On May 28th, the deluxe edition of Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1976 3x LP concert album, Wings Over America, was released as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection reissue series. In addition to this disc being one of the greatest live albums of all time (in my humble opinion), Wings Over America showcases McCartney at his creative best. The last comment isn’t to disparage Macca’s more recent output but rather to point out that Wings Over America could easily serve as a greatest hits collection.
Wings Over America was the last of five consecutive Wings’ albums to reach #1 in America and the addition of drummer Joe English and lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (both of whom joined with 1975’s Venus and Mars) seemed to add a spark to the band. Listening to the band perform live, Wings sounds like a tightly integrated unit (as opposed to Macca’s current backing band of faceless hired guns) with each of the members establishing their own identity by making distinct contributions to the live show. Multi-instrumentalist Denny Laine (x-Moody Blues) is a veteran performer, Jimmy McCulloch is probably the best of McCartney’s guitarists and Joe English, in addition to being a great drummer, looks like he is having the time of his life in the accompanying DVD.
Wings Over America’s 28 tracks reflect the band’s setlist from their 1976 North American tour but the individual tracks were compiled from a number of different stops on the tour. The set list pulls from all of the Wings’ albums, with an emphasis on Venus and Mars (9 of the 13 tracks are performed live) along with five Beatles song, which was a big deal for the fans as Macca had refused to play Beatles numbers on his earlier UK tours. The set list also includes a cover of the Moody Blues’ chestnut “Go Now”, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Corey” (both sung by Laine) and the (then) unreleased Wings’ track “Soily”, which first surfaced during the Band on the Run sessions.
With the standard edition of this reissue, the original three albums are now spread across 2 CDs, with Sides 1 -3 on the first CD and Sides 4 – 6 on the second CD.
Wings Over America Track List
1. "Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet" – Recorded 5/27/76
2. "Let Me Roll It" – Recorded 5/27/76
3. "Spirits of Ancient Egypt" – Recorded 6/10/76
4. "Medicine Jar” – Recorded 5/27/76
5. "Maybe I'm Amazed" - Recorded 5/29/76
6. "Call Me Back Again" – Recorded 5/27/76
7. "Lady Madonna” - Recorded 5/7/76
8. "The Long and Winding Road" – Recorded 5/29/76
9. "Live and Let Die" – Recorded 5/22/76
10. "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" – Recorded 5/22/76
11. "Richard Cory" - Recorded 6/23/76
12. "Bluebird" – Recorded 5/27/76
13. "I've Just Seen a Face" - Recorded 6/23/76
14. "Blackbird" - Recorded 5/22/76
15. "Yesterday" - ??
16. "You Gave Me the Answer" – Recorded 6/23/76
17. "Magneto and Titanium Man" – Recorded 5/22/76
18. "Go Now" – Recorded 6/23/76
19. "My Love" – Recorded 5/21/76
20. "Listen to What the Man Said" – Recorded 5/29/76
21. "Let 'Em In" – Recorded 6/23/76
22. "Time to Hide" - Recorded 5/25/76
23. "Silly Love Songs" – Recorded 5/25/76
24. "Beware My Love" – Recorded 6/7/76
25. "Letting Go" – Recorded 5/29/76
26. "Band on the Run" – Recorded 6/7/76
27. "Hi, Hi, Hi" – Recorded 6/7/76
28. "Soily" – Recorded 6/7/76
Here is where keeping up with the bonus discs get a bit tricky – the “Deluxe Edition Box Set” includes “the original 28-track album, a bonus tracks disc, DVD of the TV documentary Wings Over the World, 112-page book, assorted memorabilia, 60-page photograph book, 80-page sketch book and download link to all of the material”. The bonus CD contains eight live tracks recorded at The Cow Palace in San Francisco. Wings played two shows there on 6/13-14/76 but, as I don’t have this bonus disc, I have no clue as to which show these tracks came from.
Wings Over San Francisco Track List
• "Let Me Roll It"
• “Maybe I'm Amazed"
• "Lady Madonna"
• "Live and Let Die"
• "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)"
Adding to the different options – the Best Buy edition of Wings Over America contains the Wings Over San Francisco disc ($16.99). If you are interested though – grab this one quick as this edition is sold out in stores and is only available on the shelf in whichever stores still have copies.
The bonus DVD, Wings Over the World, runs just over 75 minutes and contains some great footage from Wings’ American tour. While this documentary traces the evolution of Wings and starts with early rehearsal footage of the McCartneys with Denny Laine along with footage of the McCartneys on their farm in Scotland, the focus is on the ‘75/’76 world tour. This disc contains 15 complete performances from the Wings Over the World tour. Between each of the songs is ‘behind the scenes’ footage that ranges from press interviews to backstage footage and relevant snippets from the band’s travels. What is particularly amusing is an Australian interviewer commenting that Macca may be a bit old for rock and roll now that he is 33. Other footage includes Ringo joining the band backstage, Elton sitting next to Cher at the show at the Forum in Los Angeles, Macca carefully working with the venue sound engineer on the sound check and more.
The size of the crowds lined up outside these venues is also amazing – the big general admission shows (which I assume this is) were before my time so I can’t really imagine being a part of the body-to-body lines. My experience with arena rocks shows is at the Madison Square Gardens, which is less than 1/3 the capacity of the Seattle Kingdom, which was where “Soile” was filmed. The disc ends with Wings leaving the stage and Macca’s final comment was “See you next time”. This is a great documentary as this was Macca’s one-and-only trip to the States with Wings and it would be thirteen years before he returned to the US.