At the Speed of Sound (1976)


 
1. Let Em In 2. The Note You Never Wrote 3. She's My Baby 4. Beware My Love 5. Wino Junko 6. Silly Love Songs 7. Cook of the House 8. Time to Hide 9. Must Do Something About It 10.San Ferry Anne 11.Warm and Beautiful 12.Walking in the Park With Eloise * 13.Bridge on the River Suite * 14.Sally G * * CD Bonus Track

 

I don't know my history all that well, but it wouldn't surprise me if, saleswise, this was the most popular solo album in the history of the ex-Beatles. It sold incredibly upon release, yet most of the critics seemed to pan it - both then and now. This is a very "happy" album, and let's face it, a lot of music connoisseurs, especially critics, don't like happy albums. In other words, if you prefer some of John Lennon's "angrier" work, you should definitely take a pass on this release.

Speaking of John Lennon, it's interesting to note that the biggest song on this album (and the best selling Paul McCartney single ever) was a response to not only this situation, but the accusation from Lennon himself, who criticized his ex-bandmate for wanting to fill the world with "Silly Love Songs". You can figure out the rest of the story on your own. Ironic because this entire album seems to be about songs that might not necessarily be silly, but songs that really aren't meant to be taken too seriously to begin with, yet Paul McCartney (and Wings) deliver the goods like no one else can. The other number one song, Let 'Em In received similar criticism. It does sound like the perfect song for fifth graders to march around to during an assembly. The only song that doesn't really fit into the happy-poppy mood would be the excellent Beware My Love that deserves to be remembered more than it actually is.

Like the last Wings album before it, this album has a bit of a "group" feel to it, other members writing and singing a bit, yet this album is definitely Paul McCartney. You can't help wonder if he was pushing his band members in the direction that he would have wanted to go by himself anyway. Every song on here sounds like Paul could have written and sang it even if he didn't, so don't really be fooled into thinking this is really a "group" effort. There are a couple of instances where someone other than Paul is singing, yet if you weren't listening too closely, you might not be able to tell. Witness the second song The Note You Never Wrote, even though it's not Paul at the mike, it definitely could be, and it almost makes you wonder why he didn't go ahead and sing it anyway. Same could be said for the silly (yet catchy) Wino Junko.

Linda gets to sing lead on Cook of the House, and it's definitely the weakest link here. Fortunately it's barely two and a half minutes long and easily dismissible. Perhaps if she was a better singer it could have held up a bit better. The rest of the album is pretty much the same formula - very light, but very pleasing pieces. The album closer Warm and Beautiful is McCartney crooning a love ballad at the piano that also deserves to be remembered as one of his best, but sadly, it's an overlooked pieces in his catalog.

Depending on your feel for the original album, the bonus tracks included in the CD release either made you like the album better, or hate it worse. Since I'm a member of the "former" group, I'm happy they were included. Two of them anyway. One, Walking in the Park with Eloise is actually penned by Paul's father and his a very different, jazz-like tune that makes it easily identifiable, that, yes, musical talent is hereditary. The other surprise is the country-western-ish Sally G which is a bit tongue and cheek, but manages to please those that appreciate such things.

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