Paul McCartney
Wings Greatest
(EMI Paul McCartney Collection 89317)

You know the old joke where the young kid says "Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?" Well, nowadays the punchline would be more along the lines of "Paul McCartney was in a band after the Beatles?" Either way it's not a very good joke, but my point is that Wings is pretty much forgotten in today's classic rockified world, and Paul himself hasn't done all that much to preserve its memory. And should he? Would it be fair for future generations to bother unearthing Wings at the Speed of Sound or Red Rose Speedway? Are not some things better off dead, like in that one movie?

Wings Greatest makes a totally solid case for Wings as one of the best singles bands of the 70s (I'd still put the Bee Gees ahead of them), showing off the band's good side and none of the "Cook of the House" kind of crap. "Band," of course, is a relative term here, since Wings was basically just a logo (*memo to Loud Bassoon staffers – list idea: Best rock band logos of all time. Twisted Sister #1, Wings #2, etc.) and an excuse for Paul to deliver embarrassingly ballsy rock music as well as his usual ballads. Twelve cuts in all, most of them over-the-top, all of them memorable, none of them meaningful, many of them all but forgotten in the current musical climate with its Everclears and Eve 6's and Everythings and Everlasts. Seems like you can't get anywhere without an E in your name (E and the Eels being the exception, I suppose).

"Another Day" and "Uncle Admiral/Admiral Halsey" are technically pre-Wings tracks, but again, it's a semantic argument. Great pop songs is what matters, and that they are. "Silly Love Songs" is great, much better than anyone thinks it is when they just think about it apart from actually listening to it – in some ways it may be Paul's most honest song, a heartfelt defense of his own uncontrollable production of pure ear candy. The trademark Wings rock sound is in abundance – "Live and Let Die," "Junior's Farm," "Hi, Hi, Hi," and "Jet" – as well as the schmoozy side ("My Love," "With a Little Luck," "Let 'Em In," "Mull of Kintyre"). Loves 'em or hates 'em, you can't deny that these songs are pop perfection, and that McCartney in singles mode is a pretty amazing thing. You can definitely see how these songs would have driven John Lennon f**king nuts, but then keep in mind, at the time Lennon's post Beatle career had peaked in like 1971.

Separately, many of these songs are fair at best ("Hi, Hi, Hi" especially), but together it makes a pretty awesome package. The US release of All My Best duplicates most of the tracks on Wings Greatest and adds a bunch more (some good, some not so good), making this perhaps the most often passed-over major release in the McCartney catalog. But there must be a Wings renaissance afoot – can you imagine a single like "With a Little Luck" or "Mull of Kintyre" nowadays? A band daring to try that approach would win my utter respect and, of course, no fans.

Review by Ivan Loverling