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Paul McCartney
Writing Credits:

Wings Over America is the monumental live album by Paul McCartney and Wings, originally released in December of 1976. Recorded throughout the band's "Wings Over America" U.S. tour dates earlier that Spring, the album reached #1 in the US in early 1977. Containing almost two full hours of music, Wings Over America offers a stunning rendition of "Maybe I'm Amazed", plus Wings classics such as "Live and Let Die", "My Love" and "Let 'Em In". McCartney also included some Beatles classics into the set list, including "Yesterday", "The Long and Winding Road" and more for the first time since the Beatles had broken up six years earlier.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English PCM Stereo
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Price: $138.99
Release Date: 5/28/2013

• “Wings Over the World” Documentary
• “Photographer’s Pass” Montage
• Bonus CD
• New Book with Essays, Interviews and Tour Photos
• Linda McCartney’s Photographic Journal
• Replica Tour Book
• Humphrey Ocean Drawings
• 24 bit/96 kHz Download


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Paul McCartney: Wings Over America - Deluxe Edition (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 21, 2013)

When asked for my all-time favorite movie, I traditionally reply Aliens, and that’s been my go-to pick for years. However, Aliens does experience competition for my top slot. I can think of many other movies that theoretically could claim my pick as my favorite, so I can imagine that I might my choice at some point.

On the other hand, the odds that I’ll ever dither about my all-time favorite album are microscopically low. Ever since 1977, Wings Over America has been my selection, and unlike Aliens, it has no competition; there’s not a single other album I can think of that remotely compares to the love and devotion I’ve committed to America.

Understand that this doesn’t mean I think America is the greatest recording ever released or even the greatest live album ever heard. It just means that it’s my favorite, and that notion can’t be argued; I’ve listened to it so much more than any other album that it’s not close.

America hit the shelves in late 1976 and I got my copy for Easter 1977. Over the last 36 years, I’ve played it hundreds of times – maybe even into the thousands. Somehow I have yet to get sick of it, as I think it still sounds as fresh in 2013 as it did in 1977.

America compiles performances from Wings’ 1976 US tour and replicates a full show. Paul McCartney’s first US trek without his “former band”, Wings played five Beatles songs: “Yesterday” (off of Help!, 1965), “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (Help!), “Lady Madonna” (single, 1968), “Blackbird” (The Beatles, 1968) and “The Long and Winding Road” (Let It Be, 1970). Wings also covered Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory” and the Moody Blues’ “Go Now”, though Wings guitarist Denny Laine sang the Blues’ version, so it’s not a “traditional cover”. The show closing “Soily” was a Wings original but it never was released as a studio rendition, so America remains the only legit source for it.

All of the remaining 23 songs came from various McCartney/Wings albums. 1970’s McCartney offers “Maybe I’m Amazed”, but the band skips 1971’s Ram and Wild Life. 1972 gives us the single “Hi Hi Hi”, while 1973’s Red Rose Speedway provides “My Love”. 1973 also delivers “Live and Let Die”, the theme from the James Bond movie of the same name, and five tracks from Band On the Run: “Jet”, “Picasso’s Last Words”, “Bluebird”, “Let Me Roll It” and “Band on the Run”.

A low-key year for McCartney and Wings, 1974 comes up a goose egg. (Wings played that year’s “Junior’s Farm” in 1975 but dropped it when they came to the States.) 1975’s Venue and Mars brings a whopping nine tracks: “Venus and Mars”, “Rock Show”, “Spirits of Ancient Egypt”, “Medicine Jar”, “Call Me Back Again”, “You Gave Me the Answer”, “Magneto and Titaium Man”, “Listen to What the Man Said” and “Letting Go”. Finally, the then-current Wings At the Speed of Sound adds another four songs: “Let ‘Em In”, “Time to Hide”, “Silly Love Songs” and “Beware My Love”.

Given that McCartney’s tours from 1989 to date have been heavily oriented toward Beatles songs, some may feel surprised to see how little Fabs material he played in the 1970s. 1972/1973 Wings shows were even less Beatles-oriented; unless you count Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” – covered by the Fabs – McCartney didn’t perform any Beatles material live until 1975.

Macca could “get away with this” in the 1970s because he was such a huge solo star in his own right. Decades later, I think people forget that when people went to see Wings, many of them went to see Wings, not to see “former Beatle Paul”. Of course, his status with the Fabs was a major component in his popularity, but McCartney had so much solo success that he didn’t feel a need to pad out the show with Beatles tracks.

I truly enjoy “modern day” McCartney concerts but I miss the days when he didn’t feel the need to recreate his Fab past. America represents a setlist from someone with plenty of then-current popular material, and that gives it a zing that I think oldies-based shows lack.

Though it may seem strange that Venus and Mars dominates the show as it does. Ignoring the “Crossroads Theme” – added as a laugh to end Mars - America delivers all but three of the Mars songs – and one of the missing is simply a reprise of the title tune! On the other hand, the then-current Speed of Sound only gives us four of its 11 songs. Why didn’t Wings trot out more of the brand-new album?

Laziness, I’m guessing. McCartney was and is conservative with setlists. The man has a catalog of hundreds and hundreds of songs but keeps a pretty consistent setlist from night to night. If you see circa 2013 McCartney on one evening, you’ll hear a close to identical setlist the next– and the next, and so on. Unlike others such as Springsteen, he seems unwilling to shake things up from show to show, and that was true in 1976, when the songs remained largely static.

If you look at the setlist from the 1975 dates that promoted Mars, you’ll see it’s very similar to what Wings played to sell Speed of Sound. The 1975 shows lacked the four Speed of Sound songs, of course, but they featured “Junior’s Farm” and the 1972 B-sides “Little Woman Love” and “C Moon” instead.

When 1976 rolled around, Wings just dropped those three and added the four Speed of Sound tracks – all plopped into the same spot, too. McCartney couldn’t even be bothered to spread them around throughout the show! It feels like Macca thought he needed to promote Speed of Sound so he grabbed four songs – including the two singles, of course – and just dropped them into the set without fanfare.

My whining about laziness aside, I do love the setlist of America. Would the overall quality of the songs have been stronger if Wings did more Beatles material? Of course – only an insane person would think that “You Gave Me the Answer” is a better song than “Hey Jude” or that “Magneto and Titanium Man” tops “Helter Skelter”.

But that’s not the point. Whatever relative weakness one may assess in some of the songs, the overall impact remains tremendous, largely thanks to the quality of the performances. I remember when McCartney played in 1989 – his first post-Wings tour – some critics crowed that his then-current band could “play rings” around Wings.

Technically, they might’ve been right, but I don’t think Macca’s 1989-1993 bands had much chemistry. His current group – which has stayed with him since 2002 – comes much closer, but even then, I don’t think they have the powerful connection and spirit Wings showed on America. Whether or not Laine, lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and/or drummer Joe English were technically great players remains irrelevant to me; along with Paul’s wife Linda on keyboards - definitely not a skilled musician – that incarnation of Wings fit together to create amazing performances.

And they effing rocked, too. Over the decades, many have painted McCartney as a twee, lightweight tunesmith without much muscle behind his music. They tell us that Macca was the softie while Lennon was the “real rocker” in the Beatles.

To be sure, Paul could go “soft” at times, and we see some of that here. “My Love” remains a gooey concoction, and “You Gave Me the Answer” nods toward McCartney’s affection for “granny music” – ie, throwbacks to light, quaint jazz tunes.

However, anyone who believes McCartney didn’t rock will eat crow after one listen to America, as it displays the hard side of Macca in abundance. With tracks like “Rock Show”, “Let Me Roll It”, “Beware My Love”, “Hi Hi Hi” and “Soily”, we get some true “hard rockers” here – heck, “Soily” could qualify as borderline metal! (I left off tracks without McCartney vocals, but “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and “Medicine Jar” – sung by Laine and McCulloch, respectively – rock hard as well.)

Even when the songs aren’t true “hard rockers”, they often display a real muscularity that gives them a delightfully rough feel – and an edge missing on the studio versions. Few will agree with me, but I think that every America performance represents the definitive version of the song. Yeah, that includes the Beatles tunes, too – there’s nothing on this album that I think sounds better anywhere else.

Some of these are “close calls” – like “Yesterday” or “Blackbird” – but many America renditions mop the floor with the originals. The clunky studio “Listen to What the Man Said” seems cloying and rickety, but the live take bounces and swings. “Beware My Love” goes from a decent rocker to a chaotic balls-out killer. “Rock Show” leaves behind its flat aspirations to “rocking” and truly does, as it nails the listener to the wall. I also doubt that McCartney ever sang better than he did in 1976. Music fans will always debate the greatest singer in rock history, but America makes it clear to me that McCartney should win that contest. He could do anything back then. He could handle sweet ballads and midtempo dance tracks and hard rockers with equal aplomb.

By 1976, Macca’s voice had attained a minor, delightful roughness not there in his Beatles days, but he’d not lost range yet; while McCartney still sounded very good on the 1979 tour, he’d begun to decline, whereas America shows him at the top of his game. The album delivers a tutorial in What a Rock Singer Should Sound Like.

Remember earlier when I said I wouldn’t claim that Wings Over America was the greatest live album ever released? Screw that – I retract that statement. America is the best live album in existence – it simply doesn’t get any better than this. I look forward to playing it hundreds more times in the future.

The DVD Grades: Picture NA/ Audio NA/ Bonus C+

I opted not to offer picture/audio grades for the set because the DVD – the usual subject of my ratings – is an extra here. Normally the DVD is the main component, but here it’s a bonus feature, so I didn’t think it made sense to give it a regular grade.

On the DVD, the main attraction comes from a 1979 documentary called Wings Over the World. Focused on the 1976 tour, we get a few moments from earlier years like some McCartney home movies from 1971 and Wings rehearsal footage from 1972.

Most of “World” concentrates on the 1976 tour, however, and it includes partial renditions of the following songs: “Jet”, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Letting Go”, “Yesterday”, “Magneto and Titanium Man”, “Silly Love Songs”, “Go Now”, “Beware My Love”, “Let ‘Em In”, “Band On the Run”, “Venus and Mars”, “Rock Show”, “Hi Hi Hi”, and “Soily”. All of these provide the same film footage found in the Rock Show movie that will be available separately.

Occasional snippets from non-Rock Show performances appear, but they’re brief. For instance, we see a short intro to “Yesterday” from Australia before it moves to the American version.

“World” also delivers behind the scenes footage from the tour. We don’t get any interviews, as we stick with “fly on the wall” material.

If I ever saw “World”, I did so decades ago, so for all intents and purposes, this became my first screening. I have to admit it comes as a disappointment, largely because all the concert footage duplicates the bits from Rock Show. Since I’ll own a copy of the movie itself, this material becomes redundant.

And because the concert footage dominates “World”, the program loses a lot of its usefulness. Are the behind the scenes bits fun? Sure – they’re not especially illuminating, as “World” never attempts to be a “serious documentary”, but they’re enjoyable.

There’s just not enough of the non-concert moments to sustain us, though. This is a breezy and likable piece but not one with a ton of usefulness if you also own Rock Show.

By the way, the quality of the image is surprisingly good. I’m sure Rock Show will look better – especially on Blu-ray - but “World” delivers pretty positive visuals, without a lot of distractions or issues. This is a big step up from the murky image found on the Band on the Run package’s “One Hand Clapping”.

On the other hand, audio is a concern because the program runs fast. The audio ends up in a much higher pitch than it should be; poor Paul sounds like a Chipmunk! If you try to synch up “World” with the Rock Show performances, the latter will soon lag behind the former. I don’t know if “World” always played fast, but it’s definitely an issue here.

Also on the DVD, a Photographer’s Pass delivers a seven-minute, 48-second photo montage from the 1976 tour. It starts with the first show in Ft. Worth and follows the tour via a collection of color and (mostly) black and white shots. All of this comes accompanied by the America versions of “Band on the Run” and “Soily”. I’d prefer a more traditional frame-by-frame still gallery, but this is still a good selection of shots.

A Bonus CD provides eight songs from a Wings show in San Francisco. My review copy of America didn’t come with the CD, so I’ll have to wait until I get a full retail package to discuss it.

The same goes for the set’s remaining materials. It comes with a mix of paper materials that include a few books and other elements. Once I have the retail copy, I’ll update the review to discuss them.

Finally, the Deluxe Edition gives the buyer a voucher to access a 24 bit/96 kHz audio version of America. This means we get the album at higher than CD quality; you just download America on the Internet.

My all-time favorite album for many decades, Wings Over America remains a killer release. It shows Paul McCartney in peak form and brings us two hours of terrific music and great performances. This release provides the 2-CD album along with a documentary on a DVD, a bonus CD, a high-quality download and a surfeit of paper materials.

The 2013 reissue of America comes in two flavors: this $139 “Deluxe Edition” and a $15 “Standard Edition”. The latter simply gives the buyer the 2-CD original album; it lacks any of the bonus materials. Given the price difference, the SE will be the way to go for most folks, but the DE is a nice choice for Wings Over America superfans like me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6363 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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