Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Paul McCartney 8: Wings Over America

By now Paul had truly emerged as the champion, to the point where younger fans might not have been aware he was in a band before Wings. Just in time for Christmas, Wings Over America contained a blemish-free version of every song performed on Paul’s first American visit in ten years. And the crowds went wild. (Supposedly there was some studio tinkering between the recording and mixing stages, but this has not been authenticated.) It’s a good package, even if most of the songs sound identical to the album versions. The original six sides are neatly divided, with piano sections, acoustic sections, Beatle detours and “our new album”.

Appropriately the “Venus And Mars/Rock Show” medley starts it all, going directly into “Jet” when we least expect it. It’s a good rocking start to the set. Side two starts with the version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” that was released as a single, complete with extended ending. It was the best choice. “Lady Madonna” and “The Long And Winding Road” excite the crowds, before the pyrotechnics of “Live And Let Die”.

Side three is acoustic. “Picasso’s Last Words” is started, going into Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory” sung by Denny for some reason. A few more Beatle hits round out the side. Denny also gets to sing his Moody Blues hit “Go Now”, amidst some more piano songs on side four.

Side five is devoted to the new album, with four strong choices for the crowd: the hits “Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs”, Denny’s “Time To Hide” and a blistering “Beware My Love”. Side six is back to the rocking encores. “Hi Hi Hi” makes its first album appearance, as does “Soily”, a Wings live staple for years, never included on any other album.

The packaging of Wings Over America was quite complex, with custom sleeves, labels and posters, and the album as a whole is a good souvenir of a good night out. One truly gets a sense of the excitement of seeing one of the biggest bands of the Seventies that also happened to feature a Beatle. And the official Wings horn section doesn’t get in the way at all.

Its popularity among fans probably had something to do with why it was unveiled as part of the ongoing Paul McCartney Archive Collection in 2013. This time there was only a standard two-CD package with no extras, unless you bought it from Best Buy, where you got a third disc with eight slightly shaky songs recorded on the tour at the Cow Palace. That was also an extra in the Deluxe Edition box, which also added the Wings Over The World TV special on a DVD, three thick books and other ephemera. (Meanwhile, the Rockshow feature film was concurrently issued as a separate DVD.) Interestingly, after all that effort to establish Wings as an entity unto itself, the spine for the CD now plainly lists the artist as Paul McCartney and Wings.

Wings Wings Over America (1976)—
2013 Archive Collection: same as 1976 (Deluxe Edition adds 8 extra tracks and DVD)

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