Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Paul McCartney & Wings - Water Wings

Paul McCartney & Wings planned on doing in 1977 what they had done in most of 1975 and 1976: tour all over the world, whilst recording some material here and there, just like they had done with the Wings At The Speed of Sound album. But those plans went down the toilet when Linda McCartney discovered she was pregnant in February, '77, canceling the tour and forcing the band to focus on the studio. By then, they already had tracked some songs at the Abbey Road Studios (with "London Town", "Deliver Your Children", and "Girl's School" being recorded), and decided to do something unusual: they would record while sailing in the Virgin Islands, aboard the Fair Carol yatch, and the next Wings album would be apropriately titled "Water Wings". As they stayed there, from May to June, they recorded about nine songs, which would all but one appear on the "London Town" album, but not all was well in the band: Jimmy McCulloch was frustrated with his low input on the group and the fact that they weren't a "rock band" anymore, and Joe English (the only American, along with Linda, in the group, ironically) was homesick and simply fed up with Paul's antics. Those frictions would cause both members to leave, reducing Wings into a three piece again, for the first time since Band on The Run. After arriving at London once again, the three left put the finishing touches into "Mull of Kintyre", and released it as a single, with "Girl's School" as a B-Side. It was simply the biggest selling single in the history of the UK by then, breaking the record that the very Beatles had set with "She Loves You".
One would think that the obvious thing to do would be release the Water Wings album soon after the single, with the two songs in it, to take advantage of it's success, right? Wrong. Paul, Linda & Denny spent the rest of the year overdubbing things, and recording new songs (such as "Name and Address" and the horrible "Cuff Link") to a already finalized project, and due to that, it changed completely, and not for good. Even it's title had to change: Water Wings became London Town. The finalized result was kind of a mess: the songs didn't fit well, and the single's A and B side were nowhere to be seen, and oh boy, they are missed. London Town is a lost opportunity at most, and in my humble opinion, Water Wings would be a great improvement compared to it's released counterpart. So let's try it out? Considering all recorded within the Abbey Road, Fair Carol and Aug.'77 sessions, we have 12 songs, about enough to fill up an album. Three tunes were recorded in Abbey Road (Deliver Your Children, Girl's School and London Town), one in August (Mull of Kintyre), and the rest in the Yatch. Most songs are great, with the notable exception of "Morse Moose and The Grey Goose", which I'd rather ignore completely on this reconstruction, because honestly, it sucks. So let's ignore it, shall we? With 11 good or regular tunes, I came up with this tracklist:

Side A
  1. I've Had Enough
  2. Café on the Left Bank
  3. Deliver Your Children
  4. London Town
  5. Famous Groupies
  6. Mull of Kintyre
Side B
  1. Girl's School
  2. With a Little Luck
  3. I'm Carrying
  4. Don't Let it Bring Down
  5. Waterspout

The album starts in a rocking fashion, with "I've Had Enough", originally occuping the spot of last tune in side A of London Town, it's a nice tune, and starts the LP well, followed by the synth-full "Café on The Left Bank", one of the highlights of the original album. Denny's "Deliver Your Children", the third tune in side A, is simply brilliant, a little folk-rock wonder, that along with songs like "Don't Let It Bring You Down" gives Water Wings it's flair of folk. Originally the title track, London Town here is track no.4, and is pretty similar to "Café..." in the sense of being shockfull of Synths. Probably the weakest tune on the album, "Famous Groupies" is still pretty funny, and as probably the rest of the album, is shadowed by the following track: Mull of Kintyre. One of Paul's greatest songs, it was placed on the end of the side because I consider it to bea great closing song. Side B starts with the B side (no pun intended) from the single, "Girl's School", third and last Abbey Road tune, adds a little bit more of rock n' roll to this album, something it's lacking. The second was-to-be single, "With a Little Luck" is a great pop tune, with some of i's highlights being the instrumental section in the middle, so I won't use the single edit. Song no.3 is I'm Carrying, a great acoustic tune (caught in one take), that features a little thingy called the Gizmo, that isn't really that necessary, and I wish it was guitar only. But a great song, anyway. The second to last tune is "Don't Let it Bring Down", another great song, with some touches of folk, as mentioned with "Deliver Your Children". We finish off the album with "Waterspout", originally an outtake of LT, it is a great little pop-rock song, a little bit of fun to finish the album.
Compared to it's released counterpart, it is the stronger one, mainly due the the inclusion of "Mull of..." and "Girl's School" (and the exclusion of "Morse Moose and..."!), adding some depth to a confusing and messy album. It is also the last album to feature their "classic", in my opinion, line-up, something ignored in LT's cover, only featuring the three left, something corrected here. It would be ranked higher in Paul's discography, I think. It is more concise (45 minutes, versus London Town's 53), and has better material, and would have been released in about October '77, soon after the "Mull of Kintyre" single, which compared to April '78 would sound fantastic. It would have yet another single, as well as the mentioned above, that is, "With a Little Luck". Both would chart the same way they did in real life: be smash hits. If London Town is expanded, like Venus and Mars and other albums that got deluxe editions, we may get a version of the album compiled by the man himself! And maybe we will get some stuff that would improve the album such as the rocking version of "Famous Groupies" and the guitar-only version of "I'm Carrying". The only curious thing is that Linda doesn't have a lead vocal in this album, something rare by the time, but she did record a song: "B Side to Seaside", it is the flipside of "Seaside Woman", recorded in 1972, and it only features Paul, playing all instruments, so it isn't a Wings tune per se. Clocking at about 45 minutes with even-timed sides, it would have a greater sound quality due to the LP only managing to record properly about 48 minutes, seen that the London Town album clocks at 53. Any thoughts? Criticism, requests, anything at all is welcome. Be sure to make any change you want to the tracklist, and see you next post!

Link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ylpd6lljhvp2cm3/AACyPEKcTBCYSGQ653Bn2bSqa?dl=0

Sources:
- London Town
- Mull of Kintyre/Girl's School (single)
- Cold Cuts (bootleg)

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