Paul McCartney and Wings
Wings Over America
In 1976, Paul McCartney and Wings were on fire. McCartney had truly hit the peak of his post-Beatles around this time and is probably the most success any member the Beatles has seen since their break-up in 1970. To showcase this period in time, the Paul McCartney Archive Collection has chosen to reissue and remaster the 1976 live album, Wings Over America. MPL has also gone out of their way to reissue the album’s concert film counterpart, Rockshow, on DVD/Blu-Ray (which will come out June 11) as well as a limited theatrical release. This is also the first time since 1990 that the album has been reissued on CD.
Much like the reissue of McCartney II, this is my first time owning a copy of Wings Over America on CD. However, I have had a vinyl copy passed on from some family members for years but I barely ever listened to it. So for this review, I will not be able to make comparisons to a previous master of the album.
Wings Over America is an interesting live album. After listening to it, I think it’s a very good live album but there are some things that this album lacks compared to other live albums. For one thing, the sound of the live recording isn’t all that great. Its fine but I think I’m more familiar with the audio from the Rockshow film, which I still have a bootleg VHS copy of. The biggest thing that sticks out for me on this live album is that there is no dialogue or onstage banter heard in between songs. Onstage banter, for me, is one of the many things that make a live album what it is. I know from watching Rockshow dozens of times as a ten year old boy that there was indeed onstage banter in between songs.
Still, this can be forgotten since the music pretty much makes up for it. McCartney and Wings were at the peak of their career with what is considered by many to be the best line-up the band ever had with the core three members (Paul, Linda, and guitarist Denny Laine) with guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English. Wings play a total of 28 songs, which vary from Beatles tunes to Wings tunes and several other pieces.
Wings songs such as “Rockshow”, “Jet”, “Let Me Roll It” and “Band On the Run” all sound great live. Some songs such as “Magneto and Titanium Man”, “Silly Love Songs”, and “Maybe I’m Amazed” sound better than their studio version. The Beatles songs are played nicely, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” probably standing out the most. McCartney also lets his fellow Wings bandmates get their chance to shine. McCulloch performs “Medicine Jar”, a personal favorite of mine being that I am a fan of McCulloch’s work inside and outside of Wings. Laine also gets to perform a few songs including “Spirits of Ancient Egypt”, “Time to Hide”, and even “Go Now” the hit song he penned during his brief stint in the Moody Blues. The band also plays Simons & Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory” in their acoustic set and ends the album with the rocker “Soily”. I’ve said before that I can’t say if this is better or worse than previously release. However, I will say that throughout the entire album the bass and drums sound amazing.
I received an advanced release of this album from my college’s radio station. Along with the album comes a DVD which features the 1979 TV documentary Wings Over the World, making its debut appearance on home video. This DVD will only come with the lavishly packaged box set for this album which features picture books, backstage pass replicas, and a bonus CD of the band performing at the Cow Palace.
As for the aforementioned documentary, it’s pretty good. The documentary shows McCartney and Wings on and off stage. The live performances are pretty much the same exact ones seen in Rockshow except abridged. It’s kind of fun to see the band behind the scenes riding horses, playing games, and goofing around when their private plane arrives at the wrong airport. This documentary is shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is great given how releases like this are usually cut and made into a widescreen presentation (which, unfortunately, looks like the case for the re-release of Rockshow). The documentary is also remastered and looks fantastic. If you are unable to afford the money for the box set, the documentary is all over YouTube to watch.