The reissue of "Wings Over America" is a welcome addition to Paul McCartney's discography. There are multiple editions available. In the U.S. there is a two disc edition which features the original 3 LP release on two CDs remastered at Abbey Road. There is also a special edition available at Best Buy that includes the third CD from this set with 8 tracks from the Cow Palace show in San Francisco and the deluxe boxed set.
The remastering is very good. There is some mild compression (and peak limiting) that has been added to these remasters but they are still very dynamic and not brickwalled. Most of you reading this won't notice these minor issues and the sound is very, very good.
The boxed set is spectacular. You get five books. One is in a handsome vinyl cover which includes the band's intinerary, photos of each venue that the band played, behind-the-scenes photos, lyrics for all the songs played during the show. This book also has replicas of invitations of original tickets for multiple shows and invitiations for after party shows, etc.
Tucked inside a flap in the back cover of this book is a replica of the original tour program (the fifth book that might easily be overlooked). It's an accurate reproduction (for the most part--I no longer have mine but I seem to recall it being a bit bigger than the one included here. Still, it's accurate as far as the contents as far as I can recall).
Inside the books we get reproductions of the inner gatefold paintings, posters, etc. that fold out.
Three 8x10 photos are also included in the package.
Housed in this book are the three CDs--the original 2 CDs (which represent the 3 LP release) plus a bonus disc with 8 tracks from the Cow Palace show in San Francisco.
There is also a DVD included which features the "Wings Over The World" TV show that aired on CBS.
It's a 75 minute show. I do wish it had been made available in Blu-ray but for this set but we do have the Rockshow [Blu-ray] theatrical concert drawn from some of the same shows.
There is also a book with photos from Linda ("Look") as well as a book of sketches done by Humphrey Ocean during the tour. The three books are all nicely put together (better than the "Ram" set).
There is another book which has photos and comments from Laine, McCartney, etc. discussing the tour.
All of these are housed in a sturdy case that is the same heighth (but not the same width) as the RAM (Deluxe Book Edition) edition.
Finally we get a card with the codes for lossless (or you can choose lossy) digital downloads of each track included in the deluxe edition in high resolution. There's also a card announcing the next two titles--"Venus and Mars" and "At the Speed of Sound".
Should you spring for the deluxe edition? If all you want is the music then you could go for the Best Buy exclusive limited CD set. This limited edition includes the third CD of the eight tracks from the Cow Palace show. You could also pick up the "Rock Show" DVD or Blu-ray and get away for under $50.
Personally, I'm glad I purchased this set as, unlike some deluxe editions that have some silly extras, the three books filled with photos, the replicas of the tickets, etc. made this an essential purchase for me but others might feel differently. This is a BIG set and it is filled with cool stuff. The only drawback as I mentioned is that I wish that "Wings Over The World" had been remastered for Blu-ray and that they had also included "Rockshow" but these are minor quibbles.
on June 12, 2000
The mid 1980's were not a particularly good time for CD hungry Beatlefans. The actual Beatle recordings would not appear on CD until 1987, and the solo Beatle product avaivalbe was limited, at best. Paul McCartney, who was under contract with Columbia Records at the time, was fortunate enough to see much of his solo catalog released on CD before most Lennon, Harrison, & Starr material was remastered for the "new" digital medium. One of the first Macca CD's Columbia released was a 2 disc version of "Wings Over America." Beatlefans were initially overjoyed to have 2 CD's of McCartney's best "live" solo and Beatles material. Many, however, were disappointed to find that the sound quality left something to be desired.
When Paul took his catalog back to Capitol several years later, the hope was that new remastering would improve the muddy, hissy sound quality of Columbia's releases. Unfortunately, on Capitol's new "Wings Over America," there was little to no improvement. By the early 1990's, Parlophone/EMI in Europe again remastered Paul's solo catalog, and for the first time, there was finally dramatic improvement over the earlier 2 sets of reissues. However, a new "Wings Over America" was inexplicably left out of the "Paul McCartney Collection" catalog.
That's all been remedied by the title's entry into EMI Japan's recent "deluxe" McCartney remasters, which present his catalog in replica LP sleeves and remarkable sound. "Wings Over America" has returned to its' album format, and is now spread out over 3 CD's. The sound is clear, bright, and a major improvement over the earlier CD incarnations. The original album graphics (including a great mini-poster) are included, making this the definitive CD edition of his greatest "officially released" live work. If only Capitol would catch on here in the states and give Paul McCartney's underrated solo catalog the respect it deserves, perhaps one wouldn't have to spend nearly $80 on the third pressing of this title. Since it looks like that may never happen, this Japanese import is more than worth the investment. All of the new Japanese remasters are worth checking out, but this one is essential for McCartney and Beatles fans.
on November 2, 1999
Wings Over America is still Paul McCartney's best live album. Even the songs by the supporting band are good. You can't beat the acoustic set in the middle, or this explosive version of Live and Let Die. I've seen Paul live and I have other live albums from the late '80s and '90s that simply don't compare to the energy of this 1976 tour. Highlights of this 3-album set include: Let Me Roll It, Bluebird, Blackbird, and Lady Madonna, but this band can rock on Magnito and Titanium Man, Live and Let Die, Letting Go, and even Medicine Jar. Of course, this album also contains the definitive version of Maybe I'm Amazed (also released as a single at the time). Listen to this album and buy or rent the film/video of the concert. You will be compelled to hear the studio versions of the music and in doing so you will discover the many forgotten songs on Paul's albums from the '70s.
on March 11, 2005
A little bit of history first...I was lucky enough to see Wings Over America at Madison Square Garden in May 1976. I still have my ticket stub...a $10 seat in the second section up from the floor, which my cousin got from a broker for the exorbitant price of $30! How quaint that seems now.
Needless to say, everyone was jazzed up, being that it was Paul's first live appearance in the States in 10 years. I cannot begin to describe the roar within the Garden when the band started with Venus and Mars/Rock Show, and of course at the line "...long hair at the Madison Square."
And the absolute silence when Paul sang Yesterday.
Tripping the Live Fantastic, Paul Is Live and Back in the U.S. -- NONE of them compare to Wings Over America as live recordings. Maybe it's that anticipation that was in the air after 10 years...maybe it was Paul knowing he had to score a knockout back on this side of the Atlantic. Who knows? All I know is that it's a superior live recording to the others in every way.
on May 30, 2013
I normally don't spring for these "super deluxe" edition sets. They tend to be way over-priced, and the format applied to albums not necessarily deserving of the treatment.
Wings Over America is different. When the album was recorded and released, Wings were at their commercial peak; the album's release came during a part of the 1970s when a number of great live albums were released (most notably Frampton Comes Alive! and, though probably not heard much beyond AOR radio, Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus); and its triple-LP configuration meant fans were getting an entire show when they bought the album. It was also notable for its inclusion of Beatles songs, which McCartney had become notorious for refusing to perform as a solo artist.
The CD editions that have been available to date (the original Columbia reissue, and the subsequent EMI edition) have been huge disappointments, with their bare-bones packaging and dull sound. Sadly, Wings Over America was overlooked when McCartney's back catalog was remastered in 1993.
The newly released editions make up for this in a big way. Warmth has been restored to the low end, while the high end now actually has some identifiable detail. As with the 2009 Beatles remasters, a little bit of compression has been applied, but not so much as to overpower the listener with loudness. You can actually turn the volume up without committing the sonic equivalent of shock and awe on your eardrums.
But the real star of the deluxe edition is the packaging. Four discs (3 CDs, 1 DVD) and four books in a sturdy slipcover. The book in which the discs are stored is by itself a veritable treasure trove. Photos, reproductions of backstage passes and concert tickets, notes, lyrics--even a reproduction of the tour program. And I haven't had a chance to fully explore the goodies, so I know there are things I haven't discovered yet.
There's also a card included with a code that can be used to download high-resolution 96 kHz/24-bit WAV files of the music on the 3 CDs--no limiting applied. That gets you as close as you can get to the original masters without actually being one of the people involved in producing this remastered edition.
If you can afford the extra cost, this deluxe set is well worth the money. It almost makes up for the crappy sound of the CD editions we've been stuck with up till now.
Addendum (5/30/13): The third disc, Live at the Cow Palace, is kind of redundant. On the plus side: The performances are a bit rougher (no studio overdubs, presumably), and there's a little bit of stage chatter included--something notably lacking from the album proper, and actually quite refreshing. It's the song selection that lets down the side. "Picasso's Last Words" is a nice song, but doesn't necessarily merit inclusion a second time, and fully half the songs on the disc are from the acoustic set. It's likely that there wasn't any material available not already covered by the original album (I haven't read the essays yet, so I don't know if this is addressed or not), but one would think that a more exciting track listing could have been chosen--or even additional tracks included, seeing as how the disc is a short 28 minutes in length. I think an opportunity was missed here.
When Paul McCartney and The Beatles dissolved their partnerships, McCartney was bound and determined to go his own way. He made a few solo albums, like the masterpiece "Ram," but then decided he wanted a full fledged rock band behind him. Hence were Wings born. The corresponding Wings albums, like "At The Speed Of Sound" and "Venus and Mars" had McCartney insisting, over and over, that Wings was a band. To the point where Linda McCartney and Denny Laine were singing. The Beatles were dead and gone. Wings were here and now.
Until 1976 and the tour where McCartney shocked everyone. "Wings Over America," the then triple album, featured Wings and Paul digging into The Beatles' catalog, which also meant that he was performing some of these songs for the first time in their existence, to a live audience. (As a reminder, The Beatles turned their back on touring in 1966.) The crowds, understandably, went nuts. With that kind of energy, Paul leans into "Lady Madonna," "Blackbird," "Yesterday" and a few others with an obvious glee; he may have been trying to erase his past before, but there's no way to deny he was reinvigorated to be on the road without dragging around the invisible elephant in the room.
It also shows off Wings as a more capable band than most critics gave them credit for. The opening "Venus and Mars/Rock Show" opens the concert with some serious electricity, and "Live and Let Die" rivals "Helter Skelter" for McCartney's all time rockingest tune. As an added feature, the song "Soily," which was a regular on McCartney tours, has never been released except for "Wings Over America." It's among the McCartney and Wings songs that take up the bulk of the album, with highlights being "Hi Hi Hi," "Band On The Run," and the single from the album, "Maybe I'm Amazed."
Now condensed to a double CD, the remastered sound is terrific. (I had the older CD, and a one on one comparison reveals a crisper sound, less muffled.) If you want to spend a couple extra bucks, the triple version contains an eight song bonus disc from San Fransisco's Cow Palace and adds "Let Me Roll It" and a differently arranged "Bluebird" as the main attractions. (Although the fade on "Picasso's Last Words" is annoying.) All together, this is one of the more important documents of Paul McCartney's recorded legacy, the moment in time where he let his past catch up with him and he doesn't turn it away.
on May 31, 2013
First let me admit that live albums aren 't my thing. I don't get the point, really. A "live" album is never really live. And while I'm a fan of McCartney's early and late career solo work, I'm not a huge Wings fan. Still, I invested in this set when Amazon offered it (briefly) for $95. And whatever you think of live music, this deluxe set is stunning. It's not for the casual fan. It's for people who went to one of the 76 shows and want to relive the experience, or it's for devoted McCartney/Beatles fans. The remastered sound puts Paul's incredible voice and bass playing front and center, as it should be. The mix of songs is so eclectic. I especially enjoyed the acoustic section, which reveals what a remarkably diverse performer Paul is (for any doubters who weren't paying attention). Mostly the show just radiates joy and energy and fun.
The books in the deluxe set are fantastic. The tour book alone is beautifully designed to feel as if you've assembled it yourself, and carefully saved all of your ticket stubs and backstage passes -- except everything in it is pristine and new. The level of detail that went into planning all of the bits and pieces in the tour book is impressive. A tremendous amount of love and care went into putting this together. The second book is a glossy history of the tour, printed on high quality paper, and excellent photographs. The third book is called "LOOK," which apparently was the name of a photo album that Linda McCartney kept on the plane with all of her photographs and Polaroid's of the tour. That's another example of the wonderful detail that went into this set: You're seeing what she saw. And yes, the Look book is rough -- after all, Polaroid pictures are not know for their pristine clarity. But that's part of the LOOK book's charm. It feels like an old photo album. Finally, the fourth and quirkiest book is a collection of sketches and watercolors done by the noted British artist Humphrey Ocean when he was a young man, invited along on the tour by Paul and Linda (who both loved art). His only job? To sketch the tour. The result is this art book. Again, it's beautifully designed and is something I've never seen in a deluxe set before. It's one of the elements that transforms the deluxe set into something truly unique. I've seen some reviewers disdain the Humphrey Ocean book but I think they just don't appreciate good art. If you're not into all of these bells & whistles, buy the standard edition.
I can see why the boxset was so pricey, compared with the others in Paul's Archive Collection. But at the same time, this set was clearly expensive to produce. The tour book has dozens of separate elements (tickets, photos, lyrics sheets, etc., etc). That book alone would retail for $30 at least. The glossy tour history I'd price at $20. The LOOK book at $10. And the Humphrey Ocean book at $25. So that's $100 for the books alone, not including the 3 CDs ($10 a piece) and the DVD (another $10). So that's about $140. The $95 price I paid was a good deal. If you can get the set for that price, I would. Or if you have patience, wait a year and it may come down in the $75 range.
What I loved most about this set is the way it provides a look back at the late 70s -- the fashions (bell bottom jeans on men!), the hair (big, curly, weird). It all looks so different from today that the set ends up being an extraordinary historical document of middle America in 1976. The wonder of it all, baby! The Ram Deluxe set was equally fabulous (and I prefer that one purely because Ram is Paul's masterpiece) but this WOA deluxe set gives Ram a run for its money.
on June 7, 2013
It's great getting the bonus cd with tracks taken from the Cow Palace concert without having to pay $100 plus. The only downside to this version is the booklet that's included is very skimpy with no information whatsoever. Still, you get the remastered music and it sounds great. But don't pay $30 for it. You can get it at Best Buy for $16.99.
on February 11, 2005
Being a big Beatles/Paul McCartney fan, I've bought several live Macca albums from the '90s to present day. This includes "Paul is Live," "Tripping the Live Fantastic," and "Back in the US." Though they are all good CDs, nothing can compare to the 1976 tour, when Paul was just starting to get back on his feet. The music is great, and the band rocks hard. Wings broke up just a few years after this was recorded, but thank goodness they were together to give us this electrifying performance. The opening medley of "Venus and Mars," "Rock Show," and "Jet" is killer, and other highlights are "Medicine Jar," "Hi Hi Hi," "Band on the Run" and "Let Me Roll It." This album rocks, start to finish.
on March 5, 2004
I was all of 15 years old when Wings came to San Diego to perform this set. My girlfriend and I had worn the grooves out of every Beatles LP my older brother owned, and we were absolutely awestruck at being in the same building with our hero, Paul. We waited for hours at the entrance ramp for his limo to arrive, and when the entourage of 5 limos rolled in, they backed up on the ramp and just sat there for 5 minutes. Tinted windows prevented our seeing who was in which limo, but Paul and Linda eventually exited right in front of us! It was his birthday, and a fan handed his body guard a birthday cake. Paul took the cake and sincerely thanked the fans for remembering. What a wonderful moment.
Why do I bore you with this? Because this CD captures Paul's warmth, talent and humanity like no other recording. Sure, the sound quality could be better, but the body of work is stunning in it's diversity and scope. The acoustic set is especially good. Paul's false start on the opening notes of "Yesterday" shows a wonderfully relaxed and poised artist who is completely comfortable with showing a faux paux on permanent record. The opening is absolutely CLASSIC as it builds in intensity.
Don't miss it!