Classic Rock Review

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Paul McCartney Wildlife (1971)


This marks the beginning of Wings even though it’s pretty much universally understood that it’s really just a cute name for McCartney’s solo career. Well, Denny Laine was the lead guitarist and the only static member of the group apart from Paul and his wife. I suppose this new collaborative environment meant that McCartney didn’t personally work on it nearly as hard as he did on his stellar Ram. The arrangements aren’t nearly as polished an intricate and there are way fewer melodies and innovative ideas.

It’s a big step down from Ram on nearly all faces. Even when you factor in the expectancy that any follow-up album would pale, it’s a pretty significant step down. Though naturally, it being the early ‘70s and Paul McCartney, you’ve got to expect that it remains an all-around good album. The melodies are McCartnian, after all.

Oh, but how insignificant some of these songs are! They embody what many reviewers were chastising Ram for: Throwaway and trivial. It’s even worse than McCartney, which he tossed off quicker than a Roger Corman movie! … Something bad happened in McCartney’s world for Wild Life to turn out this complacent.

The album opens with “Mumbo,” a nice rock groove and a fun lead vocal performance (a take-off on Lennon’s vocal styling from “Mother”). It’s really nothing more than that, but I enjoy it at least! Another Lennon-related track is the stellar “Dear Friend,” which features not just a good melody but very heartfelt lyrics. Surely, that’s the highlight of the album. “Bip Bop” is a take-off on country-bumpkin music and really has a tendency to annoy me.

“Love is Strange” starts out as a reggae-ish groove, but turns out to be a solid cover of a Micky & Sylvia 1957 hit. I very much enjoy the melody on “Tomorrow.” It’s another sweet and unpretentious song that seems to embody McCartney’s signature default mode (that’s better than being ugly and depressing like Neil Young, I say). The title track is a six-minute animal rights bit… Forgive him for the lyrics and concentrate on the catchy melody and remarkably soulful vocal performance!

I have no doubts that the worst song in the album is “I Am Your Singer.” It’s somehow more trite sounding than even “Bip Bop,” and the instrumentation is also rather uninspired. Though considering that song isn’t bad just goes to show that Wild Life is actually a *good* album even though I understandably tended to focus on the negatives. Yeah, it’d be awhile before McCartney would actually start sucking.

The bonus tracks are definitely worth hearing. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” might be a protest song, but at least the melody is catch! Even better, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is a sweetly melodic rewrite of the old nursery rhyme. Sure, it’s corny, but that’s the point. I also adore the utterly sentimental ballad “Mama’s Little Girl.” Geez, if you still think McCartney didn’t care about his music, ever, then you haven’t heard that one. It’s so charming!

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Paul McCartney Wildlife | | Leave a comment