Graded on a Curve:
Paul McCartney and Wings, Wild Life

Fans of Paul McCartney continue to be treated to a myriad of archival releases of solo and Wings music. CDs, expanded CDs, box sets, standard vinyl reissues and expanded vinyl reissues have recently been joined by the Paul McCartney Half-Speed Mastering Series.

These are single album vinyl releases, with no bonus materials, that faithfully replicate the original album’s art and packaging and are mastered using the bespoke audiophile mastering technique at Abbey Road studios. This series has so far yielded his debut solo album McCartney from 1970 and, from Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram from 1971. The newest in the series is Wild Life (Capitol), also released in 1971.

What distinguishes this release from the previous two is that it is a Wings album. This was the first album from the group, and is credited on this reissue to Paul McCartney and Wings. That group consisted of Paul, Linda, Denny Laine, formerly of the Moody Blues, and Denny Seiwell on drums.

This is also the first album in the series that did not use the original analog tapes for the remastering process but instead used a high-resolution transfer of those tapes. It’s not clear why the original tapes were not used, but the sound here is fine, and in fact the nature of some of the instrumentation may have even benefited from a more digital approach, if that’s possible.

Wild Life is one of those early McCartney albums that came shortly after the breakup of The Beatles and that was unfortunately not met with a warm welcome upon its release. Since he left The Beatles, it was the lowest charting album McCartney worked on from 1970 through 1981. It also was not an album generally liked by critics. Regardless, this is yet another excellent Wings album and one that offers a bounty of delights despite being barely longer than 35 minutes.

Five of the original eight tracks were recorded in one take, with the whole album taking one week to record. After rehearsals at McCartney’s home studio in Scotland, the album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and engineered by Alan Parsons and Tony Clark. Like his two previous releases, this album offers a more lo-fi approach and many songs are simple, both musically and production-wise. The second song here, “Bip Bop,” is one of those simple songs and like other songs of McCartney’s that have an almost childlike nursery rhyme feel, it was largely dismissed by critics.

The cover of the Mickey and Sylvia song “Love is Strange” is a pure delight and the group is clearly having fun with the song. The title track, a serious commentary on African ecology, is an entrancing song. “Tomorrow,” one of McCartney’s best early solo compositions, is a tuneful and catchy track that is often overlooked or forgotten due to being on an album that didn’t fare well on its initial release.

There are some wonderfully sweet songs here that McCartney clearly wrote about his marriage to Linda. This really is an album that sounds great all the way through and, like the previous two albums in this remaster series, really stands the test of time. Wild Life is an album that deserves some serious reconsideration.

Those who are fans of this album may want to check out other reissue editions of it. The 1993 CD reissue contains many extra tracks. The 2018 Archive Series included a 3CD/DVD box and a double-LP vinyl version. Any and all of these reissues are worth collecting.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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