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Wings Over America

Capitol 11593
Released: December 1976
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 86
Certified Platinum: 12/20/76

For such an expensive, three-record concert souvenir, made by an artist as commercially astute as Paul McCartney, a consumer-conscious review seems appropriate. The Wings fan with all the studio albums, for instance, may find Wings over America a legitimate alternative; excepting the single side of acoustic material, these performances are rawer and more driven than the original recordings and, in many cases, much the better for it. "Rock Show" is placed in its natural habitat; "Magneto and Titanium Man" becomes more sinewy and sinister; "Time to Hide" is reborn and simply wonderful. "Soily," the encore original, is a perfect climax, one of the best fast songs McCartney has written. In other words, there is probably enough novelty here to make Wings over America worth owning. From the above, non-Wings fans -- particularly those who find them wimpy -- can infer that this is as good and tough as you'll get this particular band.

On the debit side, the acoustic set is unremittingly maudlin. Many of Wings' mediocre songs -- "My Love," "Listen to What the Man Said," "Silly Love Songs" -- successfully resist transcending mediocrity.

There isn't much stage patter; crowd noise is kept at an unobtrusive but effective level; the cover painting compares favorably to a witty James Rosenquist, but the poster inside is downright cheesy. Caveat emptor.

- Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 2/10/77.

Wings - Wings Over America
Original album advertising art.
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Bonus Reviews!

This year's premiere U.S. tour by Paul McCartney's post-Beatles group was one of the best-attended and best-put-together concert jaunts ever mounted. McCartney is one superstar who instinctively understands the importance of adding entertainment to live musical appearances, and his painstaking mixes of tapes made all along the tour represent the many original programming concepts in this show. The three disks are packaged in a clever split double-pocket jacket with a poster taking up the fourth compartment. Just about all the great songs written by McCartney either for the Beatles or Wings can be found here in intensely performed versions that cleverly take maximum advantage of the excitement of playing before big arena audiences. One unique bonus found on this LP is Wings guitarist Denny Laine, original singer of the Moody Blues performing that group's early hit "Go Now," which was only in the show at LA. But McCartney live with this well-honed group is an endless fascination. He remains the ultimate pop-rocker whether singing with his solo acoustic guitar, driving the group with his bass, rocking full-out with the travelling horn quartet or riffling off piano arpeggios for his haunting ballads. No LP in the future is likely to deliver us this much of McCartney in so many effective settings. Best cuts: "Jet," "Band On The Run," "Magneto & Titanium Man," "Silly Love Songs," "Let 'Em In," "Blackbird," "Yesterday," "Live And Let Die," "Lady Madonna," "Listen To What The Man Said," "Long And Winding Road ," "Hi Hi Hi," "Richard Cory."

- Billboard, 1976.

In the combustible amalgam of talents that was the Beatles, it was always clear that Paul McCartney was the moptop with the commercial instincts that struck for the jugular. In the early days, it was Paul who pushed them into coordinated jackets and, predictably, it is Paul who has achieved the greatest commercial post-Beatles success. With the release of Wings Over America, a three-record document of the Wings show that sold out in every city it played last year, the reason for that success is put into a clear perspective. Wings exudes the concept of professional entertainment that has characterized McCartney from the beginning, and its playing here is perfect for the silly love songs with which Paul tickles our fancy.

Wings supports McCartney's melodic flights on both ballads and rockers, supplying deftly executed harmonies and punchy instrumental precision. Standout touches include the complex harmonic arrangement on the sprightly pop-rocker "Magneto and Titanium Man" an Jimmy McCulloch's roughhouse lead guitar, which produces the grit that is often missing from Paul's music. Paul's flair for arrangement is also displayed through his use of a spirited four-man horn section.

The exhaustive concert repertoire boasts a number of jewels, ranging from faithfully re-created tunes from McCartney's Beatles past to highlights of his recent solo incarnations. Sung and played with professional aplomb, these live tracks display the sure craft that has kept McCartney in the pop mainstream, and if his recent work has rarely reached for the sky, as the Beatles did, these live tracks show that sheer talent can be a worthy substitute for inspiration. McCartney quipped before the album was released that if three quarters of the people who saw the live show bought the album they'd have a million seller. And while this is already true, what is most impressive is that though the concerts were themselves as much "events" as rock shows -- after all, McCartney hadn't performed in America since 1966 -- the record proves that the music justified the excitement.

- Playboy, 4/77.

McCartney made a favorable impression on his 1976 U.S. tour, convincing skeptics he could rock out when he chose and effectively mixing solo hits with Beatles oldies. This live album, originally issued on three LPs and now on two CDs, was more than a souvenir, containing an entire concert (edited from various shows), and finding McCartney performing effective versions of everything from "Lady Madonna" and "Yesterday" to "Hi Hi Hi" and "My Love." "Soily" is otherwise unavailable. "Maybe I'm Amazed" became a Top 10 hit, and the album was McCartney's fifth straight #1. * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

(2013 Deluxe Edition) Wings Over America was Paul McCartney's bold arena-rock (as opposed to pop) move of the 1970s -- a triple-disc live set, complete with vocal showcases for the backup guys. It was also the first time he remade Beatles oldies -- "Blackbird" and "Bluebird" fit together well. There's something daft and touching about how McCartney strives for band democracy: Whenever Denny Laine sings lead, you can almost hear the fans stampede for their bathroom weed break. Now reissued with a variety of bonus goodies, Wings Over America is a time capsule from a neglected phase of the Macca saga -- an artifact for Seventies stoners who thought Wings were heavier than the Beatles. * * * 1/2

- Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 6/6/13.

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