Album Review: “Hot Hitz Kold Kutz” — Paul McCartney (Bootleg)

There’s a reason I haven’t delved too deeply into blogging about and reviewing the extensive multiverse of Paul McCartney bootlegs, mostly because there is simply no getting out of that particular rabbit hole.

I’m not kidding either. No matter what your opinion on McCartney’s solo material, there is no denying that the man’s output was nothing less than absolutely prodigious. Paul McCartney simply never stops writing, recording, producing, and creating music. We’re talking a massive volume of work that stretches well over 50 years. And no one, not even Sir Paul, can maintain that pace of production with consistent, top-shelf quality control.

For any musician, this leads to a boundless catalog of outtakes, demos, B-sides, session recordings, unreleased tracks, live-only performances… your basic “not part of the official catalog” laundry list of tunes, many of which have never seen the light of day. That is, until the professional bootleggers got their hands on them and disseminated the songs over a host of different releases throughout the decades. And now with the Internet being THE INTERNET, almost anyone with the desire and wherewithal can discover these treasure troves for themselves.

(Or they can wait for the inevitable Special/Deluxe/Expanded re-released albums, which often include some of this material. But never most, let alone all of it…)

Now as pertaining to McCartney, we’re talking about an artist who rose up in a recording era in which one would release both singles and albums, often entirely separate from each other. The Beatles did it all the time (hence the release of the “Past Masters” albums, which collected all their non-album singles from 1962 to 1970 as part of their “official catalog”). As a solo artist, he continued this trend. Singles like “Another Day”, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”, “Live and Let Die”, “Hi Hi Hi”, “Junior’s Farm”, “Spies Like Us”, “Mull of Kintyre”, the live version of “Coming Up”, and “Goodnight Tonight” were never included on any of his non-compilation studio albums. Some of them showed up on “Greatest Hits” packages, but most didn’t.

And singles that DID appear on his albums often had B-sides that never made another appearance anywhere. “My Love” was a big hit in 1973, but what of its B-side “The Mess”? The same with “Band On The Run” and “Zoo Gang”, or “Ebony and Ivory” and “Rainclouds”, or “Say Say Say” and “Ode to a Koala Bear”.

And let’s not even get started on the litany of tunes that were recorded and never officially released, period!

So as to not belabor the point any further, we can agree that Paul McCartney has a huge backlog of hard-to-find, unreleased, and often unrecognized music that, for Macca fans anywhere, definitely deserves a serious look-see. So let’s barely scratch the surface with Hot Hitz Kold Kutz, a very unofficial compilation based on an unrealized project which began in 1974. Back then McCartney had the idea to release a budget compilation record containing much of his unreleased solo material entitled “Cold Cuts”. Over the next decade-and-a-half of the “Cold Cuts” evolution, the project would be dismissed, reevaluated, modified, shelved again, revived, and finally abandoned in the late 1980s.

At one point in the late 70s, McCartney hatched the notion of pairing an album of his unreleased material and B-Sides with an album of his biggest hits, which he conceived as an album entitled Hot Hitz Cold Cuts. But EMI cooled on the project and instead released the Wings Greatest compilation in 1978, a collection of hit singles without any of the “leftover” B-sides and unreleased material.

Many bootleg Cold Cuts albums were released over the years, many of them with overlapping content and similar configurations, some of them consisting of strictly Paul McCartney material and others with content from Linda McCartney and/or Denny Laine, or even instrumental songs from the era. I’m going to focus on the one I’m most familiar with, the two-disc Hot Kitz Kold Kutz “Ultimate Archive” edition from Voo-Doo Records. So let’s go ahead take a look at this album, with a specific focus on the “Kold Kutz” material:

Disc One – “Hot Hitz”

1. Another Day
2. Silly Love Songs
3. Live And Let Die
4. Junior’s Farm
5. With A Little Luck
6. Band On The Run
7. Listen To What The Man Said
8. Coming Up
9. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
10. Hi, Hi, Hi
11. Let ‘Em In
12. My Love
13. Jet
14. Mull Of Kintyre

Disc Two – “Kold Kutz”

1. “A Love For You”
This was originally recorded during the Ram album sessions but never released. A 2002 remix saw daylight as part of the “The In-Laws” sound track album, and a 1986 remix was included on the 2012 Ram Archive Collection. “A Love For You” is a bouncy pop number and one of the best singles McCartney never bothered releasing. A shame, as plays to Paul’s strengths as a consummate pop single craftsman; it’s catchy, uptempo, melodic, and pure fun.

2. “My Carnival”
This Mardi Gras-inspired track was recorded in New Orleans during the Venus and Mars album sessions in 1975, it remained in the vaults until 1985, when it was released as the B-side to Paul’s last top 10 single to date, “Spies Like Us”. As a tune, it’s an enjoyable enough piece of repetitious fluff. Certainly not a standout track by any means, but it wouldn’t have been out-of-place as an acceptable piece of album filler.

3. “Waterspout”
While this synth-driven number might feel like something from the McCartney II era, it actually originates from the London Town sessions. This is another winning track from Paul. Its catchy island rhythms and Caribbean beats mesh well with the synth riffs and those inimitable vocal harmonies between Paul, Linda, and Denny Laine. It’s a shame that “Waterspout” has never been officially released in any capacity.

4. “Mama’s Little Girl”
Oh how I love “Mama’s Little Girl” so. It was recording during the Red Rose Speedway sessions, and promptly forgotten until 1990, when it was released as a B-side with “Put It There”. In 1993 it was included as part of the Wild Life re-release (under the “Paul McCartney Collection” brand). In my review of Wild Life, I espoused my love for this track as a spiritual mix of “Blackbird” and “Mother Nature’s Son”. I think that still holds up, but the song is derivative of neither. It stands well on its own as a man’s earnest love of his daughter and how much of his loving wife he sees in her.

5. “Send Me The Heart”
In 1974, Paul and Linda spent six-weeks living in Nashville, and brought their entire family and the members of Wings with them. They lived on a farm, rode motorcycles about town, went to Opryland, ate a bunch of KFC, and all this while Band On The Run was topping the charts. During that time Wings spent time at Sound Shop studio and recorded “Sally G.”, “Junior’s Farm”, “Bridge Over the River Suite”, “Hey Diddle”, “Wide Prairie”, “Walking in the Park With Eloise”, and “Send Me The Heart” — the latter of which was co-written and sung by Denny Laine. It’s a fine country tune from Denny, one that he would re-record and release as a solo single in 1980.

6. “Night Out”
This is a peculiar song, mostly an instrumental jam session in which Paul can be heard singing “Night out!” throughout the tune. It was recorded in 1972 and was to have been included as part of the proposed Red Rose Speedway expanded two-record LP, but since that record ended up as solely a single album affair, “Night Out” became another denizen of the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s an energized, uptempo, rocking bit of nonsense. It doesn’t offend, but it’s more of a footnote than anything else.

7. “Robber’s Ball”
I love “Robber’s Ball” so much I included it as part of my Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs playlist. Recorded during the Back To The Egg sessions in 1978, the song is all goofy, Broadway, spooky fun, a show-tune without a show, a bit of good-spirited pageantry and theatricality from Macca. The bouncy rhythms, singalong verses, and bawdy melodies are all deeply evocative of early Renaissance filtered through New Wave pop sensibilities. And it’s all great fun.

8. “Wide Prairie”
Recorded in Nashville in 1974, “Wide Prairie” was written by Paul and sung by Linda, and is a bit of a melange, mostly a western tune with a jazzy intro and outro. It would later be included, in an edited form, as part of Linda’s posthumous solo album. “Wide Prairie” is an odd duck. Linda was never much of a strong vocalist; her talents shone when blending her voice with Paul’s and Denny’s to create that inimitable “Wings” vocal sound. As a result, “Wide Prairie” is a bit of a fascinating curiosity of sorts, a souvenir of that 1974 Nashville experience. But to be fair, there are much better souvenirs of that period on this record.

9. “Cage”
Another refugee from the Back To The Egg sessions, “Cage” is a wonderfully glib, silly, melodic mix, a pop kitchen-sink of ear-pleasing musical fragments thrown together and turned into something weirdly enjoyable. It’s too bad it was left off the album entirely; I think Back To The Egg would have been a better record with a bit of “Cage”. And why call it “Cage”? Because the chords C, A, G, and E are predominantly featured throughout the tune.

10. “Did We Meet Somewhere Before”
Originally recorded for the Warren Beatty film ‘Heaven Can Wait’ during the Back To The Egg sessions, “Did We Meet Somewhere Before” a drippy, eye-rolling piece of MOR dreck. At a mere five minutes in length, it seems to go twenty-minutes too long. “Did We Meet Somewhere Before” feels like a fourth-rate Burt Bacharach tune that Dionne Warwick would belt out over the closing credits of a fifth-rate Dudley Moore film.

11. “Hey Diddle”
“Hey Diddle” is a throwback to the folksy, acoustic Paul McCartney from the McCartney and Ram albums, and was recorded during the latter album’s sessions, with further overdubs and recording in Nashville in 1974 to give it more of a country feel. The resort is a well-produced, sonically pleasing piece of enjoyment. It’s hardly a piece of lasting depth or significance, and the song does threaten to wear out its welcome around the 3 minute mark. But it’s still a fun little number.

12. “Tragedy”
Another potential contribution to the aborted two-LP Red Rose Speedway, “Tragedy” is a ballad written by Gerald Nelson and Fred Burch that Paul McCartney and Wings recorded in the early 70s. It’s a fine cover of a decent tune, and is probably better than much to be found on either Wild Life or Red Rose Speedway.

13. “Best Friend”
Wings toured the UK and Europe in the early 70s, and this version of “Best Friend” was recorded in Antwerp, Belgium on 8/22/1972. Clearly wearing its country-rock influence on its sleeve, “Best Friend” is a pretty winning number. Paul sounds strong and confident in his vocals, and the rest of the band sounds tight and focused on what is far from a throwaway number. It’s a shame this was never included on any official release.

14. “Same Time Next Year”
McCartney wrote this song for the 1978 Alan Alda/Ellen Burstyn movie of the same name, and apparently it was rejected for being a little too “giveaway” with its lyrics. Not a bad song for late 70s adult contemporary, “Same Time Next Year” has a slick sophistication that tends to scream “MOVIE THEME SONG!” even if you didn’t know it aspired to become one.

So… Hot Hitz Kold Kutz represents a pretty decent sampler into which you can begin your journey into the world of Paul McCartney bootlegs. Plus you get a bunch of greatest hits to go with it. Look at that selection! You get some of Macca’s best known tracks with a good selection of his 1970-1978 unreleased (or little known) material. I revisit this album often when I want a strong slice of 70s McCartney. As this is a bootleg, Hot Hitz Kold Kutz is a patently illegal release and as such, don’t pay a penny for it. Buy the official releases at every possible turn. When you’re ready to dig deeper, you’ll know where to go.

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