Rightly or wrongly, Paul McCartney’s music will always be measured against that of the Beatles, and will always be found wanting. Yet over the last three-plus decades, Paul McCartney and Wings have produced a fair amount of pop/rock when taken on its own terms.
The Venus And Mars album, released in 1975, was the second of four consecutive Number One, platinum-selling albums and is part of the five year period that represents the apex of McCartney’s commercial appeal post-
1974’s Band On The Run was more of a solo effort by McCartney, who played many of the instruments, wrote the songs, oversaw production and so on. The additions of Jimmy McCullough on lead guitar and Joe English on drums for Venus And Mars allowed Denny Laine to switch to bass. Linda McCartney would continue to contribute on keyboards, while Dave Mason, Alan Toussaint and Tom Scott were imported for additional support.
This allowed Venus And Mars to have a real group feel, more so than the 1972 Wild Life album that allegedly did the same, but never felt like it. More importantly, McCartney was freed up to concentrate on writing, vocals and production — which is good, as his strongest suit has always been his songwriting.
The disc has somewhat of a theme of the two plants (Venus is Linda and Mars is Paul, maybe?). The opening title tune slides into “Rock Show,” while a reprise of “Venus And Mars” reappears later. It would have been interesting if the theme would have been woven throughout the album.
Yet there is a lot of good here. “Listen To What The Man Said” was a Number One single hit in the United States and presents McCartney at his best. His vocals are out front with minimalist musical background. “Letting Go” is similar, but the song is not as strong, while”Medicine Jar” — with vocals by McCullough — has a nice bluesy feel. “Call Me Back Again” has a 60’s soul sound and is another highlight.
As with most Wings albums, Venus And Mars remains pleasant and somewhat interesting but not essential. Its legacy, then, is that of a good album from a very productive period in Paul McCartney’s solo career.