Following the recent agreement between Paul McCartney's MPL and Concord Music Group, the first installment of a multi-album McCartney reissue program has begun, with the venerable 1973 effort from Paul McCartney and Wings, Band on the Run. Widely regarded as McCartney's peak as a solo artist apart from the Beatles, this album was a natural place to start the campaign--with multiple formats, including a super deluxe cd/dvd edition (including a code for downloading a hi-res 24/96 digital version of the album).
Today, I review the deluxe two-record vinyl set, which includes remastered versions of the original album, three bonus cuts--including Helen Wheels (originally not on the UK version), as well as six live cuts from the One Hand Clapping television special.
Packaging and Pressing
The two 180 gram discs arrived slightly dirty and played with a bit more noise than the I've come to expect from better audiophile reissues. The gatefold cover was printed in the UK and made of medium-heavy cardstock--and inside, it contained extra photos not found within the original release. The a replica of the poster included with the original release is also included. Rounding out the package is a download code to obtain the 320k mp3 files, which I had no problem downloading in about five minutes.
|(Band on The Run, original Polaroid snapshots poster)|
The notes credit Sam Okell and Steve Rooke with mastering, under the supervison of Allen Rouse at Abbey Road Studios--but list no separate vinyl mastering credit. When I opened the vinyl package several days ago, I looked at the deadwax inscription and found what appeared to be the familiar initials of Stan Ricker: SR2. Hoping to ascertain the source used for the mastering, I called yesterday and spoke personally to Stan, who informed me that he had NOT mastered this release--and then politely reminded me that his deadwax inscription was SR/2, not SR2. Perhaps, the SR2 refers to Steve Rooke, perhaps not. Concord Music Group is working on providing me the vinyl mastering credits and source info--and as soon as I receive it, I will update this review.
I've spent the past week or so playing various incarnations of BOTR, including the original Capitol, original UK (2nd press), UK EMI 100 (LP CENT30), and the DCC cd. Of the vinyl versions, the UK vinyl bests them all, with the greatest transparency and an upper midrange energy that brings the listener right back to 1973. The DCC compact disc, however, may very well be the best sounding version of the album to date, trading some of that upper midrange energy for more lower midrange richness. McCartney's voice comes through on the DCC, with a clarity, warmth, and presence that is simply unmatched by the other issues of the album. If you own either the UK vinyl or the DCC, you would probably never need another copy of the album.
This deluxe edition reissue from Concord Music Group, billed as an audiophile release, sadly doesn't come close to either, having neither the transparency of the UK nor the richness and warmth of the DCC. While it doesn't possess the rather opaque-sounding character of the Capitol, or the annoying tizzy upper-end of the EMI 100, the Concord vinyl simply doesn't do anything well enough to merit consideration. And while we're still not sure whether or not a hi-res source was used for this release, does it really matter?
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this vinyl reissue from Concord Music. While the packaging is certainly nice, the pressing quality was only average--and the sound uninspiring. That said, many fans will still want to have the bonus material. I used the included code to download the 320k mp3 files, and they sounded fine through my $100 Shure ear buds. I suspect the compact discs included in the 2CD+1DVD combo would sound at least as good--and for half the price of the vinyl, you get all of the audio tracks, plus a DVD containing the One Hand Clapping TV special, Wings in Lagos featurette, and several music videos.