Paul McCartney & Wings: Back To The Egg (1979)

Paul McCartney's 70s output, while at times worthy of the Beatle, could be erratic and unpredictable.  Ram is one of my favorite albums ever; Band on the Run is great, with Venus & Mars at time coming close; and I find 1978's London Town highly underrated.  But I find the two self-titled albums book-ending the decade, as well as Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway, and Speed of Sound, a little disappointing.

Back to the Egg, his final album with Wings (and particularly Denny Laine, his partner throughout the decade), seems to get less attention than some of the other records, almost like a forgotten corner of his vast discography, but I find it to be one of Paul's strongest post-Beatles albums.  It has a better ratio of solid songs to filler than some of his other work, and actually feels like the output of a full band giving the music their complete attention.  While sounding a bit out of place at the time of its release, firmly rooted in classic rock traditions at a time when punk and new wave had rendered it somewhat passé, that willingness to avoid wading into trendier sounds by a band ill-equipped to do so helps keep it from sounding dated today. 

"Getting Closer" is Macca at his pop best, hardly profound but simple and catchy; "Arrow Through Me" is an eerie track, some odd, jazzy blue-eyed soul, a lot more Hall & Oates than Beatles but still intriguing; while Laine's sole contribution, "Again and Again and Again," is as solid a track as Wings would ever have.  And "So Glad To See You" near the album's close is fun and engaging.  A few tunes see the band stretching a bit, more lively than they'd been in years, like the punchy "Spin It On" and the oddball but infectious "Old Siam Sir"; "To You" is in a similar bent, perhaps the closest they'd come to incorporating some new wave pop, if a bit less successful.

Of course, being a 70s McCartney album, there is some padding here, some better than others.  The upbeat instrumental "Rockestra Theme" is perfectly fine, a fun little rave-up (which included a who's who of guest stars, from Pete Townshend to David Gilmour, which seems a little wasted on a fairly basic instrumental track); but the slow, jazzy faux throwback numbers like "Baby's Request" are pretty far from essential, revisiting ground he'd more than adequately covered on Venus and Mars ("You Gave Me The Answer").

According to Wikipedia, this was trashed on its release (Rolling Stone called it "the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory"), which comports with my recollection, but I think it holds up better than contemporaneous reviews suggest.  Apparently it's due for a remastered deluxe edition, so I'm looking forward to that, as the Macca reissues to date have been pretty good, breathing new life into some often overlooked material.

Here's the video for "Again and Again and Again":
...and "Old Siam Sir":
Here's "Getting Closer":
... and "Arrow Through Me":
Last one; here's the "Rockestra Theme":

Comments


  1. This has long been one of my favorite entries in Paul's catalog. In part this was good timing where I was in my record buying life when it came out, but I revisit it far more often than most of his catalog. So delighted to see this get some much overdue love. Excited to see what treasures the reissue might hold.

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  2. I don't hold out much hope for the reissue adding much new music; after all, this is the guy who had a hid with the dreaded "Wonderful Christmastime," I can only imagine what his outtakes were like. But it could use some sonic clean-up. I wish they'd remaster London Town; I like that one a lot, but it sounds pretty thin (could just be bad production, though).

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