As Paul McCartney enters 10th year with current band, he reflects on touring with the Beatles and Wings

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Paul McCartney has been playing with his current touring group for 10 years, longer than any other amalgam — including the Beatles and Wings. “That’s long enough,” McCartney says, “to make us a proper band.”

So what makes this lineup — including guitarist Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., guitarist Brian Ray and longtime keyboardist Wix Wickens — so special?

“They’re such a pleasure to play with,” McCartney told Billboard. “We all enjoy each others’ company and the musicianship.”

Having that chance to develop a sound on the road, McCartney said, “has given this current group its own unique dimension: “All three bands are completely different,” McCartney said. “The Beatles, in the early days, it was learning, in places like Hamburg and Liverpool, and it developed into a complete phenomenon. And that was a very special time and thing, which was mostly enjoyable but got a little difficult when you couldn’t hear the things you were doing. And then, later, Wings went through the same kind of thing — a learning curve — and then we got it together, and that was really very enjoyable, because … we got really good. Now with this band, again the same thing, over the years we’ve sort of got ourselves to a good point. So they’re all completely different, but all bands I’ve been privileged to have been in.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: S. Victor Aaron, Nick DeRiso and Beverly Paterson reconsider ‘Back to the Egg,’ with a track-by-track review of this overlooked gem from Paul McCartney and Wings.]

McCartney said a new tour behind his latest standards release — Kisses on the Bottom, which features the Diana Krall jazz band — is still at the planning stage. In the meantime, McCartney has continued writing songs, and has every intention of touring with his regular working group again soon.

“We’ve just been playing great, enjoying our audiences, we’ve just got a good feeling going,” McCartney said. “That’s special; you can’t beat that.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Paul McCartney, Wings and the Beatles. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – BAND ON THE RUN (1973; 2010 reissue): A terrific reissue that reveals this anew as the most personal of McCartney recordings — though, even now, the album’s unifying theme of escape is more subtle (and thus more commercial) than the blunt confessional style of his former partner John Lennon. McCartney, instead, uses broader storytelling brushstrokes — skillfully weaving his own desire to break free of the Beatles with the age-old myths of ne’er-do-wells, hitchhikers and outsiders. No McCartney effort yet has taken so many chances, nor so successfully blended his interests in the melodic, the orchestral, the rocking and the episodic. In keeping, of the Beatles solo recordings, Band on the Run always sounded the most to me like something the old band might have put together.

ONE TRACK MIND: LAURENCE JUBER ON PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS, AND AL STEWART: You’ll go inside some of the key moments from Juber’s 1978-81 tenure with McCartney, including three cuts from 1979’s Back to the Egg and the 1980 charttopping single “Coming Up.” We also find out more about Juber’s initial foray into fingerstyle composing, and his career intersection in the 1990s with British folk revival star Al Stewart, who had seen both Year of the Cat and Time Passages and their title tracks go Top 10 between 1976-78.

GIMME FIVE: RINGO STARR SINGING SONGS BY THE OTHER BEATLES: As with the decades-old hit solo album for which it’s named, Starr’s Ringo 2012 includes an array of name guest stars. Unfortunately, unlike 1973’s Ringo, none of those friendly assists come from his fellow ex-Beatles. Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are fine, and all. But the truth is, the combination of Starr and material written by Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison has provided Ringo with many (some might say most) of his career highlights. Here’s our take on the Top 5 — with five more honorable mentions.

PAUL McCARTNEY – KISSES ON THE BOTTOM (2012): This is not just a love letter to a lost era of songmaking, but one of the most evocative, deeply ardent records that McCartney has ever issued. Working in a higher vocal range that remains largely untouched by age, or his rugged third-act touring schedule, the ex-Beatle stirs up a spectacular range of emotions: The hushed, crepuscular melancholy of Peter van Steeden’s “Home (When Shadows Fall)” is matched only by the stirring resolve found on Haywood Henry’s “Get Yourself Another Fool” from this now thrice-married soon-to-be-70-year-old. McCartney’s trembling rapture throughout Irving Berlin’s “Always” finds a balancing moment in his impish hat-tipping joy during Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-Cent-Thcu-Ate The Positive.”

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