Saturday and Sunday mornings when preparing and having breakfast, I oftentimes listen to entire albums. While in the era of iTunes and the like this may sound like an outdated concept, I can highly recommend it!
Since only a few weeks ago I saw Paul McCartney in Hershey, PA and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Revolver was earlier this week, perhaps it’s not a surprise I chose an album that falls in the same realm: Wings Over America, a fantastic live set that captures the band’s 1975-1976 “Over The World” tour.
Released in December 1976 as a three-vinyl record set, Wings Over America includes recordings from various shows of the tour’s American leg from May to June 1976. It was the first time Paul performed live in the U.S. since The Beatles’ final live tour there in 1966. I also read it apparently was also the only time Wings played in the U.S. and Canada, which surprised me, given Paul’s enormous popularity in the States.
In addition to many Wings classics like Jet, Let Me Roll It, Live and Let Die, Letting Go and Band On the Run, the set features five of Paul’s songs from The Beatles era: Lady Madonna, The Long and Winding Road, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Blackbird and Yesterday. Another standout is Maybe I’m Amazed, which originally appeared on Paul’s first solo album after the break-up of The Beatles, McCartney, in April 1970. The live version of the song was also released as a single in February 1977 and remains a staple on many rock radio stations to this day. In my opinion, it’s much more dynamic than the studio version!
Just like I felt about the recent show in Hershey, I think the true highlights on Wings Over America are the acoustic pieces: Picasso’s Last Words, the Paul Simon song Richard Cory, Bluebird, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Blackbird and Yesterday.
Based on two of Paul’s live shows I was fortunate to see, which in addition to Hershey included a gig in the late 1980s in Germany, I have to say Wings Over America does a beautiful job to capture the concert experience. Obviously, with so many additional albums Paul has released since 1976, his live set has evolved quite a bit. In addition to songs from these albums, it now includes many more Beatles songs, both from the band’s early period and the later more experimental phase.
Wings Over America hit No. 1 in the U.S. in early 1977 and N0. 8 in the UK. I read it has sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone and apparently was the first triple record release by a group to reach the top spot. The single off the set, Maybe I’m Amazed, made it to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 28 on the UK chart.
During his live tours, Paul has always played with terrific musicians, so my musings about Wings Over America wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the band. In addition to Paul (vocals, bass, piano, acoustic guitar) and his wife Linda McCartney (keyboards, backing vocals), Wings included original Moody Blues member Denny Laine (vocal, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion), Jimmy McCulloch (electric and acoustic guitars, bass, vocals), Joe English (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and a fantastic brass and woodwind section consisting of Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard and Tony Dorsey.