FAST LANE TO GREATNESS: Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Red Rose Speedway”

In which Macca’s critically underrated, but commercially toppermost, 1973 album is re-assessed via UMe’s new mega-expanded edition.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

After Paul McCartney’s somewhat tepid debut with his new band, Wings, many would have forgiven him if he’d just decided to jettison his bandmates and go back to being a solo artist.

Thankfully he didn’t.

Just two years after releasing that debut, Wildlife, McCartney and Wings turned in the stunningly impressive Red Rose Speedway, up there with Band on the Run as the group’s peak of brilliance.

Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) has just re-released a jaw-dropping box set version of Red Rose Speedway (along with Wildlife and a massive 11-disc Paul McCartney and Wings 1971-73).  Red Rose Speedway is a hefty 6-disc affair: 3 CDs, 2 DVDs, and 1 Blu-ray. Each limited edition box is numbered and also comes with a hardcover book, crammed with plenty of photos.

Released in 1973, just eight months before Band on the Run, Red Rose Speedway’s first single, “My Love,” put the former Beatle back in comfortable territory, reaching #1 on the U.S. charts. The song, sweet without the saccharine that used to cling to many pop love songs in the early ‘70s, still endures today. While none of the other eight tracks on the album charted, it’s still packed with some great songs, like the funky opening track, “Big Barn Bed,” and the bluesy “When the Night,” a song that gets better and better with each listen.

The limited edition deluxe includes the original record, remastered at Abbey Road (naturally!). The second and third CDs include 35 bonus tracks – most importantly – a reconstruction of the double-album version of  Red Rose Speedway (how it was originally supposed to be released), as well as various singles, B-sides, alternate mixes and a handful of previously unreleased tracks. In addition, the aforementioned DVDs plus the Blu-ray boast rare and, in many cases, previously unseen, footage. Of particular interest is “Live and Let Die,” filmed live in Liverpool, and the James Paul McCartney TV Special and The Bruce McMouse Show.

As if this massive cache of audio and video weren’t enough, they also come with a folio containing 14 replica hand-drawn original character sketches by McCartney (very cool!) and facsimile dialogue sheets for the film. The hardcover book houses some previously unpublished images by Linda McCartney, plus expanded album and single artwork from the archives, and the story behind the album. The book alone is a brilliant keepsake.

Finally, a proper re-release for one of Wings’ greatest records—which, by our critical rating system, rates a 5-stars-out-of-5. Believe it.

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