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Paul McCartney Archive Collection: mid-term report, the story so far

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Next week sees the release of two more albums (Venus and Mars and At The Speed Of Sound) in the Paul McCartney archive collection reissue series. It’s been 18 months since the Wings Over America set came out so on the eve of the new reissues SDE takes a look back at the reissue story so far and offers a ‘mid-term report’…

October 2010

band_reportBand on the Run (Deluxe)

A predictable, yet worthy album to kick off the archive collection, Band On The Run has long been the yardstick by which Macca’s post-Beatles efforts have been judged.

The content of the 3CD+DVD deluxe version set the tone for the reissues that followed with some key missing content (the original quad mix), alongside tracks that most fans didn’t really need (the audio documentary on CD3 which was the bonus disc from the 25th Anniversary set).

Paul extracts maximum value from his unreleased One Hand Clapping documentary by including it on the (excellent) DVD as well as putting six songs from the film on CD2 (along with a few B-sides). The lack of demos is forgivable since they were stolen when Paul was mugged in Lagos! McCartney’s team did something with this set that has never been repeated and that was to bundle the DVD with the two-CD version in a great value ‘special edition’ three-disc digipack. After this debut archive collection reissue, the DVD would always be unique to the deluxe book. Speaking of which, the book was absolutely superb – a best-in-class tome which has just the right balance of archive photography, interviews and quality design. Hi-res 24/96 digital downloads were also included.

McCartney offered two exclusive downloads for fans who bought this set from his website (via Topsin). These were No Words (Live in Glasgow 1979) and Band On The Run (Live in Glasgow 1979). These were never made available on any physical format and are effectively already out-of-print!

Great work, keep it up: DVD, bonus CD 2, book.

Could Do Better: No 5.1, hi-res is download only, CD 3 redundant


May 2011

mccartney_reportMcCartney  (Deluxe)

The McCartney deluxe makes it clear that it doesn’t matter how little bonus material is available, if Paul wants the album to be ‘deluxe’, then deluxe it will be! To be fair, the record obviously has strong historical significance having been issued between The BeatlesAbbey Road and Let It Be, but if it wasn’t for another superb book, you’d feel a little short changed with this 2CD+DVD set which is a CD lighter than Band on the Run.

In terms of the ‘bonus’ DVD, fast forwarding ten years down the road (1979 Kampuchea concert) for a few live recordings (Every Night, Hot As Sun and Maybe I’m Amazed) comes across as a little desperate and the ever dependable One Hand Clapping documentary is called into action again with Paul performing the somewhat overrated Suicide (supposedly written for Frank Sinatra).  The DVD has some really evocative home movie footage, but again, in the hunt for ‘appropriate’ content we end up with footage of a mulleted Macca in his late-forties chugging out Junk for a 1991 MTV Unplugged. This rather breaks the spell and romanticism of a bearded McCartney in flying jacket larking around on Super 8 film with his life as a single man and a Beatle only recently behind him.

The seven-track CD lasts only 25 minutes and Suicide makes another appearance along with an instrumental of Oo You, craftily retitled Don’t Cry Baby. You really do wish there were more genuine outtakes, until you listen to the woeful Women Kind and then you wish there were less.

Great work, keep it up: Book is a wonderful document of the musician painfully shedding his Beatle skin.

See me: Going ‘back to the future’ to find audio and video doesn’t work. All the music including the original album will fit on ONE CD!

READ THE ORIGINAL SDE REVIEW


May 2011

mccartneyIIMcCartney  II (Deluxe)

Released at the same times as the McCartney reissue, McCartney II is the hidden gem of the archive collection.

The only album issued in the 1980s to so far be afforded the deluxe book treatment, this 3CD+DVD set enjoys a large amount of unreleased material thanks in part to the fact that Paul was, for a while, toying with the idea of creating a double album and had some test pressings made up for family and friends to encourage some feedback. These have been widely bootlegged and included tracks such as All You Horse Riders and Mr H Atom /  You Know I’ll Get You Baby that didn’t make it to the final (single) album but appear on the deluxe.

As well as those complete unreleased tracks, amongst the bonus material are unedited versions of more than half the tracks on the album, including singles Coming Up and Wonderful Christmastime. These are a fascinating insight to the original recordings and it’s always interesting hearing how tracks were tightened up for commercial release.

The DVD includes a Meet Paul McCartney feature that has an interview with Paul conducted by lyrist Tim Rice. It’s a slightly grumpy affair with Rice apparently trying a bit too hard to avoid the beam of McCartney’s natural charm and coming across as borderline rude in places. The Coming Up and Waterfalls video are included along with Wonderful Christmastime which looks like a 4th generation VHS. Wings performing Coming Up from the People of Kampuchea concert is a phenomenal performance by Macca, effortlessly playing a busy baseline while singing beautifully. He look great too. Home video footage (“directed by” longtime assistant John Hammel) shows Wings rehearsing for this very performance.

Great work, keep it up: The best deluxe package so far. Book typically great.

See me: DVD could have had more content.


May 2012

RAM (Deluxe)

Fans were hoping for Paul’s 1971 album RAM to be reissued in late 2011 but in the end had to wait a whole year before it emerged (shortly after Paul’s Kisses On The Bottom album).

Four deluxe reissues in and someone in Macca’s team decided it was time to mess with the format. The deluxe edition would not just be a book it would be a box containing a number of books (including a ‘book of sheep’ flickbook) along with envelopes containing high quality photos and replica pages of handwritten McCartney lyrics. The box was cleverly designed to replicate the look (and feel) of the previous books and dimensions were maintain to ensure shelf-friendly consistency.

Even better, this was a generous 4CD+DVD set. One CD contained Thrillington an easy listening style orchestral (instrumental) version of the album (given a brief standalone CD reissue in the mid-nineties) and another had a rare mono mix of RAM which like The Beatles’ mono mixes was a dedicated mix with plenty of differences to enjoy. Bonus tracks on the third disc were reasonable, if not outstanding.

A highlight of the DVD was some great on the road footage courtesy of drummer-at-the-time Denny Seiwell.

Great work, keep it up: Amazing packaging, Mono RAM really good.

See me: DVD didn’t include Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey promo.

READ THE ORIGINAL SDE REVIEW


May 2013

Wings Over America (Deluxe)

The 1976 triple live album probably wouldn’t have been most people’s choice for the  fifth release in the archive collection reissue series, but Paul likes to celebrate success and the Wings Over America tour was a successful (and happy) time for the ex-Beatle.

Controversy! Like RAM, this Grammy winning deluxe is a box and not a book, but this time McCartney’s team have also abandoned the consistency of the front, so instead of just the album cover nicely inset, we have tour stickers and a big Wings logo etc. Also, the material/feel of the slipcase doesn’t match the others, although the dimensions are still the same.

This is a 3CD+DVD set with the bonus CD contains eight unreleased live tracks from Cow Palace. The DVD is the Wings Over The World documentary.

The heart of this package was the books and you get FOUR of them.The 110-page commemorative tour book is the most like the volumes that came with the previous sets but the highlight was probably the tour itinerary book which was a treasure trove of hidden replica memorabilia, photos, facsimile tour passes and the like. The other two books were a Linda McCartney photo book and a book of drawing and sketchings by the tour artist (!) Humphrey Ocean.

Great work, keep it up: Unmatchable quality across the four books.

See me: Should have concentrated on studio albums.


Venus and Mars and At The Speed Of Sound will be released on 3 November 2014. You can read about those reissues here.

Venus And Mars Pre-order

venus_deluxe

Deluxe Book 2CD+DVD edition

Wings At The Speed Of Sound Pre-order

speed_book

Deluxe Book 2CD+DVD edition

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48 responses to Paul McCartney Archive Collection: mid-term report, the story so far

  1. Andy says:

    Nicely written. I have BOTR, Mc and Mc II and RAM; I’d get the others but I can’t afford them so will probably stick with the 2 cd versions. I like the care that has been spent on this series but have been somewhat frustrated with the delays. I understand the point of spacing things out but much prefer the approach taken by Jimmy Page for the new Led Zep remasters series (i.e. multiple releases every few months). Agree with you about the RAM mono – and doubly nice that they released it on vinyl . . .

  2. Alastair Brown says:

    So….what next???
    (great article – looks like I picked the best two, Ram and Mc II, to buy. Mc II a good price on Amazon just now)

  3. Galley says:

    I’ve always picked up the 2-disc versions. I have seen the boxed sets for as little as $40 on Amazon, though. Are the 24-bit downloads still available?

  4. Leemer says:

    The bad thing was I didn’t buy BOTR originally, the great thing was I bought it from Amazon on one of their holiday door buster black cyber days at an excellent price. I had to, I had the Ram and the 2 Macs, now I have to buy them all.

    • JLVW says:

      Your comment would be mine too, word-for-word. A loyal fan you are where it counts … all McC’s music up ’til we lost Lennon.

      • JLVW says:

        Oh … minus the Amazon part. I tried to buy there from a vendor and they sent RAM fine, but sent BAND… in the non-box 3-disc edition. So, had to buy it at my local big independent store here in Hollywood called Amoeba. So, now I’m caught up and craving the eventuality of WILD LIFE, RED ROSE SPEEDWAY, LONDON TOWN, & BACK TO THE EGG. The only 80’s one I adore is PRESS TO PLAY in spite of the loser single, “Press”. …EGG, McC II, and PRESS TO PLAY are my fav’s for the experimental side of Paul. (And his Techno instrumental albums don’t cut-it. Anyone can make those.)

  5. Bill says:

    Just a little historical nitpick:
    Unplugged was released in 1991, when Paul was 49. :)

  6. PDS says:

    And just released on his website – a free download of an extended version of Letting Go – not on the deluxe edition.

  7. Manuel says:

    I wonder if I’m the only one that is not thrilled by any ablum Paul made before 1985. I bought the 2 CD versions of some of these reissues just for collecion. McCartney II is one of the worst album I ever listend to. I’m waiting for Press To Play and Flowers In The Dirt (his best solo album imo) to receive the deluxe treatment…

    • JLVW says:

      Yes, you are the only one. But, I’m proud of your convictions because I like a little something from every album … that’s life. So, hopefully you find something enjoyable throughout.

      Bowie’s catalog is a good example of something great on each one ’cause I don’t like all Ziggy any more than I like all Let’s Dance or all Eno era.

  8. Richard Royston says:

    The 3rd CD from the Wings Over America deluxe edition was also included with the Best Buy exclusive edition of the regular version.

    It seems to be still available at bestbuy.com.

  9. Joe says:

    Tug of War and Pipes of Peace next… According to the Beatles Examiner at least…

    • JLVW says:

      Oh, I hope not !!! The yuppie albums ! Poor Paul was trying to stay busy after John’s departure, so I understand now.

  10. Rob says:

    Paul, very nice, concise review of the reissue series thus far. It has indeed been a very inconsistent series. The packaging has been typically excellent, but sometimes the bonus material has been lacking. The Cow Palace bonus CD is a good example. Why only 8 songs? Fill that disc up! And the lack of 5.1 mixes is very disappointing, especially in the cases of Band on the Run & Venus and Mars. Those two albums were among the first two titles ever to be released in 5.1 and they’ve been long out of print so including those mixes in the boxes would seem like a no-brainer. On the flip-side, there have been some very cool things, like the mono mix of Ram. And can’t wait to hear the track with John Bonham! Hoping Back to the Egg is coming soon. There was a 25 minute TV special for that album, some of which ended up on the McCartney Years DVD, but it would nice to have the whole thing.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I asked Paul’s UK PR team why no 5.1, and they basically didn’t know / couldn’t be bothered to find out.

    • James Gooch says:

      I’m with you, Rob. Back to the Egg is the one I’m awaiting most (after V&M), and that TV special would be an excellent DVD inclusion. (I remember at sometime in the ’80s they used to play that special on TBS or maybe it was MTV, here in the States.)
      As for 5.1 mixes, I’ve heard the Band On The Run quad mix and it would be great to have. I have never heard the V&M quad mix, but that being my favorite Macca album, I’d love to hear it!

    • JLVW says:

      I hear ya … bring on the EGG ! : )

  11. adam shaw says:

    Great review Paul . I agree on most of it but I must say I was one person who couldnt wait for WOA as I went to one of the W O Wembley shows .
    Im sure V & M will be as good and the same for Speed of Sound .
    I just hope that he when he gets around to Back To The Egg he puts in all of the Glasgow gig ( the bootleg for it dosnt sound great) or one from another date as it was the last Wings tour .

  12. Dave says:

    These have been great, but agree that some of the bonus discs have been short and is these days of green packaging it makes me wonder how you can get away with including a whole extra disc when the material would all fit in one disc. My hopes for the near future are Back to the Egg (hugely underated), Tug of War, Flowers in the Dirt & Flaming Pie, but number one on my wish list would be London Town.

    • JLVW says:

      Love that everyone wants BACK TO THE EGG.

      Funny you like LONDON TOWN the best. I find that one to feel like an odd collection that doesn’t gel, but plays like a hits collection by some unknown band from 1978.

      I do love “Cafe On The Left Bank” as if it was a new release, “Deliver Your Children”, and “I’ve Had Enough”. Of course, the non-album singles “Mull Of Kintyre” and “Girl’s School”.

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  14. Mike Cox says:

    Nice review Paul. I’ve wanted to buy them all but have purchased none. I have downloaded a few songs here and there. My issue has been lack of bonus material for the price. Why just include a song or two from Unplugged?? Release the whole thing–people are not getting any younger :) It’s not the timing of the releases that bothers me. Frankly, at those prices the spacing helps. The books do look nice and are worth may an extra $20 or so but I can’t bring myself to pay those prices for the product. I keep hoping one will knock me off my feet—I had high hopes for Ram only to be let down. I’m hoping for a good “Red Rose” at some point.

    • JLVW says:

      Agree completely. Hope RED ROSE SPEEDWAY and BACK TO THE EGG have the corresponding video specials attached. I waited so long for ROCKSHOW that I almost didn’t care when it did come out.

  15. Eric Weinraub says:

    I wish these articles wouldn’t reat the vinyl releases as novelties with barely a mention ie RAM. These sets are the artists trying to squeeze every dollar out of their back catalogs. Vinyl sales are on an ever increasing ascendency and as such I’d like to hear more said about them. And on that note, Paul needs to also follow the Zep team with including more bonus material on vinyl. These records sounded better on vinyl than they ever did and ever will digitally and that should be celebrated.

  16. Lennie says:

    When I bought McCartney 2 in 1980 on the day it came out, I couldn’t believe how utterly silly and bad it was, and I still feel that way. It’s OK that he noodled around with electronic keyboards, but the material sounds like a bunch of amateur sketches by someone with little real musical ability. Coming after the brilliant and inspired Back to the Egg, it was a major letdown. That the album was one of the first that he chose to give the re mastered deluxe treatment is ridiculous and surprising. That the article here called it one of his best is even more so. The album is pure crap.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I think “Coming Up” is one of the best pop songs Paul ever recorded. It’s a fantastic achievement even discounting the fact that he played everything on it. Even Lennon came out and praised it telling a journalist the record company ‘had a cheek’ making him release the live version in the US because he preferred the studio version.

    • JLVW says:

      It’s got a few moments. And the mentality is right-on as far as bravery to create without being what he became in ’82 & ’83. I’d mention my fav’s but you don’t like the album.

  17. Lennie says:

    Yeah, I remember reading that in 1980.
    But Lennon thought Yoko could sing too.

  18. Ben Mills says:

    Paul, take a page from XTC’s book. I’ll take the minds at Ape over those at MPL any day. I just received Drums and Wires Blu Ray from Ape. Incredible!
    Ape doesn’t think how much a set weighs is more important than the set’s contents.

    Paul’s “bonus” editions are great if you’d rather read than listen.
    I am a huge Paul fan, but I will never consider purchasing these sets as long as the bonus music material is so limited. Paul has probably been recorded more than almost any other human, and yet these “bonus” discs are wisps of air, that sell for the price of gold.
    Often times they have tracks previously released, or have a couple live tracks. Ugh. Give me alternate versions, demos, etc, and tons of them. They exist!
    And how about better video selections (although many were released years back on DVD). All in all, these box set are not special. They are a money grab… Come on Paul and MPL, open the friggin’ vaults. We’ve forked over enough cash over the years… how about a little respect for those who put you where you are?

    • JLVW says:

      You’re right-on (although once I bought one, I wanted them all). Like you, I want unreleased and alternates, not live tracks first (if ever).

  19. Lennie says:

    Right fookin’ on Ben!

  20. John Sayers says:

    The only big box I’ve bought so far is Ram. The only ones that I would consider in the future would be Red Rose Speedway, Wild Life and possibly Flaming Pie. Otherwise the 2-disc cd versions will suffice if the bonus cds are good enough. Thankfully Best Buy came out with special editions of BOTR and WOA that had bonus cds with extra content otherwise only available on the big boxes.

  21. Dave says:

    Played some of these again this week follwing your excellent article and for me the best bonus discs so far have been the second disc with BOTR and the mono Ram which is a revelation. My wife said that Ram is one of the greatest albums ever made and I can’t argue with that.

  22. Mike the Fish says:

    Did you get the stereo Ram on vinyl, Paul, as compensation for the delay of the mono? Did it sound any good? I’ve not picked up any of the vinyl editions yet, except for mono Ram, as I didn’t fancy forking out for the deluxe box.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Haha, well remembered Mike! Such was the degree of Topspin’s cock-up they ended up giving me the RAM box, the mono vinyl and the stereo vinyl for FREE! The stereo RAM has a massive crease on one corner, but thought I better not complain given I’d paid zero pence :) Anyway, to answer your question I have actually played the stereo RAM yet. It may even still be sealed…

      • Mike the Fish says:

        Wow! I think my Ram mono from Topspin had a minor ding, but with that reproduced plain, aged sleeve it kind of added to the look.

  23. Mike the Fish says:

    Zero pence is my favourite price.

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  26. Brian says:

    Any idea why Amazon only seems to be selling the PAL version of “Venus And Mars” to USA customers? Thought is must be a typo when I ordered and sure enough it came PAL. Is it possible that the set never had a NTSC version?

  27. R.naud says:

    Hi Paul,
    Just saw this Paul McCartney Archive Collection: mid-term report, the story so far…
    Isn’t it time to do the same with the other releases so far: Venus & Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, Tug of War and Pipes of Peace while waiting for the next bunch, although only Flowers in the Dirt has been announced and there’s a strong rumour that there is no intention of continuing the Archive treatment for the rest of the 70s albums which I hope is not true at all…

  28. The Link says:

    Having been an early teen in the late 70’s, I’ve always been fond of London Town. It struck me as quite mature and well-crafted with a sense of sublime domesticity to it. Red Rose Speedway struck me as having this quality as well.

    And so I’ve been waiting…and waiting…and waiting for them to be re-released as part of the McCartney Collection. But I fear my patience is giving way to disappointment as I see no real mention of plans to release these gems.

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