Run for the Roses – Paul McCartney & Wings “Red Rose Speedway” Hits 50/Looking Back at the 8-Track, CDs and to the Current 2023 RSD Vinyl Lp

This past week has really put me in a Paul McCartney mood.

Not only am I in a Paul McCartney mood but I’m in the mood for Paul McCartney from the 1970’s – Paul McCartney & Wings as a matter of fact.

You see last weekend I picked up the terrific RSD Half-Speed Mastered vinyl pressing of the second Wings album “Red Rose Speedway” and all week I’ve been binging on ’70’s McCartney music.

Fifty years ago today on April 30, 1973 Paul McCartney & Wings released “Red Rose Speedway” and it seemed to hit the public and critics in a better way than McCartney’s previous two albums “RAM” and “Wild Life”. A lot of that had to do I’m sure with the number one smash “My Love” but overall the album sounded more commercial than anything he’d released as a solo artist so far so that helped restore some of the negative attitudes toward McCartney at the time.

(Note: At the time of the release of “Red Rose Speedway” McCartney was being sort of persecuted in the press for being the one who broke up The Beatles and the negative reviews he suffered for his solo work in this period cast a pale on his music that even though it sold well was seen as a step down from his Beatles material)

That’s not to say that this album has been held in the same esteem as McCartney’s following albums “Band on the Run” and “Venus and Mars” as quite frankly “Red Rose Speedway” seems to be almost forgotten when people talk about McCartney’s solo career these days. And that’s too bad as I really enjoy this album and have played it more frequently then the “Band on the Run” album for example which is seen as the peak of McCartney’s solo career.

I came to “Red Rose Speedway” after having heard the “RAM” album but before discovering the “Wild Life” album. I happened on a used 8-track of “Red Rose Speedway” in the late 1970’s and found this album to be much like “RAM” as it’s a bit quirky and full of interesting and melodic tunes.

Since I loved the  “RAM” album it’s no surprise I took to “Red Rose Speedway” so quickly as two songs, “Get on the Right Thing” and “Little Lamb Dragonfly”, are actually leftovers from the “RAM” sessions.

To me the “Red Rose Speedway” album has always seemed  like a nice blend of the “RAM” and “Wild Life” albums but with a bit more commercial sounding songs. It has the quirkiness of “Wild Life” mixed with elements of sound paintings that fill the “RAM” album.

There’s a sparseness on songs like “Single Pigeon”, “One More Kiss” and “When the Night” much like the material on “Wild Life” plus the ultra quirky “Loop (1st Indian on the Moon)” plus the exquisite grandeur of “Little Lamb Dragonfly” and the pop confection of the medley “Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut” that both would have fit nicely on “RAM”.

Actually if you want to hear the way that “Red Rose Speedway” was originally envisioned as a two album set you need to check out the Paul McCartney Archive collection with either the 2 CD set or box set or 2 LP vinyl to hear the broad range of songs that would have made the album a much more diverse and interesting collection.

There’s a much more adventurous tone on the proposed 2 LP version of “Red Rose Speedway” than the released single album with songs like the instrumentals “Jazz Street” and “Night Out” plus the blistering live songs “The Mess”, “Best Friend” and the ominous and almost dirge like “1882”. Not to mention terrific songs like “Mama’s Little Girl” (another “RAM”– like song), the b-sides “Country Dreamer”and “I Lie Around” plus Wings superb cover of “Tragedy”.

My go-to version of  “Red Rose Speedway” is now the 2 CD version (see photos above) but the original album still holds a special place in my heart and is a McCartney album I still play a lot.

As far as CD versions of the original album go I’d say hands down the best sounding is the wonderful DCC gold disc version that simply does breath life into the album with nice rich bass and a clarity to the sound that other versions don’t capture. The original UK CD version is no slouch though either and the mastering on the Paul McCartney Archive collection is great too.

The only CD versions that aren’t quite as nice sounding are the original US Capitol CD and the 1993 remaster but frankly neither of those are bad really they are just bettered by the previously mentioned CDs.

And of course if you’re looking for a vinyl version of “Red Rose Speedway” then the current 2023 Half-Speed master on vinyl is one terrific sounding disc and if you can’t find an original UK vinyl version it’s probably the best vinyl version out there.

Well, that’s all for now.

Happy 50th “Red Rose Speedway” and as usual take a gander above and below at some of the different versions of the album in my collection and especially take note of the worn and torn 8-track that was my introduction to the album all those years ago.

Take care and be happy and well and see you soon!