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Paul McCartney’s “Wingspan” Reviewed

Disc 1: Hits

1. “Listen to What the Man Said” (from Venus and Mars, 1975) Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney Wings 3:57

2. “Band on the Run” (from Band on the Run, 1973) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 5:13

3. “Another Day” (Non-album single, 1971) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney 3:43

4. “Live and Let Die” (from the Live and Let Die soundtrack, 1973) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 3:12

5. “Jet” (from Band on the Run) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 4:08

6. “My Love” (from Red Rose Speedway, 1973) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 4:08

7. “Silly Love Songs” (from Wings at the Speed of Sound, 1976) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 5:55

8. “Pipes of Peace” (from Pipes of Peace, 1983) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 3:26

9. “C Moon” (Non-album single, 1972) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 4:35

10. “Hi, Hi, Hi” (Non-album single, 1972) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 3:09

11. “Let ‘Em In” (from Wings at the Speed of Sound) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 5:10

12. “Goodnight Tonight” (Non-album single, 1979) P. McCartney Wings 4:21

13. “Junior’s Farm” (DJ edit; non-album single, 1974) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 3:03

14. “Mull of Kintyre” (Non-album single, 1977) P. McCartney, Denny Laine Wings 4:45

15. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” (from Ram, 1971) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul and Linda McCartney 4:50

16. “With a Little Luck” (DJ edit; original version from London Town, 1978) P. McCartney Wings 3:13

17. “Coming Up” (Live at Glasgow) (Edit; non-album single, 1980) P. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 3:28

18. “No More Lonely Nights” (from Give My Regards to Broad Street, 1984) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 4:47

 

Disc 2: History

1. “Let Me Roll It” (from Band on the Run) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 4:51

2. “The Lovely Linda” (from McCartney, 1970) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 0:45

3. “Daytime Nighttime Suffering” (B-side to the “Goodnight Tonight” single, 1979) P. McCartney Wings 3:23

4. “Maybe I’m Amazed” (from McCartney) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 3:52

5. “Helen Wheels” (Non-album single/Band on the Run [US edition only], 1973) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 3:46

6. “Bluebird” (from Band on the Run) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul McCartney and Wings 3:26

7. “Heart of the Country” (from Ram) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul and Linda McCartney 2:24

8. “Every Night” (from McCartney) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 2:34

9. “Take It Away” (Single version; original version from Tug of War, 1982) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 4:05

10. “Junk” (from McCartney) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 1:57

11. “Man We Was Lonely” (from McCartney) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 2:59

12. “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” (Single edit; original version from Venus and Mars) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 3:46

13. “The Back Seat of My Car” (from Ram) P. McCartney Paul and Linda McCartney 4:29

14. “Rockestra Theme” (from Back to the Egg, 1979) P. McCartney Wings 2:36

15. “Girlfriend” (from London Town) P. McCartney Wings 4:44

16. “Waterfalls” (DJ edit; original version from McCartney II) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 3:24

17. “Tomorrow” (from Wild Life, 1971) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 3:27

18. “Too Many People” (from Ram) P. McCartney Paul and Linda McCartney 4:12

19. “Call Me Back Again” (from Venus and Mars) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Wings 4:59

20. “Tug of War” (Single version; original version from Tug of War) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 4:04

21. “Bip Bop/Hey Diddle” (Previously unreleased; recorded in 1971) P. McCartney, L. McCartney Paul and Linda McCartney 3:36

22. “No More Lonely Nights” (Playout version) (Edit; original version from Give My Regards to Broad Street) P. McCartney Paul McCartney 3:55

It is May 2001, Paul McCartney was about to marry  the feral Heather Mills, and is about to enter a five year decline steadied in 2005 with one of his best albums, but before that: because Wings weren’t the Beatles, it is easy in 2018 to lose track that they were the single biggest pop band of the 1970s, a veritable waterfall of melody. Wingspan, a Wings (essential Paul, his wife Linda, and his sidekick Denny Laine) and solo  retrospective, neatly filed into two parts, the hits and the history, is sublime:  both albums are excellent, this is forty songs of just about flawless pop music. A huge achievement and alone,  without the Beatles, enough for any lifetime.

Even secondary McCartney, the “Pipes Of Peace” and “Rockestra Theme” improves hugely in context, hitting your melody elbow time after time after time, you just sit back in absolute awe at the achievement. In context “Bip Bop/Hey Diddle” is the sort of trifle that you certainly notice is a wonderful trifle. And the big stuff, “Listen To What The Man Says” to open the hits, “Let Me Roll It” to open the history portion, are monumental. Two huge early peaks but since the songs aren’t in chronological order you don’t get the Pipes of Peace-y fall off in quality, and the inclusion of McCartney’s solo stuff helps as well.

There are a lot of revelations here. My friend Steve Potocin has been preaching the church of “My Love” and “Silly Love Songs” to me for years, but until I heard them back to back on Wingspan, I seriously missed the point, Steve’s  was that the  sheer quality of arrangement was a  power pop highlight, I found them both anodyne in the extreme, but listening to what the man said here they are revealed as, at the very least, a wonder of construction: both songs are so damn sturdy, so intricate without being ELO like bloated, That’s something not said too often, McCartney lacks pretension. With the possible exception of Big Star there is no power popper less given to tricking up the emotions: he makes his stand via arrangements that are so great it makes the songs appear bigger than they are.  Even big statement, like “Tug Of War,” with George Martin producing, or “Live And Let Die” -where when he wants to explode Bond, he just explodes it, aren’t heavy, This is exceptional songwriting, and English to its core: self-deprecating in its refusal to  over reach.

The first album itself opens with five masterpieces, follows with two debatables, a fistful of mix and matches and ends with one of their final hits, The second album opens with one of McCartney’s greatest compositions including the Beatles but continues as a series of digressions. If there s some reason for the albums flow,  I can’t see it at all. Well,  both albums open with McCartney actions upon his audience, listen to him as he rolls it to you. But for the sake of thematic consistency, why did he not follow “Venus and Mars/Rock show” with “Rockestra Theme” and instead put “Back Seat Of My Car” between them?

Still, it flows nicely, the songs are uniformly great, album # 33 is terrific and the Mary McCartney documentary below…. well, I haven’t actually seen it yet but I will… Meanwhile… next up, ugh, Driving Rain

Grade: A+

 

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