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Cover of Paul McCartney and Wings - Band on the Run Underdubbed Mixes


Band on the Run (Underdubbed Mixes)
MPL/Apple Corps. 2024
Paul McCartney

Side one:
1. Band on the Run — Rough Mix
2. Mamunia — Rough Mix
3. No Words — Rough Mix
4. Jet — Rough Mix
5. Bluebird — Rough Mix

Side two:
1. Mrs. Vandebilt — Rough Mix
2. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five — Rough Mix
3. Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me) — Rough Mix
4. Let Me Roll It — Rough Mix


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Band on the Run, an early favorite stripped to its rough essence



In the early days, I only had a few records, so I made them count.

Those nascent days of my record collecting were fun, to say the least. I had a turntable on top of my Aiwa stereo, and I stored my few records leaned up against one of the speakers. I’d pull the record out, put it on, hit the button on the automatic player and, more often than not, Paul McCartney and Wings would slide in and out of the first notes of Band on the Run, the album and its title track, ringing out in my bedroom.

Band on the Run, top to bottom, immediately became a favorite on the shelf. And looking back, it was partly responsible for starting this whole record collecting obsession I’ve had ever since.

Looking into the history of vinyl LPs, the 33 1/3 RPM record debuts in 1948, becomes the medium of choice through the 1970s, and the consensus nadir for records is agreed to have arrived by the ’90s. The CD had all but killed the format and was working on finishing off the cassette next, while the end of the decade saw the emergence of the mp3 and downloading and all of that. That big physical medium that was prone to scratches and taking up valuable shelf space was on the outs.

And this is where I got my start. Because I loved the warm playback and seeing the artwork up close and the fact that it took up all this space on top of a bookshelf, I would go hunting around flea markets, yard sales and the one record store that seemed to be within 20 miles of my town.

It’s funny to think about those first records that I found on my own: Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, the Who’s Live at Leeds, the Beatles’ Abbey Road and the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks were all early additions to augment what I had claimed from my parents’ collection. Band on the Run arrived at some point in that initial run, complete with a cover that was beginning to split along the seams, but with the original inner sleeve intact.

Over the years, I’ve upgraded copies of certain records in my collection — I eventually found a copy of Live at Leeds with all its inserts, for example, and one for Hot Rocks that didn’t skip during “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” — or at least augmented them with newer reissues and deluxe treatments as they arrived. But that copy of Band on the Run is still going strong. It’s got that nice ringwear mark on the cover, and it still sounded good to these ears.

But a new copy has finally joined its ranks.

I picked up this new, double-LP version from McCartney’s site, with the first record a half-speed mastered version by Miles Showell, and that sounds as solid as all the others cut at Abbey Road for McCartney in recent years. I’m aware that audiophiles have strong opinions on the many half-speed masters out there; for what it’s worth, I like how this one sounds.

But the focus of the show here is clearly on the second LP and its collection of Underdubbed Mixes. These were, minus “Helen Wheels,” prepped by engineer Geoff Emerick for McCartney, in Oct. 1973 before Tony Visconti oversaw all the orchestrations and overdubs that appeared on the final record.

It’s a nice break from all the remixes that have dominated Beatles releases for the past few years, instead taking a Let it Be ... Naked tact to what is among the best-received of all of McCartney’s albums post-Beatles.

The softer tracks here shine immediately. “Mamunia” is all shimmering acoustic guitars, percussion with that signature thumping bass pushing everything along. It’s the same on “Bluebird,” with the vocals again coming to the fore, revealing the intricacies of the playing underneath those gentle voices.

But the more challenging tracks benefit from this treatment as well. “Picasso’s Last Words” becomes a slightly less chaotic experience, though it’s still as scattered as ever. The vocal-free “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” is driven by the same Moog synthesizer that underpins “Band on the Run” and provides a wild ride of its own.

However, the stars of the show here bookend the record. Out of the gate, “Band on the Run,” stripped of its orchestration and lead guitar, has a weight and an immediacy that illustrates how strong that song is at its bones. The vocals, led by McCartney’s voice, of course, are out front in the mix, to the point that you can hear Paul taking a breath between lines in the song’s opening section. This moves to the second section, with that nasty riff still driving, and then into the third, where the orchestra is now absent, leaving the acoustic guitar and a thumping bass to the heavy lifting. And again, Paul’s voice jumps out, with Linda’s and Denny Laine’s vocals now more distinguishable backing him up.

On the other end, “Let Me Roll It” punches through its stereo image, with the bass pulsating and every guitar line coming through crystal clear. The bass and drums immediately lock into a groove, allowing the nastiest guitar riff he ever wrote to jam right through the mix and into the listener’s chest. If there’s one track that could’ve been released on the original album from this Underdubbed version, it’s this one. It was McCartney’s answer to John Lennon, a bracing, stripped-down track without any of the pretty accoutrements he was known for. It’s already pretty raw on the album proper. Here, it’s a bare-bones knockout.

It’s not necessarily addition by subtraction, but the Naked-esque treatment to every song here affirms the Band on the Run album as one of the high-water marks of McCartney’s career. And this version brings me as close to sitting in the studio’s control room, listening to a playback, and I imagine I’ll ever get. It’s a revelation and should be treated as such

I’m keeping my old copy of Band on the Run, of course. I’ve probably had it for 25 years at this point and it hasn’t steered me wrong. But the first record in this set will pick up some of the weight from here on out. And the Underdubbed mix is going to get plenty of air time as well. Getting Band on the Run all those years ago was the first time I properly digested a McCartney solo album front to back, and it earned a special place in my collection from that point forward. Acquiring a new twist on it after all this time just cements its brilliance.

Feb. 13, 2024

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