Band On The Run 50th Anniversary Edition (Updated)

Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run was released on December 5th, 1973.

It quickly became McCartney’s most popular album.  Band On The Run topped the charts, went multi-platinum, and had the hit singles “Jet” #7, “Helen Wheels” #10, and “Band On The Run” #1, plus the tracks “Let Me Roll It” and “Bluebird”.  The critics and the public agreed it was excellent, and it’s still considered his best album. Even Paul’s sometimes critical friend, John Lennon, called it “a great album” during a 1975 Rolling Stone interview.

It’s now 50-years later, and we’re able to hear the album in a new way. The two-disc or two-record 50th Anniversary sets include a version that McCartney calls “underdubbed”.  That means we can hear the album in its raw form, before the orchestration was overdubbed onto the album’s songs.  The Band On The Run 50th Anniversary edition was released February 2nd, 2024.  We’ll look at the specifics of the sets available, but first a little about the original album.

This was McCartney’s fifth album, and was listed under the band name Wings, even though Paul & Linda McCartney and guitarist Denny Laine were the only members left.  (Update:  Sadly, Denny Laine passed away from lung disease December 5th, 2023 at the age of 79.  Besides being in Wings, he was a cofounder of The Moody Blues, and sang lead on their first hit, “Go Now”.)

The three musicians (and engineer Geoff Emerick) flew to Lagos to record the album.  It’s very close to being a “one man band” album.  Paul sang the lead vocals & some background vocals, played most of the lead guitar parts, acoustic guitars, bass, piano/keyboards, drums, and percussion.  Denny added guitars and background vocals, and Linda added some keyboards and background vocals.

It’s interesting to hear the stripped-down versions of the songs we know, but we miss the orchestration that brought power to songs like the title track, and subtle touches to other songs.  By the way, Band On The Run won the Grammy Award for best engineered album, thanks to Geoff Emerick.

Update:  Paul McCartney did an early release of the “underdubbed” version of the song “Band On The Run”.  The audio quality is excellent, with great clarity to the voices and instruments, but what it truly shows is how important those missing finishing touches were to making the song a hit.  The changes from one section of the medley to another are less powerful without the orchestration.  The main thing missing is the accent guitar part that plays on the choruses, right after Paul sings the title.  As interesting as the stripped-down version is to listen to once, it’s better to spend your 5-minutes listening to the fully produced version of “Band On The Run”.

Update 2 (Feb 2nd, 2024):  The stripped down versions all sound good, but the overdubs were needed to complete them.  For example…“Bluebird” sorely misses the beautiful saxophone solo that gave the song such a cool feel.  “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five” is the instrumental bed, without the lead vocal.  It’s best to enjoy the original versions as they were released.

Here are the various sets available (with prices) as shown on Paul McCartney’s website.  You can click to enlarge.

It’s also available digitally.  Here are the CD tracks:

You can see the “underdubbed” version has a different/earlier running order of the songs.  “Helen Wheels” is missing from Disc 2, because it was originally only on the U.S. release.

The two-record vinyl set is half-speed mastered.  It has the same tracks as shown above, with the side-ones each having five tracks.

Buying the Band On The Run record in 1973 wasn’t enough for me.  I also bought the original CD in the ‘80s, and then this 25th Anniversary set in 1998:

It’s 25 years later, and it seems I shouldn’t buy Band On The Run yet again.  This time I was able to listen to the “underdubbed” songs on my streaming service.

One Reply to “Band On The Run 50th Anniversary Edition (Updated)”

  1. Good information as usual. I am not as familiar with this album. But Paul has always been amazing. Quite the musician and singer. Thanks

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