There’s a lot of fun to be had putting together ranking lists as I have done before with The Beatles and Cream, so I thought I’d do the same again but with Wings. Wings are a band that some people make fun of these days but I personally love them, with McCartney continuing his excellent songwriting he started with The Beatles. The two bands can’t be compared for obvious reasons, but I love Wings and their seven albums, so here is my ranking from least favourite to favourite.
7. London Town
Starting with my least favourite is London Town released in 1978. While the album has a two or three songs that I really enjoy it’s not an album that I listen to a lot. It just doesn’t do much for me. The songs I do like are I’ve Had Enough, With A Little Luck and Backwards Traveller. As for the rest, I’m just not interested.
This is the only album by Wings that I tend to avoid apart from the songs I just mentioned. What’s even more disappointing is that the band had reverted once again to the trio of McCartney, McCartney and Laine just like on Band To The Run, but the outcome couldn’t have been more different. The songs are very middle of the road and uninspiring. Things would chance on their next and final studio album but for London Town, the band had run too far.
6. Wings At The Speed Of Sound
I’m almost ashamed to have this album so far down my list but given the pure excellence of every album that will follow I just had to put it at #6, and let me tell you why. Wings At The Speed Of Town is the album I listen to the least, after London Town that is. There are three or four songs I tend to listen to on repeat over and over again but as a whole album, from start to finish, it’s very hit and miss. There’s a reason for that.
On Venus and Mars, McCartney included two songs written by other band members. On Wings At The Speed Of Sound he included a double that, five if you include Cook Of The House by Linda. While that might not seem like a lot, it really is when those songs are utter garbage. I really hate saying that but it’s true. The only non-McCartney song on this album that’s remotely interesting is The Note You Never Wrote by Denny Laine and even then it’s a pain to get through. I’m not even going to mention the other tracks, they’re that bad. It’s extremely disappointing considering how great Venus and Mars is as an album.
The three great McCartney songs on this album Let ‘Em In, She’s My Baby and Silly Love Songs are three of the best songs he wrote with Wings but because of the reason stated above, I can’t have the album any higher.
5. Wild Life
This is where it starts to get difficult. The next three ranking positions were extremely hard to decide on but I finally went with Wild Life at #5. I really love this album but after McCartney’s 1971 solo album RAM it just doesn’t sound as good. There are a number of tracks I absolutely love but because the album was recorded so quickly and all live in the studio with some overdubs added later
That said, the songs on Wild Life are absolutely sublime. Out of the eight songs featured the first three, Mumbo, Bip Bop and Love Is Strange are the weakest in my opinion. They add to the overall feeling of the album but compared to the following five tracks they definitely could have been left off. I just with McCartney in particular had spent more time finishing the songs here because ultimately that’s where the album falls flat. The songs are great, but he needed to put more time into them to make them the best that they could be. Tomorrow is probably the closest song to perfection on Wild Life, and it’s my favourite song on the album, but I can only imagine how much better it would have been if McCartney had recorded the album like RAM or even McCartney.
4. Back To The Egg
At #4 lands their final studio album Back To The Egg from 1979. I really love this album and consider it the most underrated album in the entire Wings catalogue. After London Town a year earlier, the band found a new sound and direction with band members Steve Holley on drums and Laurence Juber on guitars. The music on Back To The Egg gives a clear indication of where McCartney would go musically in the 1980’s with focus shifting to powerful rock and away from more subtle songs found on previous albums.
Considering this would be their last studio album, Wings really went out on top. And just because the music probably can’t be compared to their prime years doesn’t mean this is bad, far from it. The songs are excellent. Sadly the album doesn’t get the attention that it deserves not only from fans of music in general but McCartney fans. Back To The Egg seems to be cast aside when looking at the entire Wings catalogue, but it deserves a lot more attention and love. The music, the songs, the songwriting and the band are on top form from start to finish.
3. Red Rose Speedway
In many ways, this album is more of a natural successor to RAM than Wild Life ever was. Two of the songs on this album, Get On The Right Things and Little Lamb Dragonfly, were actually from the RAM sessions as was Big Barn Bed which the band re-recorded for this album. There are a couple of songs I tend to skip but overall Red Rose Speedway is excellent.
It could have been better though if EMI had allowed it to be the double album that McCartney had wanted. Releasing it as a single album resulted in a number of tracks being cut and the original double album has never been officially released to this date. It’s something I hope they would fix with for the McCartney Archive Collection but to date Red Rose Speedway has remained overlooked. This is a real shame because the album is excellent as it is and they have the ability to now finally release a version which contains all the songs a double album would have had. One day maybe. Hopefully soon.
2. Venus And Mars
Venus and Mars from 1975 is an excellent album which continued the excellence found on Band On The Run and pushed it to a live setting which resulted in their Wings Over The World tour in 1975 and 1976. This album is exceptional and there is part of me that would want to put it at the very top of this list but sadly a couple of songs disrupt the natural flow of the album.
Those songs are the non-McCartney tracks on the album, beginning with Spirits Of Ancient Egypt by Denny Laine and ending with Medicine Jar by Jimmy McCulloch and Colin Allen. While Spirits Of Ancient Egypt is an enjoyable song it just doesn’t fit on the album in my opinion and the less said about Medicine Jar the better. You take away those two songs and the album rivals Band On The Run to the point where it might actually be better. McCartney’s songs on the album are absolutely sublime and further cement his position at the top of the all time great British songwriters list. What an album.
1. Band On The Run
At the top of my list sits Band On The Run, their 1973 album which was their third overall. Let’s be honest, no other album could top this list. While the previous two Wings albums, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, are great in their own way it wasn’t until this album that McCartney properly returned to his songwriting best. The overall sound of Band On The Run puts it above previous Wings albums too with the production being superb. McCartney had returned in spectacular fashion.
What makes this album truly great is the fact that there were only three members during the recordings sessions. Listening to the album it’s hard to imagine that only three people feature on it, with McCartney picking up a lot of the slack after the departure of drummer Denny Seiwell who had featured on the previous two Wings albums and guitarist Henry McCullough who played on Red Rose Speedway. That kind of dramatic departure of two members, especially a drummer, would have thrown any band off but that wasn’t to be the case here. McCartney was and still is a fantastic multi-instrumentalist so he took over drum duties on top of guitar, bass, vocals, piano and percussion. Denny Laine did too. Incredible. My favourite Wings album and their best.
Which order would you rank the Wings albums? Leave your answers in the comment section!
Stayed tuned for my next OPINION PIECE article.