Reissue Reviews: Wings, “Venus and Mars” and “Wings at the Speed of Sound”

Written by Music, Reissue Reviews

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That much of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles efforts have been unavailable for so long remains something of a mystery to me.  His output with Wings and his solo albums during the Columbia Records years (1979 to 1984) were issued briefly in the early ’90’s and then gone.  You had to do a lot of footwork and pay a fair amount to somehow get hard copies.  However, since his signing with Hear Music a few years ago, he’s re-released a fair portion of his classics – with deluxe packages, bonus tracks and enticements than any self-respecting fan of McCartney would want to have.

Now comes the re-appearance of two of his biggest hits with Wings – 1975’s opus Venus And Mars and 1976’s Wings At The Speed Of Sound.  Coming off the astounding worldwide success with Band On The Run (1973), the first thing Macca did was re-tool the Wings lineup, bringing in ex-Thunderclap Newman guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton (soon to be quickly replaced, in turn, by New York drummer Joe English).  The debut release of Wings Mk II was the powerhouse single “Junior’s Farm” (included here on the bonus disc, along with its B-side, “Sally G”).  Another huge hit single (not included as part of the album), which set the table for the forthcoming release.  Recorded in Memphis and New Orleans, Venus And Mars was unleashed with the album’s lead 45, “Listen To What The Man Said” and gave McCartney another #1 hit – and sent the new record also to the top of the charts.  A solid effort, highlights include the title track, which segues into “Rock Show” (classic); “Letting Go” (the follow up single) and the very soulful “Call Me Back Again”.

Just before the onslaught of the 1976 “Wings Over America” tour came Wings At The Speed Of Sound, a slightly mellower affair than its predecessor.  A balance shift saw McCartney trying to fashion Wings as more of a “band”, with contributions from Linda, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English all adding original material.  While this collection had another two monster hits, the very Beatle-esque “Let ‘Em In” and (the highly annoying) “Silly Love Songs”, it felt in many ways much more pedestrian – “music for housewives” was one description at the time.  Still, there are some interesting moments, such as “Beware My Love” and “Must Do Something About It”.

Both reissues come in degrees – as double vinyl albums (inclusive of all the bonus tracks); a double CD set and a 3 disc – 2 CD/1 DVD hard cover package.  It doesn’t matter what degree of a McCartney fan you are – having these two albums remaster and reissued with their corresponding singles makes them both worth the money and the time to revisit.  I can only hope that soon enough, Paul will see fit to release Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway, London Town and Back To The Egg to truly complete the Wings collection (the next reissues due are Tug Of War and Pipes Of Peace).

Venus And Mars and Wings At The Speed Of Sound are available now.

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