Paul McCartney’s ongoing reissue series has already produced sparkling new archival takes on McCartney, Ram, Band on the Run and McCartney II. Up next: His sprawling triple-album Wings Over America, a 1976 concert recording that documented McCartney’s first U.S. visit since the Beatles concluded their final tour a decade earlier.
Wings Over America was a smash for McCartney, racing to No. 1 in the U.S. in early 1977 to become the last of five straight chart-toppers for Wings in the 1970s. The project went to No. 8 in the UK. Most of Wings’ biggest hits are featured, including “Band on the Run,” “My Love,” “Listen What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Jet,” “Live and Let Die” and “Let ‘Em In,” as well a number of choice album cuts: “Let Me Roll It” and “Bluebird” from Band on the Run, the title track and “Rock Show” from Venus and Mars; and “Beware My Love” and “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” from Wings at the Speed of Sound; as well as stand-alone singles like “Hi Hi Hi” and “Soily.”
The band also reprised five Beatles songs: “Lady Madonna,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Blackbird” and “Yesterday.” Denny Laine performed “Go Now,” a track made famous during his previous tenure with the Moody Blues. The live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from Wings Over America, originally found on McCartney’s solo debut, was released as a single, and went Top 10 in America.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: In our review of the new ‘Ram’ reissue, Nick DeRiso’s criticism of the sniping between Paul McCartney and John Lennon sparked an interesting debate.]
Scott Rodger, McCartney’s manager, also said that “Rockshow,” a concert film from the same tour, will be released for the first time on DVD — with several songs restored. Time constraints on previous technology like video and laserdiscs had forced producers to edit the set down from its original 30-song theatrical release.
Rodger confirmed these plans in a new interview with TWiMusic. During the same talk, Rodger added that McCartney is back in the studio now, in hopes of completing a new album for release some time in early 2013. No other details were available, as yet.
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Paul McCartney and Wings. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
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.”
PAUL McCARTNEY – McCARTNEY (1970)/McCARTNEY II (1980; 2011 reissues): Taken together, these albums show a willingness to strip down what had become a varnished sound. After all, Paul was coming off huge productions in the form of 1969’s Abbey Road with the Beatles and 1979’s Back to the Egg with Wings. But there is a broad disparity, more pronounced than ever, in how these recordings have aged. McCartney comes off as more organic, a simpler expression — like someone trying to work out his own sound. McCartney II was, truth be told, fatally hobbled from the first by Paul’s own poor mechanics with the synthesizers he chose to experiment with throughout.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – BACK TO THE EGG (1979): It’s time to go back and reevaluate Paul McCartney and Wings’ unjustly ignored Back to the Egg. Released in May 1979, the album showcased a rebuilt Wings lineup, with lead guitarist Laurence Juber working in sharp counterpoint to Denny Laine. Also on board was co-producer Chris Thomas, a former assistant to George Martin for the Beatles’ White Album who brought an edgier style to much of the project — in keeping with his concurrent work with the Sex Pistols and the Pretenders. McCartney’s stated goal, back then, was to make a raw-boned rock record. And he largely succeeded, putting a bright charge into his sound after the soft-rock fluff of 1978’s London Town.
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.
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