Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America (remaster) (MPL/Starbucks/Concord) review
The remaster McCartney fans have been clamoring for
For whatever reason, Wings Over America has been the black sheep of the Paul McCartney catalog. Put on CD way back in the late Eighties, that version was muddy, lacking any high or low end. When his entire output got overhauled in the Nineties, Wings Over America was sadly passed over. Now, Concord has finally given it the remastering it deserves. And, the new version doesn’t disappoint. The bass is deeper and, finally there’s the crispness that we’ve been missing in the high end.
Ignoring this record doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because Wings Over America is Paul McCartney at his absolute peak.
It’s true, Paul spent most of the Seventies running from his Beatle past. He was, hands-down, the most successful of his former bandmates. He’d already racked up five number one albums AND singles, and his latest studio LP, Wings at the Speed of Sound, would turn out to be his biggest, staying at the top of the charts for seven weeks. It was in support of that record that McCartney and band decided to embark on their most ambitious tour to date. And it was his solo material, and not Beatles’ music, that would take center stage.
As we pointed out in an earlier review of the original album, McCartney had a way of over-cooking his studio work. Here, in a live setting, the hits really have a chance to breathe: “Live and Let Die” is more bombastic, “Silly Love Songs” more buoyant, and “Band on the Run” more theatrical. Then, there’s the stunning medley “Venus & Mars/Rock Show/Jet” – Paul had never rocked this hard before.
Even more impressive is how great the album tracks are in this environment: “Letting Go” and “Time to Hide” really rock. “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and “Bluebird” have fabulous harmonies. Even the goofy “Magneto and Titanium Man” works. Guitarist Denny Lane sings lead on several tracks, and even gets to unearth his first hit with the Moody Blues, “Go Now.” He also handles the surprising Simon & Garfunkel nugget “Richard Cory.”
Oh yeah, in case you forgot, McCartney was in this band called the Beatles. But, out of the 28 songs on the album, only five are from the Fab Four, with most of those being ballads like “Yesterday” and “The Long and Winding Road.” “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is the best of the bunch, getting a country hoedown treatment.
Wings Over America would yield only one hit single, a much-improved run through of his first solo hit “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Yet, even though it’s rather long (almost two hours, spread out over three LP’s originally) the concert never drags.
When talking about the greatest live albums in history, this record almost never gets included, but it really should be. This is the finest document of Paul McCartney in concert – period. –Tony Peters