Linda McCartney’s “Wild Prairie” Reviewed
I reviewed Denny Laine at BB Kings earlier this week (here), and I’ve reviewed all of Wings albums over the past coupla years as part of my Paul McCartney project, so I figured I’d take a listen to the late Linda Eastman McCartney’s (the final Wing) Wild Prairie, a posthumous 1998 compilation of previously released songs with Linda taking lead and writing or co-writing everything except for the covers. Most of the songs come from the 1970s and 1980s, studio outtakes, on the road jams, a couple of pro-vegan tracks, a lot of quasi-domesticity with a homey feel, there are different genres, folk, pop, 50s pop. doo wop and the feel mostly veers between “Cook Of The House” (which is on it) and “Ob La Di Ob La Da” (which isn’t). Some of this was recorded as early as 1972, there’s even a song recorded during the Venus And Mars Sessions in 1975 (hardly surprisingly, “New Orleans”) and one from the year Linda died, 1998, “The Light From Within” co-written with Paul and featuring her son James on electric and acoustic guitar, and the least bathetic thing you’ve ever heard. Linda’s swansong was a smirk!
At first glance Wild Prairie feels like a vanity project, but then you remember that Linda had passed before it was released so maybe it was a cross between a remembrance of things past and a form of intense mourning from her widower. Linda’s voice was always slight, she was always there mostly because Paul needed her next to him, but she wasn’t without her charms. The sizzling opening to “Cook Of The House” was one of her pictures of her family’s domesticity come to life, “The White Coated Man” -a screed against animal vivisections co-written with Paul and “The Liver Birds” (a terrific Britcom) creator Carla Lane is a strong and dramatic track with an edge to it. “Mr. Sandman” was covered at a reggae lilt, not a big shocker because it was recorded in Jamaica, and the Coasters “Poison Ivy” might just about have squeezed by on Paul’s Run Devil Run.
Linda, like Yoko, had skills that existed apart from her husband, she was a gifted photographer, a tireless fighter for animal rights who made her own collection of vegan foods for the masses. She raised a wonderful brood of children. And she left behind a family and a world that continues to honor her memory. No, obviously, as a songwriter and as a musician she wasn’t Paul, but if you listen to “Cow” -an absolutely straight on tribute to the species we slaughter well beyond the scope of our ability to imagine, it has a McCartney guitar solo that is as good as any he has ever recorded… he doubles as the clearest tribute to his wife on the album.
Some of Wild Prairie feels a little amateur, the title track is a hoedown which lilts in a manner not really strong enough, but everything is saved by a lack of ego and all three covers, especially the fine “Sugartime,” where Paul sings background the way he once did for Lennon, is a wonderful thing. “Seaside Woman” is a charming theme from a short movie which bounces wonderfully. Along with “Cow” these three songs are reason enough for this album to exist even if you have no idea who she was. If you’ve loved her for a long time, it is terrific to hear Linda’s voice again, we miss her.