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Must See Concert Film: Paul McCartney and Wings ROCKSHOW

Paul McCartney Rock Show Poster

If there was ever a pop star born with a more sizeable share of outrageous talent than most mere mortals, it is Paul McCartney. Not only is he among the most celebrated and successful song writers in the world, an innovative bass player who also plays the drums, piano and guitar equally well, a charismatic public figure and one of the best looking men on the planet (seriously, in his 20s and 30s, especially, McCartney could hold a close up for days) but he was a member of The fucking Beatles – the greatest band ever in the Universe of All Time. And the craziest thing about Paul McCartney’s many-decades long career is that he has made everything he does look easy. That, my friend, is the mark of a truly gifted and legendary artist.

Paul McCartney still tours, and if he happens to be playing in your city and you have $500 burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy a ticket to go see him. If that price seems a little out of your range, you might consider buying a ticket to see ROCKSHOW, a 1980 concert film by McCartney and his then-band Wings, which is coming to theaters Worldwide on May 15th, and here in the States starting May 16th. That would be a lot cheaper and you’ll probably get better seats! Filmed during the North American leg of the band’s 1976 Wings Over The World Tour, the two-hour plus length film features 30 songs from four concerts of the tour: New York, May 25 (four songs); Seattle, June 10 (five songs); Los Angeles, June 22 (15 songs); and Los Angeles, June 23 (six songs). This tour also spawned the triple live album, Wings Over America.

Although I am as crazy for the music of The Beatles today as I was at age five, when I first discovered the soundtrack of the film HELP! thanks to my older sister, Wings was never a band that yanked my chain all that much. I was probably listening to Alice Cooper and a lot of German Prog Rock at that time, so, I was surprised at the intense waves of deep nostalgia that washed over me as I sat rapt for two hours watching ROCKSHOW on my iMac so I could write this review. Little did I know then that, nearly forty years onward, Wings’ songs would sound like the Classical music of its time! The set list for ROCKSHOW is comprised of tracks from the albums Red Rose Speedway, Band on the Run, Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound and some of McCartney’s early solo work, while being favorably augmented by many Beatles’ classics. What a great concert experience this film serves up!

Paul McCartney Rock Show Bass

Paul McCartney & Wings included McCartney’s wife and muse, keyboardist Linda McCartney (RIP), drummer Joe English, guitarists Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch (RIP) plus a four piece horn section. Demonstrating that wings was as egalitarian a band as any fronted by a former Beatle, Paul frequently hands over lead vocal duties to Laine and McCulloch, beginning early in the set with “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and “Medicine Jar,” respectively. Laine also reprises his lead vocal performance of The Moody Blues’ early #1 hit, “Go Now” and shows himself to be a remarkably charismatic front man on the urgent and compelling “Time To Hide.” Although the cameras can tend to linger on McCartney’s ridiculously handsome visage for endless minutes at a time (not complaining), everyone in the group is represented, reinforcing the fact that Wings was a true “band of brothers,” so to speak and not just a group of hired musicians supporting McCartney as a solo act.

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Recommended Listening: Dave Depper, The Ram Project

Ram, Paul McCartney’s first post-Beatles solo album, is a record to which time has been very kind. Released in 1971, Ram contained the #1 hit “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” and the enduring “Too Many People” as well as FM radio staples like “Long Haired Lady” and the sublime “Ram On.” Actually, even if you don’t own a copy of Ram, if you spent any time listening to radio in the seventies, you probably know every song on the album. While Ram was not critically well received upon its release, fortunately, with the majority of its songs being either good or very, very good, the album sold 2 million copies – and not just because McCartney was in the fucking Beatles. Ram isn’t as epic as George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, but it is not an album that anyone is going to give you shit for owning. Forty years after its original release date, Ram is bulletproof.

Songs from the Ram album were recently covered in their entirety by Portland-based multi-instrumentalist Dave Depper, who’s built a successful career recording and touring with other people’s bands. Never having recorded any of his own, original music, Depper was experiencing a kind of musician’s “Dark Night of the Soul,” I suppose you could call it, when he decided to take on the ambitious project of re-recording Ram, all by himself at his home studio. The Ram Project was completed in just 31 days, and the result is simply amazing. Depper’s interpretations sound like what McCartney’s demos might have sounded like if he recorded the album today. Tribute albums went out of vogue a decade ago, but when you are covering material this solid, and the process has so much invested heart, it’s hard to make a mistake.

All twelve original songs from Ram are given loving homage on The Ram Project and there is not a misstep in the bunch. Depper’s versions stay faithful to the original arrangements and even distinctive flourishes such as Linda McCartney’s backing vocals, which are contributed here by Joan Hiller, and signature instruments like the Ukulele on “Ram On” and the comically menacing piano on “Monkberry Moon Delight” are included. The album was mixed as true to the original as possible by Beau Raymond (Devendra Banhart, Little Joy, Laura Gibson) and expertly mastered by Tony Lash (Elliott Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, Dandy Warhols). As it says in Depper’s bio, “The Ram Project is almost eerie in its resemblance to Ram itself.” I think it serves as a fresh companion piece to the original album. Mostly, it just feels really good to rediscover these songs. Highly recommended.

Track listing for The Ram Project is as follows:

1. “Too Many People”
2. “3 Legs”
3. “Ram On”
4. “Dear Boy”
5. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”
6. “Smile Away”
7. “Heart of the Country”
8. “Monkberry Moon Delight”
9. “Eat at Home”
10. “Long Haired Lady”
11. “Ram On (Reprise)”
12. “The Back Seat of My Car”

Dave Depper’s The Ram Project is available for purchase from Amazon.com at This Link.