Wings at the Speed of Sound has always been there for me. I bought it in 1976 when it first came out (back when you could get a single vinyl LP on sale for $3.99!), and though it wasn’t as good to me then as Venus and Mars was, it was still “the new McCartney album” so it was hard to find too much fault with it. Over the years it has gone up and down in my estimation, but recently some interesting – dare I say, mysterious – facts have come to light. I’ll share those in a few paragraphs.
You can say how lightweight you think this album is, but if you do you’re only thinking of the hit singles (“Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In”) and not the stellar album tracks such as “Beware My Love” (still my fave on WATSOS), “Time to Hide” and even Linda McCartney’s “Cook of the House.” Here we have an album where Paul McCartney was sharing the lead vocals with the band (even drummer Joe English gets a shot in “Must Do Something About It”), and using the horn section he first put together for Venus and Mars and Wings’ 1975 tour to great success. This in turn fed the tour of 1976 that resulted in the 3LP Wings Over America. I won’t go as far as to say that this is classic McCartney but it’s certainly standing there waiting on the porch to get into the house.
Now, here’s what’s amazing about Wings at the Speed of Sound to me. I learned a few years ago when I first started dating my wife Sarah that “Silly Love Songs” was #1 the week she was born. That’s super cool! (Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away Little Girl” was my birthweek #1 – ugh.) When I finally got this deluxe book edition, which comes with 2 CDs, a DVD and a real sweet book with great photos and lots of facsimile concert tickets, song lyrics, etc., I learned something even cooler. Turns out, according to the notes in the book here, that Wings began recording “Silly Love Songs” on my birthday, January 16, 1976. Whoa! If that’s not some kinda prophecy or whatever from Sir Paul then I don’t know what is! And did I mention that Sarah did a painting for me a year or so ago that she titled “Wings at the Speed of Sound”? Yep. Take a look right here.
Paul McCartney’s Archive Series has had some great entries – Band on the Run, Ram and Wings Over America being top dogs – but I can’t say that WATSOS is one of them. It’s not exactly substantial in terms of bonus tracks (there’s got to be more early versions, demos, rough mixes, etc. they could have used), though there is a version of “Beware My Love” with John Bonham on drums. The book has lots of great photos and is laid out nicely. The CDs sound great. The DVD, though, is pretty short, with just one music video (“Silly Love Songs”) and two short documentary films that only the most die-hard Macca fan would watch more than once. Yet it’s clear that this album now has an even more special place in my heart that I never would have figured on way back when.
3.5/5 (Hear Music, 2016)