[Review] Wings Over America (1976)

Frampton comes alive, McCartney comes to America and brings an extra elpee’s worth of Beatles songs with him.

Kronomyth 8.0: Fancy a bit of rock and roll?

You might as well bury me with this album, so perfectly does it capture the folly of my life and its misplaced belief in music. And what is life but a chasing after folly? I believed in Santa Claus until I couldn’t anymore. Then I believed in the Monkees until I couldn’t anymore. But the belief that The Beatles were special persisted, as though any one of them were capable at any moment of stepping through the animated cells of Pepperland and conquering the world’s ugliness with a well-turned melody. I suppose it’s the same thing that makes me cry at the end of A Christmas Carol, for what is Scrooge’s conversion but the promise of salvation?

Now, I know that Wings Over America is a mere moneygrab. But to quote a very wise man, people say that love is blind (where deafness would have been a kindness, but that’s just one of life’s cruel twists). Yes, it lingers too long on his last two records. I doubt anyone was dying to hear “Medicine Jar” or “Beware My Love” performed live. But many of us had waited years to hear “Yesterday,” “Blackbird,” “My Love” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” performed live. You also won’t hear me complain about the appearance of treasured keepsakes such as “Call Me Back Again” or “You Gave Me The Answer.”

As for the performances, they’re generally good. I’m not much for live recordings as a rule, and I don’t hear where the band adds any insight to the originals. There a few half-hearted guitar solos (Jimmy McCulloch was probably on a short leash) and the occasional embellished fill from Joe English. The concerts also included a few surprises (to me, anyway) beyond The Beatles’ bits: a cover of Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory” (go read the poem instead), “Soily” (a concert favorite that hadn’t appeared on any album until now) and Denny Laine’s first big break, “Go Now,” originally recorded with The Moody Blues.

Maybe you have a saturation point for Paul McCartney, in which case Wings Over America is overdone. But I still believe that any one of these songs could save the world. Well, maybe not “Magneto And Titanium Man,” but when a “Live And Let Die” or “Yesterday” plays, the world stops long enough for me to shake my gaze from the squalid collection of misused minutes that constitute my life and glimpse the ideal. Which is probably more than you needed to know, but two hours of Wings’ music was probably more than you bargained for too.

Read more Paul McCartney & Wings reviews

Original 3LP Version

Record One
A1. Venus And Mars/Rock Show/Jet (10:12)
A2. Let Me Roll It (3:51)
A3. Spirits of Ancient Egypt (4:00)
A4. Medicine Jar (Jimmy McCullough/Colin Allen) (4:07)
B1. Maybe I’m Amazed (5:20)
B2. Call Me Back Again (5:12)
B3. Lady Madonna (Paul McCartney/John Lennon) (2:37)
B4. The Long And Winding Road (Paul McCartney/John Lennon) (4:22)
B5. Live And Let Die (3:35)

Record Two
C1. Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me) (1:58)
C2. Richard Cory (Paul Simon) (2:58)
C3. Bluebird (3:43)
C4. I’ve Just Seen A Face (Paul McCartney/John Lennon) (2:04)
C5. Blackbird (Paul McCartney/John Lennon) (2:29)
C6. Yesterday (Paul McCartney/John Lennon) (2:23)
D1. You Gave Me The Answer (2:03)
D2. Magneto And Titanium Man (3:17)
D3. Go Now (Larry Banks/Milton Bennett) (3:43)
D4. My Love (4:13)
D5. Listen To What The Man Said (3:40)

Record Three
E1. Let ‘Em In (4:05)
E2. Time To Hide (Denny Laine) (4:57)
E3. Silly Love Songs (5:57)
E4. Beware My Love (5:07)
F1. Letting Go (4:34)
F2. Band On The Run (5:45)
F3. Hi Hi Hi (3:29)
F4. Soily (5:59)

Songs written by Paul McCartney unless noted.

The Players

Joe English (drums, vocals), Denny Laine (vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, bass, Gob iron), Linda McCartney (vocals, keyboards), Paul McCartney (vocals, bass guitar, piano, acoustic guitar), Jimmy McCulloch (vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass) with Howie Casey (saxophone), Tony Dorsey (trombone), Steve Howard (trumpet, flugelhorn), Thadeus Richard (saxophone, clarinet, flute). Produced by Paul McCartney; engineered by Jack Maxson, Phil McDonald, Mark Vigars, Tom Walsh.

The Pictures

Sleeve design by MPL/Hipgnosis. Outer painting by Richard Manning. Inner painting by Jeff Cummins. Graphics by Richard Evans. Lettering by Geoff Halpin. Poster photos by Bob Ellis.

The Plastic

Released on 3LP, 2CS and 2-8T on December 10, 1976 in the US and Canada (Capitol, SWCO/4X3C/8X3C-11593), the UK (EMI/MPL, PCS 7201/2/3), Germany (EMI/Electrola, 1C 188 98 947/8/9 Y, 498-98 568/9) and Japan (Capitol, EPS-50001/2/3) with gatefold cover, innersleeve and poster; reached #1 on the US charts and #8 on the UK charts. 8-track features different track order and cover.

  1. Re-issued on 3LP in 1980 in the US (Columbia, C3X 37990) with gatefold cover and innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on 2CD in May 1987 in the US (MPL/Parlophone, CDP 7 46175/6 2).
  3. Re-issued on 2CD in 1999 (EMI, 65507) and on 3CD on October 27, 1999 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-65507/8/9).
  4. Re-packaged on remastered 2CD in 2013 in the US (MPL/Universal, 34338-2).
  5. Re-packaged on 3CD+DVD Deluxe Archive Edition boxed set in 2013 in the US (Hear Music) with bonus live compact disc and dvd.

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