Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976)

History: In between playing concerts in Australia in late ’75, Wings returned to London and Abbey Road Studios to record this album. In a response to critics who were saying this was just Paul’s band, they intentionally included more songs featuring all five members of the group on lead vocals. It was followed by their first American tour, the first time Paul had played in the states since he was with the Beatles.

My own personal history and initial prediction: There’s two pretty big singles on here that I’m familiar with. “Silly Love Songs” in particular is one that I think of as Paul’s unapologetic message to the world that he was going to write whatever types of songs he likes to write, thank you very much. Given how strong those two songs are and how strong the Wings albums have been in particular, I expect this to be another solid effort from Paul.

What I worked on while listening:

Review: This album felt a little more mixed in tone and preference for me, though sometimes when your highs are high enough it’s easy to overlook the lows. I’d say it’s still a good album from Wings overall, but probably one I would just purchase single songs from rather than listen to the whole album again and again. The biggest highs are absolutely those two singles, and they are fantastic. “Let Em In” wins the award for which song off the album has been consistently stuck in my head ever since I first listened to it. While in some ways it feels incomplete with the way it repeats its two sections over and over again, that melody is just so infectious that I really don’t mind. I love its marching beat and the flutes that dance along with it. “Silly Love Songs” is also fantastic, with its defiance to stay true to its sweetness no matter what some critics may think. It has such a great beat and horn section as well. I went through a phase in my teenage years where I insisted on listening to The Replicants cover with Maynard James Keenan on vocals as this sort of silly way to enjoy the song while still being hip and cool and grunge, but I’m happy to admit now that the cover pales in comparison to the real thing.

Unfair or not, I’m just not as big a fan of the songs that are written and/or performed by the other male members of the band. “The Note You Never Wrote” did hold my attention, with its interesting droning start and overall melancholy nature. But it’s not a song I would probably want to return to. “Time to Hide” feels like a just okay blues song, something that would normally be a b side throwaway. “Wino Junko” is once again McCulloch singing about drug addicts and while I do like that they chose to only use the electronic voice sparingly so it didn’t get tedious, I wasn’t that crazy about the song as a whole. I also didn’t care for “Must Do Something About It” not solely because of Joe English’s vocals, but more because it’s one of those sad songs that comes off more as someone whining rather than a melancholy longing you can relate to.

Linda’s turn at singing lead however absolutely delighted me. I love the 1950s rock and roll sound of “Cook of the House” and the choice to build the lyrics around subject matter that rarely gets touched on in any genre, let alone in rock. It sounds like she’s singing the whole song with a grin on her face, and I love it. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to hear that critics tore it to pieces, and I’m sure there are some fans out that there that feel the same way, but to me its wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing.

One song I particularly didn’t care for was “She’s My Baby.” Paul really digs into writing a silly love song here, with lyrics that are sickeningly sweet at points. He’s also putting on a higher pitched voice that adds to the effect. I’m sure he would say to me “What’s wrong with that?” and in this case my answer is “Nothing, Paul, but that doesn’t mean I ever have to listen to this song ever again.”

“Beware My Love” is a great hard rock addition to the album, one of those songs that slowly builds and builds as it goes along. The other two remaining tracks that end the album “San Ferry Anne” and “Warm and Beautiful” were more in the realm of just okay for me. Not bad by any means but also don’t grab me in the same way that some of the other songs on the album do. It’s interesting to me that when I look at the list as a whole, the songs I’m not as crazy about outnumber the songs I love, but I guess I enjoy those so much that I’m left still feeling like the album is still pretty good. I suppose the fact that they’re more “not for me” than “bad” could have a lot to do with it. Definitely an album worth giving a listen if you’ve never heard it before.

Next Time: Ringo makes me go look for a dictionary to find out just what Ringo’s Rotogravure is.

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