02 November, 2010

The Best of the Best-Ofs: Paul McCartney

In a 40-year post-Beatle career, Paul McCartney has released three compilations – considerably less than many of his contemporaries. Curiously, they all deal with less than half of his career.

Wings Greatest – 1978
Does exactly what it says on the cover. Wings only made one more album after Wings Greatest, the excellent but hit-free Back to the Egg so it can still be considered the definitive Wings collection. It collection does stretch the definition just a little by including two tracks originally credited to Paul & Linda McCartney, but no-one could possibly begrudge that. It includes five non-album singles but for reasons of space, leaves out Listen to What the Man Said. Wings Greatest remains the only album that contains the full version of Junior’s Farm.

For: Succinct
Against: These days, represents a comparatively short phase of McCartney’s career.

All the Best – 1987
Originally released as a double-LP All the Best contains nine tracks that were also released on Wings Greatest and add the hits from the 80s. It includes the first album releases of C Moon, We All Stand Together and Goodnight Tonight, although the latter was not included on the single CD. Contains one new song, Once Upon a Long Ago.

The US version of All the Best had a slightly different tracklisting, and includes the live version of Coming Up, (which was the A-side of the single in the US) rather than the album version.

For: Great artwork, Only album release of Once Upon a Long Ago
Against: CD version drops three tracks.

Wingspan – 2001
Released alongside the television documentary and book of the same name, Wingspan is sensibly divided into two themed discs, Hits and History. The collection does employ a rather curious definition of Wings’ career. While it’s fair enough to include pre-Wings tracks from McCartney and Ram, it also covers part of Paul’s post-Wings careers, but suddenly stops in 1984.
On the Hits side, it’s all the usual suspects – ten tracks previously included on Wings Greatest and fourteen that had been on All the Best. The History side delves deeper and does a good job of being a true best-of, including underrated tracks like Heart of the Country, Take It Away and Rockestra Theme. It also includes an early demo of Bip Bop/Hey Diddle, which was previously unreleased and should have remained so. Where available, radio edits included which may be interesting for completists but does an injustice to a beautiful song like Waterfalls, and wasn’t Junior’s Farm already short enough? Again, Coming Up is replaced with the live version on the US version. The smarter thing to do would have been to include it on the History disc, since the live version has never been available on CD outside the US.

For: Comprehensive, separate Hits and History discs, remastered.
Against: Edited versions, weird time period.

If you had to choose one, choose....
Wingspan. All these collections sell McCartney’s catalogue short on one level or another, but Wingspan is the most comprehensive.

Band on the Run from Wings Greatest

Band on the Run from All the Best

Band on the Run from Wingspan

See also,

Never Stop Doing What You Love – 2005
This collection was issued as part of a sponsorship deal with and investment company. Although never commercially released, it is available online from certain sellers. It’s mostly a predictable collection of hits, but also includes Put It There, The World Tonight and Calico Skies, making it the only McCartney compilation to include anything after 1984.

The McCartney Years – 2007
As a collection of videos, this is the only McCartney collection to give equal representation to all stages of his career from 1970 to 2005.

1 comment:

  1. I typed up an insightful comment and that keyword thing flayed it.

    Now 'tis lost for all time. Ah well.