[Review] Wings: Band On The Run (1973)

Paul travels to Africa to find his mojo and finally releases an album that sounds like a proper followup to the Fab Four.

Kronomyth 5.0: Safari, so good.

Wings travelled to Nigeria to record Band On The Run. Unlike other McCartney albums, which were recorded in less inhospitable locations where the biggest discussion between band members likely revolved around whose turn it was to be pulled in the inner tube, Wings were basically stuck inside those four studio walls. It forced them to finish what they started, and the resulting record finally sounded like the polished studio product that everyone knew Paul capable of.

Many have likened it to The Beatles, and it’s true that Band On The Run is Paul’s best record since leaving that band, but comparing this to Abbey Road or the white album isn’t particularly helpful. It is worth noting, however, that the stinging guitar work of Denny Laine sounds so much like George Harrison in spots that it’s almost like George never left. “No Words” and “Mrs Vanderbilt” even sound like George Harrison songs. The likely culprit for this was the sense of social responsibility that stemmed from being in Nigeria. The opening track seems to draws its inspiration from their travels, while “Mamunia” reflects a renewed appreciation for what they left behind.

Of course, I have no idea how much time they actually spent among the Nigerian people; the inner sleeve suggests at least enough time for a photo opp (there’s a Meet Wings Free! joke in there for the taking), and it seems unlikely that you could live in Nigeria without being cognizant of the culture. The songs themselves are at their heart no better than before; it’s the attention to detail after the songs were written that make them sparkle. Adding synthesizers to “Band On The Run” to give it atmosphere, ensuring that “Let Me Roll It” has the right presence, and embellishing “Mrs Vanderbilt” with some of the old Beatles magic are what put this album on a pedestal. There are also some very good songs on here: “Jet,” “Bluebird” and “Helen Wheels” (which apparently does not appear on the original UK release) would have worked in any setting. Like all the tracks on Band, they’re played (and sung) with passion, something Paul otherwise invoked only sparingly. Of interest, Paul apparently plays the drums here as well without ill effect, though Ringo he’s not.

Original LP Version

A1. Band On The Run (5:09)
A2. Jet (4:08)
A3. Bluebird (3:22)
A4. Mrs Vanderbilt (4:40)
A5. Let Me Roll It (4:51)
B1. Mamunia (4:51)
B2. No Words (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) (2:36)
B3*. Helen Wheels (3:45)
B4. Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me) (5:48)
B5. Nineteen Hundred And Eight Five (5:30)

All selections composed by Paul McCartney unless noted.
*B3 does not appear on UK elpee release.

CD reissue bonus tracks (UK 1993)
10. Helen Wheels
11. Country Dreamer

The Players

Denny Laine (acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals, percussion), Linda McCartney (harmony and backing vocals, organ, keyboards, percussion), Paul McCartney (lead and backing vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, drums) with Ginger Baker (percussion on B4), Howie Casey (sax on A2/A3/A4), Ian Horn (percussion on B1, backing vocals on B2), Trevor Jones (percussion on B1, backing vocals on B2), Remi Kabaka (percussion on A3), Tony Visconti (orchestrations). Produced by Paul McCartney; engineered by Geoff Emerick.

The Pictures

Cover photograph by Clive Arrowsmith.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on December 5, 1973 in the US (Apple, SO-3415), on December 7, 1973 in the UK (Apple, PAS/TC-PAS 10007), in 1973 in Colombia (EMI Odeon, 11282), Germany (Apple, 1C 062 05503) and the Netherlands (Apple, 5C 062 05503), and in 1974 in Brazil (Apple, SBTL 1029) and Uruguay (Apple, SAPL-30530) with lyrics innersleeve or lyrics insert and poster; reached #1 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 3x platinum record) and #1 on the UK charts. Also released on yellow vinyl elpee in 1973 in France (EMI Pathe Marconi, DC-9) with poster.

  1. Re-released as promotional 2LP in the US (Capitol, PRO-2955/6) with interview elpee.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Capitol, EPS-80235).
  3. Re-released on picture elpee in November 1978 in the UK (Capitol, SEAX 11901) and in 1978 in Japan (Capitol, EPS-90073).
  4. Re-released on audiophile elpee in 1981 in the US (Columbia, HAL-46482).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in 1989 in the US (Capitol, 46675).
  6. Re-released on 24k gold compact disc on February 1, 1993 in the UK (DCC, GZS-1030).
  7. Re-released on expanded compact disc on June 8, 1993 in the UK (EMI/Parlophone, CDPMCOL5) with 2 bonus tracks.
  8. Re-released on 25th anniversary edition 2CD in 1998 in the UK (MPL Communications, 499 176) and on February 25, 1999 in the US (Capitol, 99176) with bonus material.
  9. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1999 in Japan (EMI Toshiba, TOCP-65504).
  10. Re-issued on expanded 2LP in 2001 in the US (Capitol, 99176) with bonus material.

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