Wings Over America
Here’s the album where McCartney worked out “the big show” – he’s been doing versions of this Wings live album ever since returning to big around the world touring in 1989. That’s 25 years now of album/tour/live-album cycle but back when Wings first dropped this double it was a nice consolidation – the band finally stepping up and creating a spectacle, the tour included Beatles material – some of the songs being performed live for the very first time, and in other cases it was a decade since The Beatles had ended its live touring anyway.
And there were a half-dozen Macca/Wings albums to draw from – the horn section used fittingly on the then-current material (like Let Em In) and adding new sounds to old chestnuts.
It’s a strange set in many ways, because McCartney was doing his best to promote the idea of Wings as band – not merely the brand that housed the latest McCartney compositions. So here we get songs by Jimmy McCulloch (Medicine Jar) and Denny Laine (Spirits of Ancient Egypt) and Laine even gets to remind people of his Moody Blues hit, Go Now.
These are weak points when compared with the applause for Beatles songs like Lady Madonna, Long and Winding Road, Blackbird and Yesterday. I’ve Just Seen A Face is rousing, part of a fun acoustic interlude and with Jet, Let Me Roll It, Picasso’s Last Words, Maybe I’m Amazed and – yes – even Silly Love Songs you couldn’t deny that McCartney was serving up some big songs for this version of Wings to hit out of the park.
I struggled with this live album back when I first heard it – but it seems to make a lot more sense now, this reissue reminding that it really was the first time that Macca served up The Big Stadium Show. Wings had settled into a fine unit, great instrumentalists – and Linda – driving the sound. And right from the opening medley of Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet you have the understanding that this is about fun – about serving up the hits and giving the crowd what it wants, the build of a set, the flow of a show, just a few surprises too of course.
McCartney’s reissue campaign seems to be ranked in terms of obvious highlights first, moving on down to the hard sell…in that sense Wings Over America is accurately placed: near the middle. But I’m enjoying it more now. Perhaps I’ve just lived with these songs – all of them – for long enough now. It’s a great big party when I play it. Makes me wish I had been there.