Judge Clark Douglas can't tell you how he feels—his heart is like a wheel.
"Well the rain exploded with a mighty crash/as we fell into the sun/and the first one said to the second one there/I hope you're having fun."
What can be said about Paul McCartney & Wings' Band on the Run that hasn't already been said? It's a superb album from top to bottom; arguably the best of McCartney's post-Beatles career and possibly even the best solo album from any former Beatle (I'd pick George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, but I'm certain many would select this album). Born in chaos and stress (two members of the band quit just before the album was recorded; the band was forced to record the album from memory after demo tapes were stolen), the album nonetheless managed to provide McCartney with some of his biggest hits (the title track and "Jet") and a great deal of critical regard. The album received a two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition back in 1999, but this new Special Edition impressively manages to avoid recycling most of the extras from that set.
The first two discs are CDs: the first contains the original album and the second contains some 35 minutes of bonus tracks. While everything could have been stuffed onto a single CD, I'm sure purists will be pleased with the fact that the album is presented in its original form. Anyway, the bonus disc offers "Helen Wheels" (released as a non-album single around the time of Band on the Run was released) and "Country Dreamer" (the former song's B-side), in addition to a collection of numbers from the "One Hand Clapping" television special: "Bluebird," "Jet," "Let Me Roll It," "Band on the Run," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" and "Country Dreamer." The bonus disc wraps up with the brief "Zoo Gang" (the B-side for the "Band on the Run" single).
The real highlight of this re-release is a 91-minute DVD, offering an assortment of Band on the Run-themed goodies. Here's what you get.
Music Videos: A music video for "Band on the Run" (5 minutes) offers some visually explicit clues to understanding the somewhat cryptic lyrics of the songs. The collage-style construction of the piece is fun, too. Next up is a "Mamunia" video (5 minutes), which employs some very simplistic animation and a penciled central character who looks kind of like John Lennon with a blonde Afro. Finally, "Helen Wheels" is the most straightforward of the videos, as Paul and the band sing while riding down the road in a convertible.
Album Promo (8 minutes): This archival piece is an odd sort of promotional short for Band on the Run. Behind-the-scenes footage of Paul, Linda and an assortment of pals (including James Coburn!) plays underneath extended clips from "Band on the Run," "Bluebird," "Mrs. Vanderbilt" and "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five." Interestingly, the "Bluebird" snippet also uses some footage of…um, seagulls.
Wings in Lagos (3 minutes): Some black-and-white footage of the band in Lagos, where the album was recorded. The footage is underscored with a slower, more reflective performance of "Band on the Run." Some sort of introduction would have been appreciated for pieces like this, but it's nice to have.
Osterly Park (15 minutes): Some of the behind-the-scenes footage from the album promo can also be seen here, though we're actually able to hear what everyone is saying this time…sort of. With everyone talking over each other, a lot of what's being said is lost in the shuffle. I did manage to catch James Coburn shouting, "The Internecine Project!" at one point. My favorite moment: Christopher Lee looking at a pair of pants and declaring, "The waist. That must be the waist." Hey, you take what pleasures you can get in mostly-unedited footage like this.
One Hand Clapping (50 minutes): This section offers the real meat of the disc. This 1974 television special presents Macca and the band running through their already-impressive collection of greatest hits. The audio is a little pinched at times and the video quality certainly leaves something to be desired, but it's still fun to see prime-era Wings at work. McCartney doesn't spend much time on commentary (though he does interject a thought or two via narration from time to time), running through his set at a brisk pace: "Jet," "Solly," "C Moon," "Little Woman Love," "Maybe I'm Amazed," "My Love," "Bluebird," "Let's Love," "All of You," "I'll Give You a Ring," "Band on the Run," "Live and Let Die," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" and "Baby Face."
Note: This affordably-priced 2-CD/1-DVD release is the best option for most, but diehard fans may want to go for the lavish 3-CD/1-DVD set (retailing for around $100), which includes an "audio documentary" on the creation of the album and a hardbound 120-page book with loads of photos and behind-the-scenes info. Whichever version you choose, Band on the Run is unquestionably an essential album that belongs in every music lover's collection.
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