Paul's Grammy winning and biggest selling album of the 70s Band On the Run had seen yet another release in 1999. This 1973 album had received the star treatment in a two disc re-mastered version. This edition has the feel of almost a box set with a special gatefold digipak casing, a deluxe 22 page CD booklet and a fold out 14" x 10" poster that replicates the poster that original came with the vinyl 1973 release. I know that I have already reviewed the DTS version a few years ago, but since this is my favorite version of the album, I figured what the hey.
Disc one is the original US release version of 10 songs that includes Helen Wheels, a song that was left off the UK version, as it was only intended to be released as a single, as McCartney had done since the early days with The Beatles. Band on the Run is often slated as McCartney's breakthrough solo record. I think that this claim overstates reality a bit. McCartney had a number one album with Red Rose Speedway released only seven months earlier in May. He also had a huge single from June 1973 with the James Bond theme song, Live and Let Die, that reached number 2. Yet, Band on the Run was surely the most accessible release from McCartney and Wings. The "weirdness" is virtually non-existent on Band on the Run, the album's production had a sleeker and brighter feel due to the mastery of long time friend Geoff Emerick engineering the recording. The Beatles often complained in the last days of how depressing and dreary it was to record at EMI, so Paul decided to check out where else in the world that EMI had studios. He found a city in Nigeria called Lagos, and decided it would surely be a change from London's Abbey Road studios. It seemed to work out pretty well too despite the giant insects, a mugging at knifepoint and the odd food.
The title track, Band on the Run, starts off the album. The song is unlike anything Paul had produced before; it takes on a somewhat condensed epic feel where it feels like three songs in one. Knowing Paul's penchant for writing many unfinished songs and then creating a medley of the best bits, I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly what this is. The song went through some minor changes when they finally recorded it in Lagos. The demos that Paul had taken with him had been stolen by two locals at knifepoint along with his wallet. He remembered most of the song's lyrics but improvised with the few he had forgotten. His voice sounds wonderful as he effortlessly sings at the top of his registers. Linda's prominent keyboards is the intro's hook, and guitarist Denny Laine's slide guitar adds the right accent to this upbeat #1 smash hit.
Jet was the last song to be written and recorded for Band on the Run. It was recorded at EMI after they had gotten back from Lagos. Paul wished to have the album out for the Christmas season, and they didn't have much time. Paul, Linda, Denny and engineer Geoff Emerick laid it down pretty quickly despite some technical difficulty during the recording. Jet turned out to be a instant favorite, McCartney rocks harder than ever on this top ten hit single.
Bluebird is nothing like his Beatle song Blackbird from five years earlier, in fact with the soaring harmonies from Linda, the addicting percussion and the bluesy sax solo, I dare say that it's even better than Blackbird. Mrs. Vanderbilt is a solid, heavier variety, except not with loud guitars but with prominent bass and quickly spewed lyrics. Sound engineer, Geoff Emerick is a huge fan of McCartney's bass playing and chooses to often put it more to the fore, even as early as The Beatles Revolver days. The non-sensical lyrics ?Ho, hey-ho? is the hook, another example of McCartney's niche for effortless melodic finesse.
Letting Go is an odd song when compared with the first four, slightly reminiscent of McCartney's earlier solo outings. Paul lays down a groovy bass line against a laid back drumbeat and then also plays the loud raucous guitar riff himself. Paul has a lot of reverb and echo on his voice giving the song a "live" atmosphere. McCartney was accused of parodying John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band with this song. I really can't see any besides a slight resemblance to Lennon's Cold Turkey blistering guitar.
Mamunia is a big acoustic guitar song; it has a reggae/Caribbean feel to the chorus. The title, Mamunia is an Arabic word for safe haven. McCartney learned the word while vacationing in Morocco. The safe haven in this song gives shelter from the rain. Oddly, the most Beatle-like song was written by guitarist/sideman Denny Laine. No Words has Denny and Paul singing the lyrics with harmonies that resemble John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and so obviously it becomes another favorite.
To my ears, Helen Wheels sounds like a 1990's McCartney lame attempt at writing a rocker (a la Biker Like An Icon from 1993's Off the Ground album) which comes off as unauthentic and boring, especially in this stellar track list. McCartney on the other hand thought the song was good enough to release it as a single. Maybe he was right since it had been a top ten hit single. In my opinion, the inferiority of the song should have been delegated at most for a b-side status.
Picasso's Last Words, a song inspired partly by actor Dustin Hoffman, when they were out eating at a restaurant and Hoffman asked Paul how he gets his ideas for writing songs. Hoffman showed McCartney a recent magazine that had an article about Pablo Picasso's death and asked him if he could write something about this article. The article had the last words uttered by Picasso, and Paul started singing the song write there to Dustin's awed amazement. Picasso's Last Words has a break toward the end where Wings incorporated little snippets of Jet and Mrs. Vanderbilt with great effect. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five is a nifty rocker with a disco drum beat performed by the man himself. The song is very catchy, and a great way to close the album. The track seems deliberately lengthy maybe to compensate that there was originally only nine songs.
Like I said above there is a poster included in this very attractive gatefold digipak presentation in the style of a box set almost. Most importantly, there is a second disc that includes interviews with Paul McCartney mostly with little snippets of the album and some rehearsals of some of the same songs. This disc sort of copies the format that FM Classic Rock radio has been doing for about 25 years now - where there would be reminiscing of the making of the album with all of the songs playing in the background. The only thing missing are the phone calls from fans.
There is a Band on The Run rehearsal performance from 1989 that is pretty horrible, with off key harmonies and bum notes. There's also what sounds like a tape recording of Paul, Linda and Denny at home performing Bluebird from 1975. There is another rehearsal from 1993 of the band performing Let Me Roll It, and this sounds really nice, except for those vocal harmonies which sound like a mess again.
In my opinion, the best parts are the interviews with all of these people that were involved in the making of the album Band on the Run. There's guitarist Denny Laine, his wife Linda, sound engineer Geoff Emerick, Dustin Hoffman, and even actors like Christopher Lee and Michael Parkinson who tell the story of how they ended up on the album cover. Disc 2 runs 51:07 and is good for a listen or maybe two at the most. There's a lot of info to digest and some not so good renditions of some of the music found on the album.
"Band on the Run" - 5:11
"Jet" - 4:07
"Bluebird" - 3:21
"Mrs. Vanderbilt" - 4:39
"Let Me Roll It" - 4:47
"Mamunia" - 4:50
"No Words" - 2:33
"Helen Wheels" - 3:44
"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" - 5:46
"Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five" - 5:29
Disc 2: Bonus Materials
"Paul McCartney (Dialogue Intro) /Band on the Run (Nicely Toasted Mix)" - 1:12
"Band on the Run (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue) - 2:17
"Band on the Run (Barn Rehearsal - 21 July 1989)" - 4:59
"Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Mamunia (Original)/Denny Laine (Dialogue)/Mamunia (Original)/Linda McCartney (Dialogue)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue)" - 4:23
"Bluebird (Live version - Australia 1975)" - 0:55
"Bluebird (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue)" - 0:23
"Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /No Words (Original)/Geoff Emerick (Dialogue)" (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) - 1:24
"No Words (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Tony Visconti (Dialogue)/Band on the Run (original)/ Tony Visconti (Dialogue)" (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) / (Paul and Linda McCartney) - 1:47
"Jet (Original from Picasso's Last Words) /Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Jet (Original from Picasso's Last Words) /Al Coury (Dialogue)" - 2:55
"Jet (Berlin Soundcheck - 3 September 1993)" - 3:52
"Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Clive Arrowsmith (Dialogue)" - 1:44
"Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /James Coburn (Dialogue)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /John Conteh (Dialogue)" - 3:24
"Mrs. Vanderbilt (original) / Paul McCartney (Dialogue) / Kenny Lynch (Dialogue)" - 2:10
"Let Me Roll It (Cardington Rehearsal - 5 February 1993)"/ Paul McCartney (Dialogue)" - 3:52
“Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Mrs. Vanderbilt (Background)/Michael Parkinson (Dialogue)/Linda McCartney (Band on the Run Photo Shoot) (Dialogue)/ Michael Parkinson (Dialogue)" - 2:25
"Helen Wheels (Crazed)/ Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Christopher Lee (Dialogue)" - 5:32
"Band on the Run (Strum Bit) / Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Clement Freud (Dialogue)" - 1:01
"Picasso's Last Words (Original)/ Paul McCartney (Dialogue) /Dustin Hoffman (Dialogue)" - 4:22
"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me) (Acoustic version)" - 1:11
"Band on the Run (Nicely Toasted Mix) / Paul McCartney (Dialogue)" - 0:42
"Band on the Run (Northern Comic Version)” - 0:37
Paul McCartney - lead, rhythm and bass guitars, drums, piano, percussion, vocals
Linda McCartney - piano, organ, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Denny Laine - rhythm, lead and bass guitars, keyboards, vocals
Howie Casey - Saxaphone
Ginger Baker - Percussion
Remi Kabaka - percussion
UPDATE 05/21/2010 - Paul McCartney had announced that there will be another release of this album coming in August 2010. He boasts of the superior audio that will be featured. If I buy this version, it will be my 5th version. I hope he includes some other rarities like this 25th anniversary version had.
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦More Beatles-related Epinions from Scapp70♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
Please Please Me
A Hard Day's Night
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
The White Album
Real Love (CD Single)
Free As A Bird (CD Single)
Tropical Tribute to the Beatles
Bach On Abbey Road
Here, There & Everywhere - My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles
Red Rose Speedway
Band on the Run
Band on the Run - 25 Year Anniversary Edition
Venus and Mars
Wings at the Speed of Sound
Should Paul McCartney Go Back On Drugs?
The Walrus Was Paul
Top 20 Favorite SOLO Beatles Songs W/O
Blast From The Past
Plastic Ono Band
All Things Must Pass
Read all 2 Reviews
Write a Review