Paul McCartney & Wings
Wings Over America –Deluxe Edition
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It’s easy to get caught up in teary eyed nostalgia when albums that have gradually fallen off the popular radar over the decades are reissued and re-evaluated. That’s only natural, especially concerning the ongoing upgrading of Paul McCartney’s catalog for the Concord label. That program continues with this three vinyl/two CD live set, originally released in 1976.
By any measurement, this mammoth tour — including state of the art (for the time) sound, lights and explosives hauled around the US in five semi trucks — was a well-oiled, organized and recorded affair. In addition to the two hour double CD capturing the entire concert, there was a coffee table book of still pictures and a 70 minute documentary, the latter included as a DVD extra in one of the multiple editions of this remastered reissue. For those with big bank accounts, the full Monty box will set you back a wallet slimming $139 but less sumptuous versions are more reasonably priced.
Back in the spring of 1976, this tour was a newsworthy event. McCartney was the first Beatle to stage a major, multi-city excursion, making this the only time many music fans would have a chance to see him live. He was on a roll with well received albums from his Wings five piece and had an enormous cache of Beatle tunes at his disposal. To his credit, McCartney didn’t look back and stuck to (then) newer Wings tunes, with only six Fab Four tracks making the cut on the 28 song set.
The tour was ultimately the final US jaunt from Wings, who quietly disbanded a few years later. But judging from the quality of these performances, Paul and Linda along with ex-Moody Blues founder Denny Laine, drummer Joe English, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and a four piece horn section were a professional, tightly rehearsed band who delivered a pretty great rock show. You can quibble with the song selection—was the rarity rocker “Soily” really the best closing choice? did he need to remind us how lame “Silly Love Songs” is?—but there is no questioning the energy and exuberance displayed on even the lesser material. And when McCartney hits it out of the park with a soulful and energized “Maybe I’m Amazed,” all is forgiven.
The remastered sound for this spiffed up reboot is a big improvement over the previous one. The extras on the various editions, especially the Wings Over the World doc with fan interviews, backstage shenanigans and offstage prep for the shows, help bring the 1976 experience to life for a new generation, shameless nostalgia and all.