’t help but feel like the “little” being thrown in there is demeaning.

Next Time: John & Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band (and something called Elephant’s Memory?) spend Some Time in New York City.

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