22 November, 2014

The Bonus Discs - Wings at the Speed of Sound

The remaster of the second album by what is generally regarded as the ‘classic’ lineup of Wings sounds just as good as its predecessor. Steve Rooke, Guy Massey and Simon Gibson have excelled themselves here. There is a real intimacy to the sound, even on the big arrangements like Silly Love Songs and Beware My Love.
The remainder of the deluxe package is a little disappointing. This is not so much a reflection on this particular edition as it is on the whole notion of massive boxed editions of single albums. The B-sides of the singles released off Wings at the Speed of Sound were also album tracks and evidently everything that they recorded for the album was released at the time. It makes sense given that the album was recorded between two tours, but it does mean the cupboard is almost bare when it comes to previously unreleased goodies to fill the bonus disc and DVD.
The bonus tracks that were on the initial CD release, Walking in the Park with Eloise, Bridge on the River Suite, and Sally G have been removed now that they’re available on the bonus disc of Venus and Mars. I heartily approve of stripping the albums back to their original track-listings. I find it annoying when the album reaches its natural conclusion and then a few B-sides play. It’s much better to shift them to separate discs.
However, having moved those three tracks to the album closest to when they were recorded, all that’s left are demos.

The “John Bonham version” of Beware My Love has already been milked for all it’s worth. The truth is, it’s not a complete version of the song but a first-take demo that happens to have John Bonham (who was a big fan of Wings’ drummer Joe English) sitting in on drums. It’s interesting but not quite the meeting of 70s giants it’s been made out to be.

The other most interesting demo on the disc is probably Paul’s vocal version of Must Do Something About It - a greatly underrated song of McCartney’s. It’s the finished backing track with Paul doing a guide vocal for Joe, who sings on the album. What’s most interesting about it is how dull Paul’s vocal is. Seriously, that’s not a criticism. Everyone knows Paul can sing the hell out of a song but rather than sell the song himself on the guide vocal, he gives only enough to show how the song goes and leaves it to Joe to do the vocal interpretation. It may come as something of a surprise to those who have Paul pegged as a control freak.

On the DVD? Well, not a whole lot. There’s the original promotional film for Silly Love Songs which has not been remastered, so there’s some added retro authenticity. The only other content is two short tour films, Wings Over Wembley and Wings in Venice. Wings Over Wembley is supposed to be a record of Wings’ three dates at Wembley arena at the conclusion of the 1976 world tour. The film is introduced as an “impression” of those dates and unfortunately, that’s all it is. All it shows is a few snippets of interviews and soundchecks. The film has been edited down from its original version and it beggars belief that they wouldn’t include the full version.

The book is as beautiful as always. It includes plenty of previously unpublished photos, including plenty from the 1975 Australian tour. Paul evidently has very fond memories of being here. HINT HINT!

The bulk of the written content is taken verbatim from an interview in which Paul actually seems rather reluctant to participate. The banal nature of the questions might have had something to do with that. I am sure you will be just as surprised as I was to learn that She’s My Baby is about Linda and the “Phil and Don” mentioned in Let ’Em In are the Everly Brothers. The most insightful part is the reflection on Jimmy McCulloch’s two Wings songs both being songs to himself warning of his self-destructive behaviour.

As with Venus and Mars, there are several pockets with heaps of little trinkets including stickers, tickets, photos and reproductions of handwritten lyrics and studio notes. While it’s very clever that they can copy these pages all the way down to the coffee stains and cigarette burns, it would be much more convenient to simply have them as pages in the book rather than individual objects.

On both Wings at the Speed of Sound and Venus and Mars, all McCartney songs are now credited to Paul and Linda. There’s no indication as to whether this is correcting a historical inaccuracy or whether this is a latter day Lennon/McCartney arrangement, not that it matters either way. The demo of Silly Love Songs does reveal Linda’s contribution.

Worth paying extra for? The remaster is definitely worth it. The additional CD is worth a few dollars extra for curiosity value but the book and DVD? Nah.

Silly Love Songs - initial 1989 CD release
Silly Love Songs - 2014 remaster
Silly Love Songs - 2014 remaster hi-res


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