Back in 1976, when Paul McCartney & Wings’ live album ‘Wings Over America’ was released, the band was coming off a string of four No. 1 records. The triple-album set, culled from various concerts the group performed on their 1976 U.S. tour in support of ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound,’ soon became their fifth straight No. 1. (The last three-record LP to reach the top spot was by one of McCartney’s old bandmates: George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass.’)

No surprise that the album was a hit. The 29-track LP is filled with McCartney favorites, stretching all the way back to his Beatles days. And because Wings occasionally come off a bit stifled on record, the concert setting toughens up their sound a bit, even though some studio overdubs were applied to ‘Wings Over America’ to mask out-of-tune vocals and other onstage mistakes.

The result is a time-capsule live album that basically plays like an abbreviated, all-era greatest-hits set by McCartney. The best songs – gloriously remastered for a new reissue available in a few formats – feature McCartney and the expanded Wings at their rawest; the opening ‘Venus and Mars / Rock Show / Jet’ medley, ‘Let Me Roll It,’ ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Band on the Run’ sound particularly vibrant.

A three-song acoustic mid-set Beatles break – featuring ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face,’ ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Yesterday’ – is rushed but welcomed, but the second half of ‘Wings Over America’ sags a little when Denny Laine takes lead vocals on a handful of songs and McCartney hauls out some of his weaker cuts, like ‘Let ‘Em In’ and ‘Hi, Hi, Hi.’

The new reissue divides the original three-album set into a two-disc standard edition. A four-book, four-disc deluxe edition box tacks on a CD of bonus tracks recorded at a San Francisco gig (all of the songs are available on ‘Wings Over America’ in different versions), the 1979 TV documentary ‘Wings Over the World’ and a bunch of fan-baiting memorabilia. Whether or not you need all the additional material depends on how you feel about mid-‘70s McCartney. For most listeners, the two-disc ‘Wings Over America,’ which collects the original 1976 album, is probably enough.


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