Review Summary: A homegrown trainwreck of a guilty pleasure
Paul McCartney was in a bad place during the early 70s. His first two solo albums, the lo-fi homespun ‘McCartney’ and the critical ravaged ‘Ram’ (now recognised as one of his best works), had been bombarded by critics and his former bandmates. Even Ringo was getting in on the bullying. While Mccartney and Ram were very successful, critics hated the lack of intensity, edge and emotion that was gracing the other Ex-Beatles solo records. Paul needed a group of his own to really get back to his rock n roll roots. That’s where Wings came into play.
Initially formed by McCartney, his then wife Linda, former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell, Wings would go on to be one of the biggest musical juggernauts on the 70s before coming crashing to a halt in 1980. While their time together was relatively brief, they managed to chart several hugely successful world tours and have several hit albums and singles. But what about their first record, the oft forgotten Wild Life. Is it good, is it bad? Let’s see.
Wild Life was created for one purpose, to showcase Paul could still make a rough, dirty rock record. As such, at least 5 of the songs here were all recorded in one take to capture that powerful raw feel that graced John Lennon’s first solo record Plastic Ono Band, and many of the Beatles’ early albums. While a good idea on paper, several of the tracks on Wild Life are, to put it bluntly, a bit ***e. The opener ‘Mumbo’ is intended to be a thunderous powerful rock n roll number which is taken down by Paul’s ridiculous nasal yelling gibberish and incredibly shrill backing vocals. The backing track itself barely gets things going except for a couple of heavy keyboard chords and a clunky guitar solo. There’s the odd folk number ‘Bip Bop’ which consists of more gibberish over a light guitar track. Paul himself even stated that it was “The weakest song I have ever written in my life” and that he still cringes when he hears it. Like on several Beatles records, Paul again falls into his typical lightweight granny music with stuff like the cute and catchy but overt sweetness of songs like ‘Tomorrow’ and the duet with Linda ‘I Am Your Singer’, which apparently is a rough unfinished mix that Paul liked enough to include on the album. The other songs on the record are wildly odd including a reggae cover of the 1956 RNB hit ‘Love is Strange’ by Mickey and Sylvia which just manages to be groovy enough to not pass into trite territory. ‘Some People Never Know’ is a six minute folk rock ballad which is surprisingly catchy and quaint and the title track ‘Wild Life’ is a sprawling bluesly death march with some... unique lyrics about politics and animals I think. Paul screams his heart out over the thumping piano track which closes side 1 which shows that even on s record like this, he still had the guts to go crazy. The finale and the best track here is ‘Dear Friend’, a lonely and paranoid piano ballad directed towards John Lennon, set with a series of anxious and sweeping strings which gives the track a longing and overall human touch.
Is Wild Life good? God no. Is it bad? Yeah kinda. Honestly, Wild Life is a difficult album to mask. On one hand it’s massively rushed, bizarrely inconsistent and overall so sappy and goofy it actually hurts, but the standout tracks were the quality kicks up actually manage to make Wild Life and oddly guilty pleasure. The title track and Dear Friend are both passionate and heavy performances and even the goofier stuff like Love is Strange and Tomorrow carry this air of warmth similar to the McCartney album. Wild Life didn’t sell too well upon release, only peaking at 11, pretty inconsequential for a former Beatle. Instead of putting out a universal track that was sure to get radio play, Paul instead insisted on commuting commercial suicide three times in a row, first off by having the band’s first single be the heavily political single which got them an automatic ban from the BBC, then for their second single to be a folk cover of ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ and THEN releasing a highly sexually charged rocker to also have that banned. It seemed the man couldn’t catch a break. His next album didn’t help things either. Well c’est la vie. Some people never know
Love is Strange