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Paul McCartney and Wings – Red Rose Speedway 50th Anniversary LP (MPL/Capitol/UMe)

20 April 2023
Paul McCartney’s second album under the Wings banner arrives this week as a limited-edition vinyl LP reissue for Record Store Day, just in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary on April 30. The album benefits from half-speed mastering by Miles Showell from original 1973 master tapes, naturally taking place at Abbey Road Studios.

The original album was a significant success for McCartney and the band following 1971’s Wild Life, notching the first of four consecutive #1 albums in the US. Not only that, but tender single “My Love” returned McCartney to the top of the US charts with a sentimental piano ballad dedicated to wife and bandmate Linda McCartney. The song features Richard Hewson’s lush orchestration and a standout guitar solo by Henry McCullough that was improvised and cut live alongside the orchestra.

“My Love” is the album’s undisputed standout, but other musical highlights include the jaunty “Big Barn Bed.” The song makes a callback to “Ram On” from 1971’s Ram album. The arrangement boasts stacked chorus harmonies from Paul and Linda, and more ace soloing from McCullough in addition to work by key bandmate Denny Laine.

The country flavored “One More Kiss” is a romantic ode that spun out of interaction in the studio between McCartney and his visiting daughter Mary. Apparently, the then-toddler became exasperated with her father’s requests for affection, eventually agreeing to “only one more kiss.”

The chiming acoustic folk lament “Little Lamb Dragonfly” was drawn from sessions for Ram and features that album’s guitarist Hugh McCracken on a song originally intended for the children’s animated film Rupert and the Frog Song.

The band cuts loose during the playful sonic experiment “Loup (1st Indian on the Moon)” before closing the second side with a medley a la the Beatles’ Abbey Road. The pastiche connects bouncing trifle “Hold Me Tight,” the thrumming piano and Beach Boys-styled harmonies of “Lazy Dynamite,” the tumbling “Hands of Love,” and romper “Power Cut,” all suggesting the way forward with the next album’s more refined three-part title track “Band on the Run.”

Red Rose Speedway songs including “Single Pigeon,” “When the Night,” and the aforementioned “Big Barn Bed” contribute to the album’s reputation as tuneful and musically skilled but thematically lightweight and off-the-cuff. However, the album is certainly listenable albeit transitional work in retrospect. The critically praised and hit-laden Band on the Run LP would arrive later the same year.

Red Rose Speedway arrives in a gatefold sleeve containing a 12-page book with photos, lyrics, and liner notes.