Paul McCartney & Wings: Band on the Run

Paul McCartney and Wings
Band on the Run
Rating: ★★★★½

Whether this recent re-mastering of Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run CD (along with bonus tracks, DVD, and “enhanced packaging”) is simply a meretricious attempt to return Sir Paul’s bank balance to its pre-Heather Mills glory is anybody’s guess. What really matters, though, is that it isn’t Red Rose Speedway or London Town that’s being re-released: Band on the Run’s opening one-two punch, the mega-hit singles “Band on the Run” and “Jet,” are easily the best songs Macca ever penned with Wings (with “Let Me Roll It,” claiming honorable mention), which at the time consisted of his shutterbug-turned-keyboardist wife Linda McCartney (who gets partial writing credits on most of these songs) and former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine.

Originally released in glam-heavy 1973, Band on the Run finds McCartney more assured as a solo songwriter, while still dabbling with whimsical song cycles, odd reprises, and random mix-n-match structures as he did on 1971’s Ram and 1973’s Red Rose: although his grafting together of seemingly unrelated sections here feels a bit like pastiche compared to, say, the slick segues that hold an otherwise disjointed album like Abbey Road together. Still, Band on the Run’s clever arrangements and careful instrumentation sound as fresh as ever, while those ever-unsubtle McCartney choruses always occur with the same gut-warming inevitability.

Naturally the bonus tracks and extra DVD visuals don’t yield much in the way of long-lost treasures. You get the demo-quality versions of the official CD tracks, then a separate DVD full of curious but crude rehearsal film footage. There’s also random documentary evidence of the Band on the Run cover-photo sessions, not to mention some early pre-MTV promotional videos featuring the sort of hokey-jokey showboating that would unfortunately characterize McCartney’s music-supporting visuals for years to come. That said, this fine-tuned semi-classic should hold die-hard Wings fans for a while, at least until Back to the Egg gets its inevitable redux.