Paul McCartney and Wings – Venus and Mars (1975)

History: Paul once again decided on recording an album primarily away from home, and this time he chose New Orleans, recording most of the songs at Allen Toussaint’s studio. Jimmy McCulloch rejoined the group playing guitar and also taking lead vocals for one song. The band started with drummer Geoff Britton on a few tracks but personality clashes led them to recruit Joe English to finish out the album instead.

My own personal history and initial prediction: I’m familiar with at least a couple songs on here. The most notable for me is “Magneto and Titanium Man” because it was one of those “oh shit!” moments where I realized that an artist I loved had a mutual appreciation for another thing I loved – Marvel Comics.

Review: Wings has been a consistently good band from the start, so it’s no big surprise that this album is also overall really solid. There’s a few of Paul’s trademark qualities here that I’m not as crazy about, primarily the way he seems to just throw song fragments together into one and call it done, but otherwise it’s another strong effort from Paul, Linda, and Denny Laine.

The main difference this time around is that we get two songs that are not primarily sung by Paul. Denny Laine sings “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and I don’t know if it’s his vocals or just that the song isn’t too strong in general, because it does pale in comparison to the rest of the album. McCulloch also takes a turn writing as well as singing on “Medicine Jar,” a song with a pretty obvious drug theme. His vocals remind me of Ringo and they’re well suited to the song. Putting these two back to back does almost feel like Paul doing them a favor, or maybe that’s too harsh and it was really the record label thinking “the public really wants to hear Paul, but sure, you guys can have one each too.”

The highlight of the album for me was “Rock Show” a fun high energy number with touches of glam rock in it. “Listen to What the Man Said” is the more poppy, obvious single with the great saxophone addition. “You Gave Me the Answer” is also great because it sees Paul return back to the old fashioned style of music he grew up with, even using some old recording techniques to really get that signature sound. I hope this isn’t the last of those I hear on his albums.

“Magneto and Titanium Man” really is such an odd little number. Dropping the names of these Marvel villains just feels so random and only barely connects to the theme of the song. I think if anything you just have to applaud him for including their names even with how weird it makes the whole thing sound. They really could just be anybody and the song would be the same.

The rest of the album doesn’t speak to me quite as much, but it’s not bad by any means. They’re a combination of sad ballads and blues numbers and instrumental pieces. They’re good for what they are for sure, and there wasn’t anything here that I felt needed to be cut out. Overall just another good solid record by Wings.

Singles released around this time:

“Junior’s Farm” – recorded before the album in Nashville, this is a fun and silly song that manages to take a lot of inspiration from Dylan yet absolutely none of the sense of meaning. Perfect for being a single in that way.

“Sally G” – The b side and a country song, fitting for recording in Nashville. This is going to shock you if you’ve been reading this blog before now: I didn’t care for it.

“Walking in the Park with Eloise” – This song was actually written by Paul’s father. It’s an instrumental jazz song that’s really nice to listen to.

“Bridge on the River Suite” – another instrumental, this one written by Paul with a slow bluesy feel to it. The horns make it a good listen.

The 2014 remaster of the album I listened to also had two songs that I found particularly fun as a New Orleanian – “Going to New Orleans (My Carnival)” which is heavily “inspired” by Professor Longhair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras” as well as the song “My Carnival” which has very similar sounds. Hearing Paul play the kind of local music I grew up with was a fun treat.

Next Time: George returns with Extra Texture (Read All About It). Let’s hope his vocal issues have been all sorted out by this point.

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