Wings Over America (Deluxe Edition)

Paul McCartney & Wings

Hear Music, 2013

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


For all those who feel like rock stars live a life of ease and luxury, I present as evidence to the contrary Wings Over America.  This album, released in 1976 and remastered and rereleased as part of the Paul McCartney Archive in 2013, is a sampling from the North American leg of the Wings Over The World tour embarked upon by Paul McCartney And Wings.

This was a serious tour.  McCartney certainly at the top of his game in the mid ‘70s, and while concert tours are part of the regular workings of a rock group, there is nothing to suggest that McCartney had to take on one as grueling as he did.  This world tour spanned 14 months throughout 1975 and 1976, including six legs and 66 shows.  The tour began essentially as a promotion of the group’s 1975 release Venus And Mars, but also grew to incorporate the March 1976 release of Wings At The Speed Of Sound (an album which they recorded during a break in touring in January 1976).  It was obviously a very busy time for McCartney and company.

Obviously such a monster tour would have to spawn a monster album.  In December 1976, the triple disc album was released and is presented in this 2013 rerelease in a crisper remastered form.  The songs run the gamut of songs in the Wings, Moody Blues and Beatles catalogs, and even pluck an early Paul Simon song from obscurity (“Richard Cory,” sung by Denny Laine during their acoustic set).  The band runs through several Wings tunes that are mostly designed to bolster the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Venus And Mars and Wings At The Speed Of Sound discs.  But McCartney also reaches back for other relics as well, such as dusting off a gem from McCartney that no one had really recognized as such for six years.  Yet “Maybe I’m Amazed” would be Paul’s lasting tribute to his wife during the Beatles breakup and the lead single from this album.

Speaking of the Beatles, McCartney also boldly trots into his back catalog for “Lady Madonna,” “The Long And Winding Road,” "I've Just Seen A Face," "Blackbird," and of course "Yesterday."  Noticeably, all of these were denoted as McCartney-Lennon tunes on the liner notes rather than the standard Lennon-McCartney.  While this may seem a petty poke in the eye to his former counterpart, keep in mind that the legal battles surrounding the breakup of the Beatles had only recently concluded in 1975.

McCartney obviously took pains to ensure that this was a Wings effort and not just a platform for his own songs.  But that effort does detract from the endurance of the track list.  Certainly tunes like “Time To Hide” or the ironic “Medicine Jar” (written by Jimmy McCulloch who would later die from his own drug abuse) could have been replaced by other numbers.  Nevertheless, it does prove Paul’s commitment to Wings as a band, not simply himself as solo artist with backing musicians.

Packaged within my advance release was a DVD of a television documentary called Wings Over The World (not to be confused with Rockshow, another documentary of the tour that is also packed in some versions of this rerelease).  I seem to recall seeing this before on a VH1 “McCartney Week” special decades ago coinciding with the release of Flaming Pie.  It was fun to see it again.  Interspersed between segments of live shows, the documentary also provides some backstage footage, audience fervor, as well as interactions with the press as the tour progressed around the world.  One of the most interesting snippets is when a reporter is shown to ask McCartney if he, at age 33, had become too old to be a star in rock music.  Paul shrugged off the question in a snide way, asking him to see the show and then see the answer to that question for himself.  My question is where is that reporter now?  And how does he feel about that question now that Paul is 70 and still actively rocking?

Wings Over America demonstrates the hard work and prowess of a talented musician with a nose for the music business.  It is also documenting the tail end of McCartney’s commercial success in the ‘70s, which would have one more serious gasp with 1977’s monster UK single, “Mull Of Kintyre,” but would start to fizzle with London Town and onward until a resurgence in the ‘80s.

Rating: B

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© 2013 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hear Music, and is used for informational purposes only.