Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Paul McCartney & Wings - Red Rose Speedway 2LP (upgrade)


Paul McCartney & Wings – Red Rose Speedway

(double-album reconstruction by soniclovenoize)

June 2019 UPGRADE

Side A:
1.  Big Barn Bed
2.  My Love
3.  When The Night
4.  Seaside Woman
5.  Get On The Right Thing

Side B:
6.  Best Friend (live)
7.  Tragedy
8.  I Would Only Smile
9.  One More Kiss
10.  Single Pigeon
11.  Little Lamb Dragonfly

Side C:
1.  I Lie Around
2.  Hi Hi Hi
3.  Loup (1st Indian on The Moon)
4.  1882 (live)
5.  The Mess (live)

Side D:
6.  Night Out
7.  Mama’s Little Girl
8.  Country Dreamer
9.  Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut

This is an upgrade to my reconstruction of a double-album version of Paul McCartney & Wings’ 1973 album, Red Rose Speedway.  Originally conceived as a musically versatile 2LP with contributions from other members of Wings outside of McCartney, the album was trimmed down to a more commercial single-disc configuration, which was eventually released to mixed acclaim.  Although an official release of McCartney’s final 2LP configuration appeared in 2018, the tracklist was incongruent and had a rather lackluster flow; this reconstruction uses those original 1973 mixes, but configured with my own tracklist from 2013 that presents the material in a more pleasing track order. 

Upgrades to this June 2019 edition are:
  • All sources taken from the Red Rose Speedway 2018 box set, using all original 1973 mixes.
  • “Big Barn Bed” and “My Love” are properly crossfaded, as originally intended. 
  • Addition of “Hi Hi Hi” to Side C tracklist.
  • Original, unique edit of the a capella outro to “Get On The Right Thing” onto the album versio
  • Original, unique shorter edit of “Loup” which is segued into and thus serves as an into to “1882”.

After a pair of solo albums--the second of which spawned some heavy hits--Paul McCartney was determined to form a new musical group he could front with his wife Linda and rediscover the excitement of his early Beatles days.  By 1971, he had recruited former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine and session drummer Denny Seiwell, the later who had already performed on McCartney’s RAM from the previous year.  Wings was born, and their debut album Wild Life was hastily written and recorded that summer.  A disappointing and lightweight release, McCartney admitted it was the sound of a band in its infancy, as the band had not had the time to evolve and, frankly, improve beyond musical acquaintances just jamming.  The only way to do that was to play live… 

Early 1972 saw the addition Joe Cocker guitarist Henry McCullough to the lineup and the band embarked on a university tour of the UK in February.  Boldly, the quintet entered Olympic Studios with the legendary Glyn Johns in March to record the new batch of road-tested songs, which also included material penned by other members of Wings besides McCArtney: “Big Barn Bed”, “When The Night”, “The Mess”, “Single Pigeon”, the Thomas Wayne & The DeLons cover “Tragedy”, “Mama’s Little Girl”, the spacey instrumental “Loup (1st Indian On The Moon)”, Linda’s “Seaside Woman”, Denny Laine’s “I Would Only Smile”, “Thank You Darling” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.  Although an album’s worth of material was recorded, the quality was only marginally better than the previous year’s Wild Life, and much of the studio time was wasted with Wings still trying to find their musical grounding.  Fed up with what he perceived as just messing about rather than serious work, Glyn Johns quit the project at the end of the month.  Only the session’s final recording, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, was released as a single in May, to a perplexed audience.  Is this a rock band or a children’s song?  It was barely anything in between. 

Following the aborted Olympic Sessions, Wings embarked on another European through July and August, appropriately dubbed Wings Over Europe.  While continuing to perform the new material tracked during the Olympic Sessions, Wings added even newer compositions to their repertoire, such as “1882”, “Best Friend”, “Soily”, Laine’s “Say You Don’t Mind” and McCullough’s “Henry’s Blues”.  After the conclusion of the tour, the group recorded the reggae-influenced track “C Moon” in September for a future single release.

Doubling down to not only make a proper album but to produce it themselves, Wings recruited engineers Alan Parsons and John Leckie to record a second batch of new Wings material, this time in the luxurious Abbey Road Studios.  The Wings Over America tour had whipped the band into shape, as the late-September/early-October Abbey Road sessions produced material more refined and colorful than either Wild Life or the Olympic Sessions:  the rave-up “Night Out”, country ballads “One More Kiss” and “Country Dreamer”, four songs that were later conjoined into a medley “Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut” and the rocker “Hi Hi Hi”, which was selected to pair with “C Moon” as a stand-alone single release in December.  Additionally, Wings went into McCartney’s vault to finish off three half-finished tracks from the Fall 1970 RAM Sessions: “Get On The Right Thing”, “Little Lamb Dragonfly” and “I Lie Around”.  Suddenly, the group had the basis of an album with promise. 

The end of October saw the band track another new song, this time with Paul’s old producer George Martin: “Live and Let Die”, intended for the subsequent James Bond film.  Much to Alan Parson’s disappointment, that song was never destined for this ongoing album project, now titled Red Rose Speedway.  But looking over the quantity of material recorded with Glyn Johns in March, Parsons in September and the refurbished RAM outtakes, it became obvious that this second Wings album could be a double-LP!  Returning to the studio in November for follow-up sessions, a subpar “1882” was tracked along with a lackluster instrumental called “Jazz Street”.  It was decided that mutitracked tapes of “1882” and “The Mess” from the August tour were better than their studio counterparts and received overdubs; likewise, a live “Best Friend” was also used, with added overdubs.  January 1973 saw the band track the final addition to the album, the ballad “My Live”, recorded live in the studio with an orchestra. All of the pieces were now in place. 

Assembling the vast amount of material into a cohesive double album was not an easy task.  Several test masters have been discovered throughout the years, showing McCartney's difficulty in arranging the material cohesively.  An acetate assembled December 13th, 1972 had the following configuration:
Side A – Big Barn Bed / When The Night / Single Pigeon / Tragedy / Mama’s Little Girl / Loup / I Would Only Smile
Side B – Country Dreamer / Night Out / One More Kiss / Jazz Street
Side C – I Lie Around / Little Lamb Dragonfly / Get On The Right Thing / 1882 / The Mess
Side D – My Love / Best Friend / Seaside Woman / Medley

That tracklist was shifted around a bit, and the final double-album configuration, dated January 30th, 1973, looked like:
Side A – Night Out / Get On The Right Thing / Country Dreamer / Big Barn Bed / My Love
Side B – Single Pigeon / When The Night / Seaside Woman / I Lie Around / The Mess
Side C – Best Friend / Loup / Medley
Side D – Mama’s Little Girl / I Would Only Smile / One More Kiss / Tragedy / Little Lamb Dragonfly

After a week of test listening, it was decided that a more concise (and thus more marketable) album was needed, and the material was paired down considerably.  A single-disc master was prepared on February 22nd, 1973, which included:
Side A – Big Barn Bed / My Love / Get On The Right Thing / Country Dreamer / Medley
Side B – Single Pigeon / One More Kiss / Night Out / Seaside Woman / Mama’s Little Girl / Tragedy / Little Lamb Dragonfly

After more tinkering, the final single-disc master was prepared March 26th, 1973:
Side A – Big Barn Bed / My Love / Get On The Right Thing / One More Kiss / Little Lamb Dragonfly
Side B – Single Pigeon / When The Night / Loup / Medley

Red Rose Speedway was released in April and although the critics were skeptical of the album’s lightweight whimsy, “My Love” became a number one single anyways.  Likewise, many fans claimed the album had potential but was missing something, although they couldn’t quite put their finger on it.  In hindsight, the nine tracks released only told half the story of Red Rose Speedway; the album is best heard in the session’s entirety, as its value is best understood as the sum of its parts.  While neither the released Red Rose Speedway nor the album's worth of outtakes are exceptional, when combined, it becomes an exceptional body of work.  While not a blockbuster, it shows a band with the audacity to defy critics with a double album no one really asked for; that, a massive underdog, is it's strength.  But how can we assemble this mess of three different sessions—four, counting the live tracks—into a sensible double LP? 

Analysis of the running order of both the December 13th and January 30th 2LP acetates show a clumsy construction, although they both contain a number of isolated ideas that we can adopt into our more cohesive Red Rose Speedway.  Firstly, we assign the notable rockers to begin each side of the double LP: “Big Barn Bed”, “Best Friend”, “I Lie Around” and “Night Out”.  Secondly, we assign the two mid-tempo rockers to end Sides A and C (”Get On The Right Thing” and “The Mess”) and the two epics to close Sides B and D (“Little Lamb Dragonfly” and The Medley).  Next, we disperse the songs led by the other members of Wings onto different sides of the album: Linda’s “Seaside Woman”, Laine’s “I Would Only Smile” and his vocal on “I Lie Around”.  Likewise, the two (mostly) instrumental tracks “Night Out” and “Loup” should be placed on separate sides as well.  Then we simply fill in the blanks, using some song pairs from both acetates that flow pleasantly, assembling four 20-minute LP sides.  

My Side A begins with what seems to be the keystone track of Red Rose Speedway, the country-funk rocker “Big Barn Bed”.  It is crossfaded (correctly, as opposed to the current remasters) into the hit single of the album “My Love”.  “When The Night” follows, flowing into “Seaside Woman”.  Closing the side is “Get On The Right Thing”, which features my own edit of the a capella ending from the rough mix, crossfaded from the standard album version, creating an interesting end to Side A.  Side B begins with “Best Friend”, followed by a grouping of the folkier tracks: “Tragedy”, “I Would Only Smile” hard edited into “One Last Kiss”, “Single Pigeon” and probably the best song of the set, “Little Lamb Dragonfly”.

Side C begins with the joyous “I Lie Around”, the only way to logically open the second disc, in my opinion.  One complaint Red Rose Speedway had earned is the lack of McCartney’s rock fare and its emphasis of lightweight pop and ballad.  To offset this, I’ve included “Hi Hi Hi” to give the second disc some punch; although not originally intended for Red Rose Speedway, it really does give it the mid-album jolt it needs.  To counter-balance this, I’ve edited nearly half of “Loup” down to merely a segue track into the fantastic live “1882”.  That song is crossfaded into “The Mess” to make a continuous live performance to close out the side, patching McCartney’s "The Mess" dialog from the 1996 remaster of Red Rose Speedway, which was mysteriously absent from the 2018 remaster.  Side D opens with “Night Out”, a fun, albeit pointless track.  Followed by the serene “Mama’s Little Girl” and jaunty “Country Dreamer”, the album closes with the only logical possibility:  The Medley.

Sources used:
Paul McCartney & Wings – Red Rose Speedway (1996 Steve Hoffman remaster)
Paul McCartney & Wings – Red Rose Speedway (2018 Delux Edition)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included