Wingspan: Hits and History
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Audio, Cassette, Original recording remastered, May 8, 2001
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CD's have a total of 40 songs. Manufactured by Capitol Records.
While his fellow ex-bandmates busied themselves with various high-profile projects (John Lennon with Imagine and a series of high-profile media events; George Harrison with All Things Must Pass and The Concert for Bangla Desh), Paul McCartney climbed into a van with his wife and a few journeyman players and gigged at university student unions for what amounted to spare change. Of course, by 1976 they were one of the biggest draws in rock, having the last laugh--if not necessarily the final word. Gathering the cream of their recorded output on a generous double-disc sampler-cum-TV-special-soundtrack seemed a promising effort at historical revisionism, but Wingspan itself is a distinct misnomer: fully 17 of the 40 tracks here hail from various pre- and post-Wings McCartney solo albums. Completely overlooked are unheralded B-sides such as "Oh Woman, Oh Why," "Little Woman Love," "Country Dreamer," "The Mess," "Walking in the Park with Eloise," "Sally G," and "Girl's School"--some of McCartney the bandleader and solo artist's scrappiest and most interesting work. All the expected hits are here and more, ranging from spunky rockers and hook-rich bubblegum to syrup-drenched ballads. What's lacking is a fresh and less myopic perspective. --Jerry McCulley
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1. There are seven songs edited for brevity. A casual listener will never notice the changes, but to all of us who grew up in the 70's and memorized every downbeat and nuance, you will most definitely notice. It's very irritating to hear Junior's Farm butchered by more than two minutes and Venus and Mars cut to shreds. There are other glaring examples. As explained on the liner notes, these are the "single edits" released to DJ's of the era, but there's no excuse for these versions appearing on a quasi-offical collection, selected by Paul himself.
The playlist contains all of Wings hits and even sneaks in some solo Paul work from the early 80's. Since they include Take it Away and Pipes of Peace, why do they neglect much superior songs from the same years, such as the beautiful Here Today, or Average Person? There are also some curious inclusions which should never have seen the light of the day on a greatest hits package: Bip Bop, Man We Was Lonely and Tomorrow should have been replaced with Sally G., Girls School, I'm Carrying and Nineteen Eighty Five.
McCartney fans will always quibble about such things, but rest assured, you'll get your money's worth on this eclectic, fantastic collection. No one in the history of popular music could consistently write so many catchy tunes. If you're new to the solo years of McCartney, this is *the* disc to buy first.
Paul McCartney was not the most fantastic lyricist in the world. So he wrote "Eleanor Rigby", "For No One" and "Let It Be" ... he also has John Lennon looking over his shoulder. On his own, he proved he had a gift for crafting a perfect melody, but for writing relatively empty lyrics. Don't hold it against him. Not everyone can be a genius on all levels.
I don't like everything on this disc - Another Day and My Love are a little TOO light and yes, he could be a little sappy at times, but the man was in love. We're all a little sappy when we're in love. Lennon wrote some sappy stuff too (anyone heard Oh Yoko?)
But when McCartney was good, he was very good... Maybe I'm Amazed, Junk, Band on the Run, Live and Let Die, Let Me Roll It, Listen to What the Man Said - these songs were great even when making the unfair comparison with Paul's previous band (that one BEFORE Wings)
If you have the desire to put on two discs of solidly crafted pop from the 1970's, this disc will fulfill your desire. The songs are pretty well selected (much better than the Wings Greatest or All the Best collections) and it sounds fantastic.
BOOS: Mark Lewisohn is one of the planet's foremost Beatles experts. Why is his essay limited to a single page? As such, the booklet isn't very informative.
Is this a Wings anthology? If so, why are McCartney's first two solo albums included? (Or anything after Back to the Egg, for that matter!) If this is a McCartney anthology, why does it stop at 1984?
And in either case, there are way too many songs missing. Missing "Hits" include "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Sally G," "Letting Go," "Girls School," "I've Had Enough," "London Town," "Getting Closer" and "Arrow Through Me." And in the "History" category, where are the non-album b-sides like "Little Woman Love," "The Mess," "I Lie Around," "Country Dreamer," "Walking in the Park with Eloise," "Bridge on the River Suite" (the last two recorded as the Country Hams), "Lunchbox/Odd Sox" and "I'll Give You a Ring"? Some of these songs have NEVER been released on CD, and those that have require the purchase of a pricey import version of the original CD release.
Let's hope that when the scheduled holiday season box set is released, these omissions will have been taken care of.
All kvetching aside, this is a more than adequate sampling of McCartney's post-Beatles heyday. RECOMMENDED