Paul McCartney and Wings Archive Collection

Review by Michael Jacobson

Paul McCartney and that little group he was a member of throughout the 60s have certainly been in the news of late, thanks to the final (and inevitable) release of The Beatles' catalog on iTunes.  Those were certainly great times for Sir Paul, and he certainly had more long after the lads from Liverpool had disbanded. 

But hard as it may be to imagine, Paul's solo career didn't get off to a great start.  As the 1960s came to a close, each member of The Beatles was disgruntled and thinking about moving on, but it was officially Paul that pulled the trigger that put rock and roll's greatest band out of its final misery.  His thinking:  be the first to release a solo album and the first to go public as the group member who left, telling his story to the public and showing fans around the world that he was the true leader, even as the band disintegrated.

It was a terrible miscalculation.  Rather than gaining fans' sympathy and understanding, Paul became tagged as the tyrant who ended a musical legacy.  He had always been the Beatle who was most eager to please his public, but now he was on the disheartening end of having every musical move he made criticized and disdained.  Solo album after solo album was ravaged by the press and not treated much more kindly by Sir Paul's precious fans.

It wasn't until he and his new group Wings released Band on the Run that Paul finally started to win back the critics and fans he had so alienated with the breakup of The Beatles.  With one really good album...so good that no one could really disparage it for personal reasons...he reminded the world what his place was in rock's greatest band and why he was one half of the pop era's most prolific songwriting team.

"Band on the Run" is a classic song, one that seems to re-invent itself casually and effortlessly no less than three times before the actual meat of the tune comes in.  With swirling keyboards, solid guitar on both rhythm and lead fronts, and Paul's unmistakable voice, the former Beatle had finally truly arrived as a solo artist on his own terms.

The songs on the album are fun, ranging from the rollicking "Jet" to the pretty and tender "Bluebird".  "Picasso's Last Words" has a striking sentiment, and "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" is driven by a pulsing piano and offers modern audiences an amusing look back to the future.  And I'm not entirely sure who "Mrs. Vanderbilt" is or was, but the simple "hey-oh" chorus will be stuck in your head for hours after you hear it. 

This Archival Collection release is actually a three disc set:  the original album, a second CD of unused takes from this album and elsewhere, and a bonus DVD that includes three of the album's original promotional short films, some music videos, and the documentary "One Hand Clapping", which is essential Paul and Wings playing through some of their tunes in a live session at Abbey Road studios.  It doesn't offer the best video or audio quality because of the age of the film, but seeing how well Wings really could rock even in such a small and closed setting is sure to be a treat for fans.

Band on the Run in many ways remains the most important post-Beatles album for Sir Paul.  It represented a true turning point for his music and career when he and his brokenhearted fans finally kissed and made up, and resumed a love affair that was just too passionate to stay dry for too long.

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