Musings on the byways of popular culture
20/08/2022 by Dave Ross 27 Comments
Dave Amitri on Wild Life
Dave Ross says
20/08/2022 at 11:53
OK, this didn’t seem to work today so I’ll leave it here…
Album three of my twelve McCartney album run brings me to Wild Life. The first made under the band name Wings as you’ll probably already know. I put out on Twitter that I’d given it a first listen and the response was mixed to say the least. The guys at Nothing Is Real are split. Steven replying “Sending thoughts & prayers at this difficult time.” While Jason replied “Wild Life is amazing! It’s the key to understanding solo Macca!” So I’ll be disagreeing with one of them.
Interesting that Jason used the term Macca. I’ve been thinking that Macca and Paul McCartney are two entities within the same artist. Macca overthinks, tries too hard, over performs. Paul McCartney on the other hand is instinctive, spontaneous, yet simple. I prefer Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney wouldn’t use Goon voices.
On to Wild Life. Only eight tracks with four on each side. This became relevant once I’d listened to it a few times. Side one is quite eclectic and messy jumping from one style to another while side two flows beautifully and has a very consistent style. It feels that while the random feel of McCartney and Ram is still there maybe some more thought had gone into its construction.
It opens with Mumbo which is great. I love it’s rawness. I’ve learned that some of the tracks on Wild Life were recorded live in one take. Mumbo is clearly one of them. A rip-roaring opener with McCartney screeching through the mumbo jumbo of made-up lyrics accompanied by some Linda woos and great playing. I’ll always love a hammond organ whether Steve Winwood or Mick Talbot it always seems to add. A start to shake any lethargy out of your system. Something I can imagine Dave Grohl covering as a huge McCartney fan. When I saw Foo Fighters live they got Alice Cooper on stage to do School’s Out. Maybe one day they’ll get Paul McCartney to join them for a romp through Mumbo. There’s a thought.
Macca raises his head on Bip Bop but the high of Mumbo makes sure it doesn’t irritate too much. A funny little song and because of the overall quality of Wild Life one I’m prepared to accept.
The mix of styles continues with Love Is Strange. Putting in a random reggae song could be seen as risky. Macca putting in a reggae song could be disastrous. Where would he take this? Can he keep Macca in check? You know what? He absolutely does. I really like it. Brilliantly played, understated and Linda’s interventions give it a really lovely laid-back feel. A shout out for the bass playing but the whole thing is pitched right for me. When reggae goes wrong it can be painful. They seem to get this absolutely right.
I’m not going to lie when I first heard the title track I wondered what the fuck was going on. Repeated listening though and the sheer brilliance of Wild Life came through. Ok, I concede the lyrics don’t stretch you too hard but the point is made and I absolutely believe McCartney’s emotional delivery over a waltz backing. Someone needs to do this on Strictly. The thought of Dave Arch and his band trying to get this right while a Z lister glides over the floor dressed as a giraffe makes me smile, just me then… Conservation taken on by an ex Beatle with such ferocity perhaps made a difference somewhere but it may have just passed people by which is a shame. The WWF could do worse than adopt it as a theme tune. It’s my favourite vocal performance so far. Once again Linda’s soft harmonies giving it a gorgeous calm to counteract McCartney’s angst. The guitar is perfect too. Perhaps someone can tell me if it’s Selwell or Laine. Either way I love it. Genuinely love it.
Side one is exciting in a way I didn’t realise McCartney was capable of. Side two is very different and I hear things that make me believe Justin Currie could be a fan of Wild Life.
Some People Never know sounds like a Beatles song to me but as I haven’t done The Beatles yet I can’t place it. It could be a song to The Beatles asking for forgiveness and accepting some fault? It could of course just be another Linda love song. I definitely hear some of the traits in Del Amitri that makes me love them so much. Whatever it is it’s a Paul McCartney song down to the last drop of the extended outro. It’s lovely and sets up the rest of side two perfectly.
I Am Your Singer I imagine upsets some people. It’s a bit trite and has heavy Linda involvement but it also has a lovely West Coast feel, some flute and more of those harmonies that hit my musical sweet spot. “You are my song, I am your singer” is such a great line but equally I understand it could grate. It should probably annoy me but all the other parts make it a sweet, gentle breeze of a song that just soothes.
Tomorrow is everything I was saying in the introduction about the difference between Paul McCartney and Macca. It’s another love song, about going on a picnic at the weekend. Full of great couplets that had he gone full Macca could have been overdone and unpalatable. This is done so well that “Honey, pray for sunny skies so I can speak to rainbows in your eyes” doesn’t felt too twee. This consistent stylised Paul McCartney is working for me.
So after all that he comes at you with Dear Friend. This sparks so much in me that I need to try and break it down into parts. The piano intro is straight off Justin Currie’s solo album What is Love For an album as important to me as any Del Amitri album. The extraordinary If I Ever Loved You along with the gut wrenching Where Did I Go? both use that heavy single note piano style. Each note hammering home the upcoming sadness. McCartney uses it here first to great effect. His stretching for the high notes adding to the emotion. At about 3.50 in there’s a crash followed by a milli seconds silence which happens during Where Did I Go? and has exactly the same striking effect. I’m going to post it here if you’re interested. In a weird quirk Currie often cites McCartney and Gilbert O’Sullivan as influences. As if to reinforce the sense of familiarity I get from Dear Friend some of McCartney’s woos and oos and the way he sings “truly” and “newly” are straight off O’Sullivan’s Himself. It’s all eerily familiar and wonderful. Macca could never make a song this beautiful. Paul McCartney and Wings have created an absolute classic that has become an instant favourite of mine
Where Did I Go? – Justin Currie
Obviously, I have come down on team Jason concerning Wild Life. Apologies Steven but you are clearly wrong 😊. I think it’s wonderful. Is it possible that in the band environment Macca is kept under control while Paul McCartney does what he does best? Working with the two Denny’s perhaps kept him focussed on the songs? Denny laine by the way was a bit of a local celebrity when I was younger owning a house in Laleham, Surrey just a 10-minute cycle from my house on the way to the river. I know nothing more about him than that but I do now wonder what his influence was because following my frustrations with McCartney and Ram Wild Life has exceeded all my expectations. I have to say as well that Linda absolutely adds to the whole thing providing a delightful contrast which would absolutely diminish many of the song’s quality if not there. I nearly even picked up a vinyl copy the other day. This is getting serious and I’ve got 9 albums to go…
20/08/2022 at 12:02
Dear @mod-team-2 if you’re able to fix whatever glitch I’ve caused I’d be very grateful 🙏 Thanks
Mod Team says
20/08/2022 at 13:40
Sorry Dave but can’t work out what’s happened there or correct it. Doesn’t seem to be doing any damage, so we’ll have to leave it as it is.
20/08/2022 at 20:01
No worries. Thanks 🙏
20/08/2022 at 12:04
Wow! I didn’t expect that. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a generous review of this album. Well done.
20/08/2022 at 20:02
Thanks. I just think it’s really good*
*Exceot Bip Bop
20/08/2022 at 12:12
Excellent! I probably don’t like it as much as you do, but it is often underestimated and contains several excellent songs (Mumbo not being one of them 😉 ). My main problem with it is the songs go on way too long. And you should really cover the 3 following non album singles as this album didn’t contain any.
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Mary Had a Little Lamb/Little Woman Love
Hi Hi Hi/C Moon
20/08/2022 at 12:40
Oh and it’s actually credited to just “Wings”, after it’s commercial failure they moved to “Paul McCartney and Wings” for the next 2
20/08/2022 at 20:03
Yes I know I must and I will. I’ll get back to you 👍
Posted the wrong Justin Currie song too. The gods must be angry that i like Wild Life…
Diddley Farquar says
20/08/2022 at 12:47
It says something when a McCartney album has no hit singles on it. It has it’s moments but I agree there are songs that are too long. Also something of a lethargic feel. At least Bip Bop has some life in it.
20/08/2022 at 20:04
And it was still only 1971. Amazing really.
20/08/2022 at 20:28
Thanks for these reviews. I look forward to them. A fresh take on familiar albums even if I don’t always agree. They are a pleasure to read. I hope they can continue beyond Macca/McCartney.
Junior Wells says
20/08/2022 at 12:55
Never a fan of Sir Thumbs solo, I never heard this album til a few months ago. I liked it quite a lot, nice lose feel, bit of an African groove. That some Some People Never Know has been slated as smug but it is my favourite
Glad to have found another fan. All of side two is great
Vulpes Vulpes says
20/08/2022 at 16:41
Really glad you liked this Dave! So did I – I even went out and bought the little sheet music book for the album that they put out at the same time – and i still have that.
20/08/2022 at 20:05
Cheers Foxy. Another fan, excellent. Did you learn to play Amy of the songs?
21/08/2022 at 17:36
Fifty years ago, yes. Fifty years later, and the passage of time has twisted my muscle memory to the extent that a G and a D is about all I can manage. So it’s Wings, bluegrass style, from now on.
Rigid Digit says
20/08/2022 at 20:47
Never heard this one, but you’re write-up makes me want to explore.
I’ve taken a little step in, but not convinced yet.
Am I right in saying this one wasn’t a big seller compared to McCartney and Ram, and EMI were starting to get a bit impatient for a commercial return from an ex-Beatle
20/08/2022 at 20:52
This one was credited to Wings. The next two, in an attempt to attract more attention, were credited to Paul McCartney and Wings.
Moose the Mooche says
20/08/2022 at 21:00
He clearly wasn’t having it though, because he brught Wings back, big style.
20/08/2022 at 22:02
By then, even the record company knew Wings = Paul McCartney (ex-Beatle).
Blue Boy says
20/08/2022 at 20:55
Great review Dave, thanks. I like the sound of Wild Life – it feels like McCartney and the band are enjoying creating a groove on tracks like Mumbo and Bip Bop, and indeed Love is Strange which is more of a jam than a performance of the song. The playing is great, especially McCartney’s bass which is magnificent. I just wish the actual songs were better.
21/08/2022 at 04:37
I like that version of Love Is Strange. Another song mocked in reviews.
eddie g says
24/08/2022 at 08:01
Interesting review of what is generally considered to be one of Macca’s weakest outings.
27/08/2022 at 22:07
Sorry…late again Dave…! I will keep up in future. I always really, really, struggled with this album, so much so that I hadn’t played it for ages until today. I bought it cheap a few years ago just as a completist and to also try to understand what people saw in it, but I never got over the crashing disappointment of this after Ram – coming back to it hasn’t helped rid me of that feeling – the songs are largely extended for far too long and are tune free….and why cover Love is Strange..?! I always thought that it was a bit of a reaction to the rawness of the Plastic Ono Band album – it’s like he’s trying for that shock value with some of the vocals, and the cover is surely a reflection of the Lennon sleeve..? They were busy knocking lumps out of each other at the time. I have also often commented that it is, inevitably, different to listen to these records for the first time with a modern ear, whereas my experience was hearing this in real time and in the context of the surrounding music and culture in 1971 – there was a lot better in that year! – but I do know this album divides the crowd like no other McCartney album, and I do understand the reasoning, even if I can’t agree…! Carry on with the journey…plenty more bumps in this particular road.
03/09/2022 at 21:13
Just watching the Taylor Hawkins tribute with Paul McCartney actually joining Dave Grohl on stage. They did Helter Skelter. Obviously I’d hoped they’d do Mumbo….
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