Saturday, April 13, 2019

UFO's Paul Raymond dead at 73

Paul Martin Raymond
November 16, 1945 - April 13, 2019

Paul Raymond, best known as the keyboardist/guitarist for UK hard rockers UFO, died today from a heart attack. Prior to his passing, Raymond had finished touring for the UK and Ireland portion of UFO's Last Orders 50th Anniversary Tour- what is being promoted as the band's last world tour. The band's last performance was on April 5 at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, London, England. Raymond was 73. 

Raymond started his career as a jazz musician around 1964. Prior to joining UFO, Raymond was a member of Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack- replacing Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame in the latter. Raymond joined UFO in 1976, replacing original keyboardist Danny Peyronel. Raymond's first album with UFO was 1977's Lights Out. Raymond would stick with the band until 1981, leaving to join bands with his UFO bandmates: first with Michael Schenker's group MSG and later with Pete Way's Waysted. Despite his depature, Raymond would sporadically rejoin UFO throughout the years- 1984-86, 1993-98 and 2003-19. Among Raymond's other highlights are performing with pop group Plastic Penny and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan.    

Scott Walker dead at 76

Note: This obituary on Scott Walker was written almost a month ago. I didn't post this since I wasn't sure if this did him justice. After looking it over again, I think it's okay. While this is late, I feel like this still needs to be posted.

Noel Scott Engel (aka Scott Walker)
January 9, 1943 - March 22, 2019

Singer Scott Walker died last week on Friday March 22, according to his label 4AD in a press release. The cause of death has yet to be announced. According to 4AD, Walker is survived by his daughter Lee, his granddaughter Emmi-Lee and his partner Beverly. Walker was 76.

Born in Hamilton, Ohio as Noel Scott Engel, Walker was the son of Noel Walter and Elizabeth Engel. With his father working as an oil industry manager, Walker and his family moved on/off up until 1959 when he and his mother settled in California.  Walker's career started early as he was a child actor and singer. His appearances on Eddie Fisher's TV show lead Walker into the spotlight. As Walker grew up, his tastes in music began to change. While Fisher's show was making Walker into a teen idol, Walker had already developed an interest in jazz music and European films. While still in his teens, Walker was able to do some session work in Los Angeles. Around the early 1960s, Walker met musician John Maus- who was using the name John Walker. The two would end up working together for the next several years until 1964 when they met drummer Gary Leeds. This trio would form the Walker Brothers. The group would soon move to Britain, where they had two No. 1 hits- "Make It Easy on Yourself" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)." 

When the Walker Brothers split in 1968, Walker embarked on a solo career. Whereas the Walker Brothers had made pop music, Walker's sound took a turn as he used his distinctive baritone voice to sing a more diverse collection of tunes. Walker's first few solo albums saw him delving into Broadway hits, big band jazz and avant garde. Despite positive reviews, Walker's albums were not best sellers. As a result, Walker would often disconnect himself from the general public- becoming somewhat of a recluse. Commercial failure resulted in Walker giving into the label's demands, resulting in him releasing albums that his heart wasn't completely in. Despite his lack of success, artists such as David Bowie and Jarvis Cocker would cite Walker as an influence. After years of inactivity during the 1980s, Walker returned to music in 1995 with the release of Tilt- a critically acclaimed return to form. Until his death, Walker would continue to make music until his death. His latest albums was the soundtrack to the Natalie Portman movie Vox Lux in 2018.  

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Peter Tork dead at 77

Peter Halsten Thorkelson
February 13, 1942 - February 21, 2019

Peter Tork, bassist/singer for the Monkees, passed away today at his home in Connecticut. His death was confirmed by his sister, Anne, in article posted by the Washington Post. According to Tork's son Ivan, the cause of death was complications from adenoid cystic carcinoma- a rare form of head and neck cancer that Tork was diagnosed with in March 2009. Tork was 77.

Born Peter Thorkelson in Washington D.C., Tork was a struggling musician looking for his big break. In 1965, Tork's musician friend Stephen Stills was auditioned to be a part of the cast for The Monkees, a sitcom about the life of a rock n roll band. When Stills was rejected, he suggested that Tork should be auditioned. Tork got the job and along with Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith- the Monkees were formed. The Monkees premiered on NBC in September 1966. Given how successful the first two Beatles movies were, The Monkees was a huge hit when it aired. On the show, Tork was portrayed as the lovable dim-witted member of the group. 

However, the band weren't taken seriously due to the fact that they were a manufactured band. Under the management of Don Kirshner, the members of the Monkees were often not allowed to perform on their own records. Although Nesmith and Tork were allowed to write and play on their songs, the Monkees fought to be taken as a legitimate rock/pop group- which they were able to do after parting ways with Kirshner. Despite the drama behind the scenes, the Monkees were able to nab a few hit singles such as "Last Train To Clarksville," "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Daydream Believer." While the show ended in 1968 after two seasons, the band continued to perform and record music until 1970- although Tork left the group shortly after the release of their feature length film Head

Despite the group's split, the band reunited in the mid 1980s and then sporadically throughout the 1990s and 2000s- albeit sometimes without one or two members. The whole group did reunite in 1996 for the album Justus, which also lead to a TV special around that time. As of this writing, the Monkees are currently on tour with Dolenz and Nesmith in the line up. Outside of the Monkees, Tork continued to write songs and work in the music business. For the last 15 years, Tork performed with his own band- Shoe Suede Blues. Their 2018 album, Relax Your Mind, was the last album Tork released prior to his death. 

In his life, Tork was married four times: Jody Babb (three months in 1960), Reine Stewart (1972-74), Barbara Iannoli (1975-87) and Pamela Grapes (since 2014). He is survived by his three children: Hallie (b. 1970, with Stewart), Ivan (b. 1975, with Iannoli) and Erica (b. 1997, with Tammy Sestak). Tork is also predeceased by former Monkees band mate Davy Jones, who died in late February 2012 from a heart attack.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Beatles' Let It Be movie re-release and Peter Jackson companion movie announced

Fifty years to the day of their iconic Rooftop Concert, the Beatles have made an announcement that many fans have been waiting for. After decades in obscurity , the band's 1970 documentary feature Let It Be will finally be re-released in the near future.  The news, however, is topped off with the announcement of a newly edited version of the movie- which will be directed by critically acclaimed film director Peter Jackson. In the press release today, Jackson announced that he will be looking through almost 55 hours of unseen footage that was shot by the movie's original director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. 

Originally released in 1970, Let It Be documents the Fab Four creating their next studio album (which was called Get Back at that point in time). The movie has been a topic of controversy as the it documents the tensions between the band, as the recording of the new album began in Twickingham Studios. To defuse tensions, the band went back to the basement of Apple Records to record the rest of the album. Pianist Billy Preston was also invited, which then led up to the band's historic Rooftop Concert. While originally intended to be a TV movie, Let It Be was released in theaters to some acclaim. The band themselves were critical of the movie when released, given how the band were portrayed. The movie would be broadcast on TV over the years until 1981 when the movie was released on VHS, Laserdisc, and Betamax- along with a CED videodisc release the following year. Almost as soon as it was on home video, the movie went into obscurity. For the next three decades, there have been many attempts made in re-releasing the movie. 

Below is a list of attempted re-releases of the movie:

- Ron Furmanek remasters the movie from the original 16mm. This footage is later seen in the Beatles Anthology mini series. There are plans for the new remaster to be released on VHS but this never happens.

-In 2003, a remix of the Let It Be album is released. Entitled Let It Be...Naked, it was reported that the new album would coincide with a re-release of the movie on DVD. The album is released but the movie remains unreleased. 

-In 2008, it is reported that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr stopped a remaster/reissue of the movie on DVD from going through. In the years that follow, some anonymous sources claim that Yoko Ono was the one who kept it from being released. In 2017, someone claimed it was not only Yoko blocking the release but also the estate of George Harrison- possibly Harrison's widow, Olivia. 

As a result of the movie's unavailability, the movie has been bootlegged heavily amongst Beatles fans over the decades- using the 1981 release as the source. In the last decade or so, McCartney and Starr have spoken up about the movie's status. In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, Starr remarked that the movie should be released. In 2016, McCartney told Rolling Stone that he didn't know why the movie wasn't out yet. Toward the end of 2018, McCartney hinted that the movie might be re-edited in "a year or two." While the main announcement is centered around the new Peter Jackson project, the press release claims the original movie will be restored. 

This is very exciting news. This is long overdue and I really wish this would all come out later in 2019. Realistically, I'm thinking both movies will be released in 2020, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Let It Be album- as well as the 50th anniversary of the band's split. Apple is most likely focused on celebrating Abbey Road's 50th this year- as a follow up to the remixes of The White Album and Sgt. Pepper

An official DVD/Blu-ray release of the Let It Be is probably the holy grail of Beatles releases. What has me concerned is that while the original movie will be restored, I'm afraid of the possibility of that not seeing a home video release. This was the case with the Eight Days A Week movie- in which the Shea Stadium concert was shown in theaters but not on home video.  I am all for this new version from Peter Jackson but even if that movie ends up being better than the original, I would still like to see the original released. Either way, this should be an exciting next few years down the line. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: Year in Review



           Another year has come and gone. Some albums were released this year. Overall, I find myself liking the albums I purchased this year compared to last year. So here we go: everything this from year reviewed in short.


NEW RELEASES

  W.A.S.P. - ReIdolized (The Soundtrack to the Crimson Idol)


W.A.S.P.
Re-Idolized
Rating: ***

            Delayed one year to the 25th anniversary of W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol, Re-Idolized is what it sounds like: a re-recorded version of The Crimson Idol. However, Re-Idolized has some new songs attached to it- which were supposedly meant for the original album but weren’t recorded. While Re-Idolized isn’t bad, it isn’t anything special. It looks like there might’ve been an attempt at reissuing the album but for whatever reason, Blackie Lawless couldn’t do so. Also included with the re-recorded album is the new “movie” adaptation of the album- which, again, isn’t anything special: it’s just re-edits all of the footage shot from the Crimson Idol music videos. No disrespect to Blackie and the guys but I’ll stick with the original album.

  Judas Priest - Firepower
Judas Priest
Firepower
Rating: ****

FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

            Despite the news of Glenn Tipton’s live retirement, the guys in Judas Priest have managed to record a worthy follow up to 2014’s Redeemer of Souls. From top to bottom, Firepower is a killer album from the legendary metal band. While Redeemer of Souls is still good, Priest have managed to top themselves here. Guitarist Ritchie Faulkner has really pumped some fresh blood into the band as the riffs for this album are sensational. Even as he approaches his 70s, singer Rob Halford can still belt out those high notes.

Highlights: Lightning Strikes, Spectre, Children of the Sun, Rising from Ruins


 Riot V - Armor of Light
Riot V
Armor of Light
Rating: ****

            Following 2014’s Unleash the Fire, Armor of Light is a killer follow up from hard rock/metal band. Whereas Unleash the Fire was a nostalgic tribute Mark Reale, the music on Armor of Light is more in the vein of Thundersteel-era Riot- although there are some surprises along the way. Guitarist Mike Flynz and bassist Donnie Van Stavern have continued to wave the Riot flag since Reale’s passing- with Todd Michael Hall serving as the front man. Overall, Armor of Light is another solid installment to the Riot discography.

Highlights: Heart of a Lion, Ready to Shine, Victory, Caught in the Witches Eyes, Messiah
 


 The Residents - I Am a Resident!\
The Residents
I Am a Resident!
Rating: *** ½

            While 2018 has seen the reissues of early Residents album, the group have also released a new album. For this project, the group asked for their fans to send in their covers of the group’s music. Taking from the covers given, the group has remixed it all into a single album. Similar to how the band dissected rock n roll tunes on Third Reich N Roll, the band has now done the same thing except with their own music. While some fans tend to stick with the group’s earlier material, I say that this is worth a listen.

 Paul McCartney - Egypt Station
Paul McCartney
Egypt Station
Rating: *** ¾ to ****

            While not as consistent as 2013’s New, Paul McCartney’s newest studio effort is still a welcome entry to the former Beatle’s discography. Production wise, it follows where New left off. When it comes to the songs, McCartney has offered a fairly diverse batch of tunes- while following the theme of traveling. While Egypt Station has a little bit of everything on it, the album could’ve easily been shorter. Some songs are just weak (Fuh You) while others drag out. Nevertheless, Egypt Station has more highs than lows- which make for a pleasant listen.

Highlights: Despite Repeated Warning, Come On To Me, Who Cares, Happy With You, Hand in Hand


  Dream Child - Until Death Do We Meet Again
Dream Child
Until Death Do We Meet Again
Rating: *** ¾

            Now eight years after Ronnie James Dio’s passing, the surviving members of the man’s namesake band have reunited to record this album. Guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Simon Wright have teamed up with singer Diego Valdez. Together, they are Dream Child. Their debut release, Until Death Do We Meet Again, is a solid release. However, it isn’t without its downsides. While consistent, the album is very long for a debut release. Clocking in at 70 minutes, this might underwhelm some listeners. Valdez's vocals might sound strange on a first listen to some listeners. His pipes are similar to that of Dio’s on several songs here, with some songs sounding like something from Dio’s days in Rainbow. While a lengthy album, all Dio fans should give Dream Child a chance.

  Uriah Heep - Living the Dream
Uriah Heep
Living the Dream
Rating: ****

            Nearing their 50th anniversary, Uriah Heep have released their 24th studio album. While I gave it positive marks upon its release, I was also holding back on 2014’s Outsider: while it did feature some good music, it was lacking on the prog rock element of the band’s sound. This element was very much present on Wake the Sleeper and Into the Wild. With Outsider, the band leaned a little more toward their hard rock element. With Living the Dream, Heep are back in full form with another set of keyboard/organ driven hard rock tunes.

Highlights: Rocks in the Road, Waters Flowin’, Grazed by Heaven, Goodbye to Innocence, Knocking at My Door

  Yoko Ono - Warzone
Yoko Ono
Warzone
Rating: *** ½ to *** ¾

            Now 85 years old, Yoko Ono has released another studio album- her first since 2013’s Take Me To The Land of Hell. Unlike her previous albums from the 21st century, Ono decided to re-record some of her earlier songs. In doing so, Warzone can be seen as Ono’s message to the world in 2018. Looking down the tracking list, Ono has not only re-recorded but has also re-interpreted these songs- most of them with a minimalistic approach. Almost half of the songs on here were originally from Ono’s 1985 album Starpeace- an album made in response to then President Ronald Regan’s Star Wars Program. While a dated concept for an album, the songs from it are frighteningly relevant to today. While a chaotic collection of tunes, Ono ends the album with a heartfelt cover of her late husband’s signature song “Imagine.” While it isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t mind if this ended up being Ono’s last album.

Highlights: Imagine, Hell in Paradise, Children Power, Teddy Bear


Ranking
1.      Judas Priest- Firepower
2.      Uriah Heep- Living the Dream
3.      Riot V- Armor of Light
4.      Paul McCartney- Egypt Station
5.      Dream Child- Until Death Do We Meet Again
6.      Yoko Ono- Warzone
7.      The Residents- I Am A Resident!
8.      W.A.S.P.- Re-Idolized



REISSUES/REMASTERS


The Residents
Meet the Residents, Third Reich, Fingerprince, Duck Stab
Rating: **** (for all four + extras)

FAVORITE RE-RELEASE OF THE YEAR

            Cherry Red Records have reissued four albums by performance artists the Residents. The group’s first four albums have been newly remastered and each comes with a plethora of bonus tracks.

To read a more in-depth review on these reissues, feel free to read my reviews on them via Pop Culture Beast.

For the reviews on Meet the Residents and Third Reich N Roll, click here.
Fore the reviews on Fingerprince and Duck Stab, click here
 

 Wings - Wild Life
 Paul McCartney & Wings - Red Rose Speedway

Paul McCartney & Wings
Wild Life & Red Rose Speedway
Wild Life rating: ***
Red Rose Speedway rating: *** ¾
Bonus tracks: *** for WL, **** for RRS

            Wing’s first two albums were re-released as the two new entries to the Paul McCartney Archive Collection. As always, both albums sound great- even if they aren’t the best albums in McCartney’s career.  However, it’s the reissue of Red Rose Speedway that really stands out- as it boasts all of the unreleased songs from the recording sessions. With Red Rose originally intended as a double album, there’s a nice batch of new Wings tunes for all fans to enjoy.

  The Beatles - The Beatles and Esher Demos
The Beatles
The White Album Remix
Remixed album: *** ½
Bonus disc: *** ¾

            The Beatles’ self-titled album, known lovingly as the White Album, turned 50 this year. Following up last year’s remix of Sgt. Pepper, Giles Martin has created a new remix of the The White Album. While not a bad remix, I have the same feelings as I did with Sgt. Pepper’s remix: it’s nice to have but we really didn’t need this. The bonus disc of the Esther tapes, however, is a nice to see officially released.


ARCHIVAL
 Riot - The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2: 1980 - 1990

Riot
The Official Bootleg Box Set Vol. 2
Rating: ****
                             
                              Cherry Red Records followed up last year’s box set of Riot bootlegs with a continuation. This set, consisting of recordings from the band’s career from 1981 to 1990, is a nicely assembled box set. The sound quality hasn’t changed but it’s great to have Riot’s live material released in these two great box sets.       


MOVIES/DVD

For my reviews on the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, please read it here.

For my review on the John Lennon Imagine/Gimme Some Truth DVD, please read it here.

Both of these links direct to my original articles posted on Pop Culture Beast.


Rest In Peace
Ray Thomas- singer/flutist for the Moody Blues
Fast
 Eddie Clark- guitarist for Motorhead and Fastway
Dave Holland- drummer for Judas Priest
Danny Kirwan- guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Vinnie Paul- drummer for Pantera
Marty Balin- singer for Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship

Friday, December 14, 2018

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2019- My Thoughts

Back in October of this year, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced. While I usually post my thoughts on the bands nominated, I didn't do that this year. Why? Well, there's a number of reasons: the nominations weren't too exciting, I work now, I write for another website, laziness, etc. I think I don't need to repeat myself over and over because I'll almost always say the same things about the bands nominated. I don't get a lot of readers these days- which is another thing. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy posting things to my blog every year but I've just gotten lazy these last few years. Besides, this blog features A LOT of my writing.

Now that I've rambled far longer than I should've, here's what I will do: I'll give my thoughts on the bands that've been inducted. Again, my opinion really hasn't changed but I think this year has a fairly good batch of bands.

The Cure- I'm not a fan of their music but their induction is fairly overdue. They were very influential and Robert Smith is one of those iconic figures in rock music. I'm really not that knowledgable on them but they deserved this.

Def Leppard- The tradition of inducting the fan poll winner continues as the English hard rockers are now in the Hall. While I'm not too crazy over Def Leppard's music, I do have Pyromania and Hysteria in my collection. While some of their influences have yet to be inducted, I think this is well earned. There's also the slight possibility of their induction leading to their influences getting in next. Singer Joe Elliot is a massive fan of 70s British rock that never really cracked here in the US- including T. Rex and Thin Lizzy. Who knows? Maybe they could encourage this.

Janet Jackson- While not exactly rock, I can understand Janet Jackson's induction. She was very popular during the mid to late 1980s. The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson have been in for years now so I guess it makes sense to induct her. I probably would've had someone else take her place but I don't mind this.

Stevie Nicks- The Hall picked two female solo artists this year. If any of the members of Fleetwood Mac were going to get inducted for their solo career, Stevie Nicks deserved it the most: she's had a fairly successful solo career and a good number of hits. Good for her.

Radiohead- Here's where some people are gonna disagree with me: Radiohead are in too early. I mean, maybe this is the right time to induct them. After all, their music has been oh so praised over the years. Still, there's dozens of others bands that haven't gotten in the Hall yet that should've been in there years ago. From what I'm to understand, the band aren't too crazy about being inducted either and might not attend the ceremony.

Roxy Music- I was surprised to see Roxy Music get nominated this year. Given their lack of success here in the US, I didn't think the Hall would consider them- even though I thought they deserve it. Again, I'm not too crazy about their music but I do own most of their music. Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno are two big names that haven't been recognized by the Hall until now, which I think is a shame. Roxy had a good career, with several hits singles and albums from around 1971 till their split in the 1980s. I'm happy that they're in.

The Zombies- While they weren't around for long in their original run, the Zombies have released some great music. Okay so they only released a few albums but Odessey and Oracle is such an iconic album.

The induction ceremonies will take place in Brooklyn on March 29, 2019.

Paul McCartney & Wings- Wild Life & Red Rose Speedway Reissue Review

After last year’s delayed reissue of Flowers in the Dirt, the Paul McCartney Archive Collection is back with two new reissues. For this year, MPL and the powers that be have remastered and reissued the first two Wings albums- Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway. As always, each album is backed up with a second disc filled with bonus tracks. While neither are perfect, both albums have some good songs on them. After listening to both reissues, I think these are two welcomed entries in the Archive Collection.

  Wings - Wild Life
Wild Life (1971)
Album rating: ***
Bonus audio rating: ***

            Towards the end of 1971, Paul McCartney had two post Beatles albums under his belt: McCartney (1970) and Ram (1971)- the latter of which he made with wife Linda. During the Ram sessions, McCartney had a solo band. When McCartney wanted his band to stay long term, drummer Denny Seiwell was the only one interested. With Seiwell on board, McCartney decided that he wanted to have another guitarist singer/songwriter to work with, which he found in guitarist Denny Laine- who at that point was best known for his short tenure in the Moody Blues. McCartney rounded up the new band by recruiting wife Linda join the new band as the keyboardist. With that, Wings was formed.  Their debut album, Wild Life, was released in December 1971. Despite the hype surrounding McCartney’s new band, the album received mixed reviews. Personally, I have to say that this is the weakest of Wings’ seven studio albums. While I like it a little more with the new remaster, it’s still an uninspired effort from McCartney.

            In terms of its production and approach, Wild Life does sound like the natural successor to Ram: it’s very simple and laid back. However, Ram took some time to record. With Wild Life, it was recorded within one week. Listening to the album, it certainly sounds like something that was lazily slapped together. Just listen to the opening track- “Mumbo”: it’s basically Wings jamming away while McCartney is improvising the most nonsensical lyrics. The nonsense continues with “Bip Bop”- which features some of the worst lyrics McCartney has written in his career. Another downside to Wild Life is that it doesn’t have a lot of rockers. Ram had a good share of them but Wild Life is lacking in them for the most part. Despite the album’s downsides, McCartney and Wings manage to offer some good songs here. The band’s reggae flavored cover of Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” is my personal favorite from the album. I also like the protest themed titled track and the mellow sounds of “Tomorrow.” The album’s closer, the piano heavy “Dear Friend,” is another highlight as it served as McCartney’s response to the attacks John Lennon was making towards his former bandmate around that time.

            As with the albums before it, the new remaster sounds very strong. Prior to this, my only ownership of Wild Life was a vinyl copy and an MP3 rip of that copy. The same goes for Red Rose Speedway: these remasters sound amazing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the bass and drums are really strong on these remasters. Even though I’m not fond of Wild Life, it’s a great sounding album. It’s a shame that the songs on the album are mostly mediocre.

            The bonus disc for Wild Life features 42 minutes of music, which is pretty surprising coming from an album that was rushed. However unsurprisingly, most of the bonus tracks here are just okay at best. I do enjoy some of the home demos featuring Paul and Linda, harmonizing as their children are heard playing in the background.  Also featured on here is the controversial single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” Prior to this release, I hadn’t really heard the song. I think it’s a great song as it features that rocking sound missing from Wild Life.


 Paul McCartney & Wings - Red Rose Speedway
Red Rose Speedway (1973)
Album rating: *** ¾
Reconstructed Double Album rating: *** ¾ to ****
Bonus audio rating: ****

            In 1972, McCartney added guitarist Henry McCullough to the band as a fifth member. Prior to joining the band, the Irish born McCullough was best known for playing in Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. With McCullough added to the band, Wings went on tour. They would release several singles before finally releasing an album in May 1973. As their sophomore effort, Red Rose Speedway is a much better album than Wild Life. While it has its weaknesses, this is an overall better album.

            Red Rose Speedway hits the ground running with the rocking “Big Barn Bed.” It’s a catchy rock tune with splendid guitar licks from Laine and McCullough. Other highlights include the R&B/soul inspired “Get On The Right Thing” and the mini-epic ballad “Little Lamb Dragonfly”- the latter of which features a strong vocal performance from McCartney. The album’s best known song, however, is the #1 hit single “My Love.” Written by McCartney as a love song to Linda, the song is still played live by McCartney to this day. McCullough shines on the song during the instrumental break with a soaring guitar solo, which McCartney has praised the now late guitarist for. While a more consistent album than Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway has some weaknesses. The album features one too many slow songs. While those songs are fine, this album could’ve used some more rockers. If you watch or listen to concerts from around that time, Wings were a rock band. When the album tries to offer rock songs later on, it’s in the form of “Loup (First Indian On the Moon),” a very lazy space themed jam. Aside from McCartney’s bass playing on the song, it could’ve been left off the album.  The album ends decently with the medley of “Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cuff.” While it’s a lengthy batch of tunes, it closes out the album nicely.

Believe it or not, Red Rose Speedway was originally planned to be a double album. In an effort to make a commercially successful product, it was left as a standard single album. This is most likely why the album received the criticism that it did: it was meant to be something else. For Red Rose Speedway’s reissue, MPL went all out and included almost all of the songs cut from the original double album. In the album’s box set form, one of the many discs is the double album configuration- entitled Red Rose Speedway: Reconstructed. While that disc is exclusive to the box set, you can still create the Reconstructed tracking list with the lower priced 2-disc reissue with an iTunes playlist. So is Reconstructed any good? Overall- yes, it is. It has a nice variety of songs and is more consistent than whatever ended up coming out in 1973. Some of the songs here should’ve been released back in the day. Personally, I like the all out rocker “Night Out,” Denny Laine’s “I Would Only Smile” and the Elvis Presley/Beach Boys inspired “I Lie Around.” Some of these songs have been released on previous reissues of Red Rose Speedway. This includes “The Mess,” Linda’s “Seaside Woman” and the aforementioned “I Lie Around.” While more consistent, it’s easy to see why Red Rose Speedway ended up being a single album: this is a lot of music to digest. It’s not bad, mind you, but it’s just a lot. Nevertheless, Reconstructed is a nice companion piece to the 1973 album.

Along with the Red Rose outtakes, the bonus audio disc also includes all of the singles and non-album tracks from around the time the album was released. This includes singles such as the banned drug rocker “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Live And Let Die”- the band’s theme for the 1973 James Bond movie of the same name. The bonus audio disc for Red Rose Speedway has a runtime of nearly 70 minutes, making this the longest of the bonus audio discs in the Archive Collection to date. This is, hands down, my favorite bonus disc in the series: not only does it offer you the singles but you also get a whole slew of unreleased tracks.

            Overall, these reissues of Wings’ first two albums are very good. While this is leaning heavily on all of the extras on Red Rose Speedway, I always look forward to these reissues every year. As with Flowers in the Dirt before it, there is no insert announcing what the next albums in the series will be. Looking over Paul’s discography, London Town and Back to the Egg might be the next two released. For the time being, we can enjoy these two new entries.