Paul McCartney and Wings – Red Rose Speedway

More Paul McCartney

Red Rose Speedway

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  • This early British EMI pressing has stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – respectable vinyl too
  • This copy has the sound we look for in a ’70’s McCartney record – the size, the weight, the energy, the vocal presence, they’re all here
  • “Red Rose Speedway winds up being a really strange record… [it’s] every bit as insular as the lo-fi records of the early ’90s, but considerably more artful, since it was, after all, designed by one of the great pop composers of the century. …McCartney’s little flourishes are intoxicating — not just the melodies, but the facile production and offhand invention.” 

We have not had particularly good luck with the domestic pressings we’ve tried. The Brits are the only ones that, to our ears, seem to be made from the real tape.

Complete with the full-color 12-page booklet of photos and lyrics.

What the best sides of this McCartney Album from 1973 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we listed above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a 70’s Pop Rock record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording.

Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of what we were listening for when evaluating Red Rose Speedway.

Clarity and Presence

Many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids. Dull, dead sounding pressings can’t begin to communicate the musical values in this excellent recording.

With a real Hot Stamper the sound is totally involving. There is breath in the voices, the picking of the strings on the guitars — these things allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it’s a recording we’re listening to and not living, breathing musicians.

Top End Extension

Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the percussion can’t extend up and away from the other elements. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the mix.

Transparency

Although this quality is related to the above two, it’s not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really “see” into the mix, it’s much easier to pick out each and every instrument in order to gain more insight into the way the songs were arranged and recorded.

Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies is to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the engineers.

This is an area where Heavy Vinyl fails more often than not. Modern remastered records are just so damn opaque. That sound drives us to distraction when it doesn’t bore us to tears.

Bass

No rock or pop record without good bass can qualify as a top quality Hot Stamper. How could it? It’s the rhythmic foundation of the music, and who wants a pop record that lacks rhythm?

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Big Barn Bed 
My Love 
Get On The Right Thing 
One More Kiss 
Little Lamb Dragonfly

Side Two

Single Pigeon 
When The Night 
Loup (1st Indian On The Moon) 
Medley (Hold Me Tight, Lazy Dynamite, Hands Of Love, Power Cut)

AMG Review

Red Rose Speedway winds up being a really strange record, one that veers toward the schmaltzy AOR MOR (especially on the hit single “My Love”), yet is thoroughly twisted in its own desire toward domestic art. As a result, this is every bit as insular as the lo-fi records of the early ’90s, but considerably more artful, since it was, after all, designed by one of the great pop composers of the century.

Yes, the greatest songs here are slight — “Big Barn Bed,” “One More Kiss,” and “When the Night” — but this is a deliberately slight record (slight in the way a snapshot album is important to a family yet glazes the eyes of any outside observer). Work your way into the inner circle, and McCartney’s little flourishes are intoxicating — not just the melodies, but the facile production and offhand invention.

If these are miniscule steps forward, consider this: if Brian Wilson can be praised for his half-assed ideas and execution, then why not McCartney, who has more character here than the Beach Boys did on their Brother records? Truthfully.