If ever an album was released in the shadow of its predecessor this must be it. Band On The Run is, was and probably always will be the virtually undisputed best album ever produced by Paul McCartney post Beatles. Therefore Venus And Mars could only ever achieve 2nd place and personally I think it did... and then some. Like BOTR, V&M is stuffed with absolutely brilliant tunes. It captures you right from the off and takes you on a journey through ancient times and spaceships and superheroes and finally sets you down on a bench at the end of it all talking to someone you've known all your life, before adding a coda of the Crossroads theme that somehow works (and probably more so than at the time, given that that soap is now long gone).
Listen To What The Man Said was a fabulous choice for a single and is a McCartney classic which ranks in my top ten of his songs and is a perfect example of the sophistication of Macca's mid `70's music; The sax solo is sublime!
A near perfect collection of songs that hasn't been bettered since. I could listen to Venus and Mars forever and never get tired of it.
Could Paul McCartney and Wings repeat the success of 'Band on the Run' or was that breakthrough album for Wings a flash in the pan? 'Venus and Mars' had an important question to answer, and the answer was 'Yes, they could repeat the success.' In fact this album turned out to be the middle point in the trilogy of albums that marked the high spot of Wings' history. Many people rate it even higher than its predecessor.
This 2-CD set has been remastered very well. The sound is very clear and the instruments and voices well positioned. The two CDs are mounted in a cardboard sleeve with three parts: in the first is a booklet containing the words and details of the personnel involved.
The band, having been reduced to three members for 'Band on the Run' was now back up to strength, having been joined by the very competent Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English, the latter for most of the tracks. This was probably the strongest of all the Wings line-ups.
What is apparent from the start is that the success of 'Band on the Run' had given McCartney his confidence back. 'Venus and Mars' morphs into 'Rock Show' which is a five-and-a half-minutes exuberant rocker. There then follows an album of material that has stood the test of time very well. In writing this review, I started to list what I thought were the strong tracks and realised that I was simply repeating most of the track listing. My conclusion was, and is, that this album is consistently good and there are very few fillers here.
To emphasise that McCartney wanted Wings to be a group rather than just a backing band for an ex-Beatle, he shares the singing duties on a couple of tracks. This process continued, but more so, on the next album.
The album is rounded off with the theme from 'Crossroads'- what a quirky way to finish!
And then the bonus disk: for once this adds value to the two-disk package. Whereas 'Speed of Sound' has additional material that is pretty uninspiring, this package of extras is very much worth having: fully mixed tracks rather than demos, and interesting rarer material. Of the two, this is the better value for money, therefore.
First released in 1975, 'Venus and Mars' is still a very strong album almost forty years later. Highly recommended.
PS: if you like this, I also recommend 'RockShow', now available on DVD, featuring a lot of material from this album.
on 3 December 2014
Venus and Mars has often been maligned - mainly due to the odd inclusion of the Crossroads Theme at the close of the album. I have heard that McCartney included it as it's the type of show that Lonely Old People watch and was thematically justified. However, this new remastered version is a joy. The original album remains a solid effort with some great tracks and Wings skip styles with aplomb, from rockers (Rockshow, Call Me Back Again, Letting Go, Medicine Jar), ballads (Love in Song), pure pop (Listen to what the Man Said, Spirits of Ancient Egypt) and 20's style pastiche (You Gave Me The Answer). The two versions of the title track are great and I wish a combined version existed. All in all, there's not a poor track on it, and whilst not up to Band On The Run's exemplary standard is a classy album from a band about to go on a globally tour.
The bonus disc is a genuine revelation covering the Geoff Britton days alongside the V&M sessions and stretches to 14 tracks - almost twice the normal bonus disc length in the Archive collection series. This reflects the prolific New Orleans sessions. Admittedly 7 have seen formal release in the past (Juniors Farm, Sally G, Country Hams pair, My Carnival, Lunch Box/Odd Sox, Letting Go single edit) but there are some unreleased rarities and an interesting early version of Rockshow. My sole gripe is the lack of the single version of V&M/Rockshow - but I guess you can get that on Wingspan, as you can the single version of Listen to What The Man Said. Overall, this is probably the only bonus disc in the series so far that merits regular and repeated playing.
Interesting that all three single releases vary in some way from the album version. This may reflect McCartney's flood of creative activity around this period.
So - on balance a 4 star album (like its sibling Speed of Sound) but with an excellent bonus disc elevating this re-issue to an overall 5 star package.
I have never understood the near-universal acclaim for Band on the Run (I think Jet is a lousy song, for example) but this follow-up really is the bee's knees, a fantastically sung and played album of mostly excellent songs, one or two of them so musically thrilling I want to fling open the windows and let the street hear them.
One of these, maybe the best track on V&M, is the marvellous Call Me Back Again, on which Paul sings his socks off, and the late Jimmy McCulloch proves what a gutsy, inventive guitarist he was - just right for Wings.
Another is Love in Song, a gorgeous ballad of the kind Paul has pretty much patented as his own.
Rock Show is a lengthy riff on, would you believe, rock shows, and is boisterously great fun. The title track is superb too, as is Letting Go, one of this album's highlights.
The big hit was the enjoyable Listen To What the Man Said, one of their better early hits (a darn sight better than Jet, anyway!)
There's much more, and it's all worth hearing.
The extra disc (on the 2014 Archive Collection edition) is a mix of wonders - the tenderly beautiful two-minute Let's Love, the catchy Junior's farm, Paul's rock rendition of the old classic Baby Face - and the embarrassing, for example the patronising and pointless Going to New Orleans.
But CD1 is Wings at their peak, with all five members - yes, including Linda - giving their all to an album that sounds like it was as much fun to make as it still is to listen to, forty years later.
on 31 December 2014
I've become unhealthily obsessed with this album of late, listening to it pretty much every day and finding more and more to enjoy about it each time. This is slightly surprising, as I'd always towed the critical line in accepting that V+M was a somewhat sub-standard sequel to the era-defining Band On The Run, and very much an album 'of its time'.
Funnily enough, I still think both those things are true: it IS a lesser work than BOTR, and it IS very much a mid 1970's album, but nevertheless on its own terms its quite lovingly put together and contains several moments of Macca-esque genius.
As usual with any McCartney album (with the possible exception of BOTR and Tug of War), it's something of a mixed bag - that is, mixed in terms of genre and also in terms of quality. Some of the songs - Magneto and Titanium Man, Medicine Jar, Spirits Of Ancient Egypt – are rather ordinary and forgettable (although none of these are terrible - in fact unlike several McCartney albums that DO contain at least one terrible track, Venus and Mars fails to deliver any true stinkers). However, what's left when you subtract these tracks is a lot of really rather fun material.
The song Venus and Mars (and its reprise) has a lovely melody - so simple and sparsely arranged yet genuinely affecting. The fact that the lyrics really don't seem to communicate anything specific really doesn't matter (as is often the case with Macca's best songs). Rock Show is all a bit of a mess, with (to my ears) slightly out of tune vocals and a generally chaotic arrangement, but the reverbed drums are so massively atmospheric and '1970's', and that the lyrics so daft, that the whole thing can't help but grow on you.
Love In Song is one of McCartney's better 'album track ballads' (along with similarly) overlooked songs such as I'm Carrying and We're Open Tonight), with another beautiful tune and stirring strings.
Then comes a song that, in my youth, I really couldn't stand, but now I find myself dancing round the kitchen to it with my five year old son. You Gave Me The Answer is a Fred Astaire pastiche and so utterly lacking in 'rock credibility' that, in the end, you have to hand it to McCartney for his gumption in including it. In a recent interview, he bracketed it with such Beatles songs as Honey Pie, and in doing so probably said more than he'd intended.The strange truth is that over and over again, Wings and McCartney solo albums often contain songs that would not have sounded at all out of place on certain (generally later) Beatles albums. Certainly if You Gave Me The Answer had been on the White Album it would have been treated more cordially by critical history (and by extension, stuff like Honey Pie and Martha My Dear, had they popped up on Venus and Mars or London Town, would probably have been dismissed out of hand).
Letting Go is the album's stand-out rocker, with a deliciously swampy guitar sound and some great, sassy horn work. Similar kudos to the soul-inflected Call Me Back Again, which features one of the THE great, overlooked McCartney 'red raw' vocals - easily up there with, and in fact eclipsing his performance on Abbey Road's Oh Darling.
Listen To What The Man Said is winsome pop in the best Wings tradition, highlighting the extraordinary vocal blend of Mr and Mrs McCartney and the stellar talent that was (is) Denny Laine: for my money, when the Wings harmonies are brought out and REALLY showcased (as they are here), there is no more beguiling or distinctive vocal sound to be found in any 70's rock or pop (with the possible exception of Abba).
The closing medley of Lonely Old People/Treat Her Her Gently and the hilariously included Crossroads theme actually work fine as as a surprisingly downbeat curtain closer: a touch maudlin in places but elsewhere genuinely emotional, particularly in light of the fact that Paul and Linda did not actually end up growing old together.
Make no bones about it, Venus and Mars is NOT as good as Band On The Run, but that is at least partly because Band On The Run was just one of 'those' fluke albums that mysteriously come to transcend their era. While BOTR is arty and druggy, Venus And Mars is glitzy and joyful. Accept it for what it is, don't expect any profound lyrical truths, have a couple of glasses of wine and stick it on. You'd have to be a singularly joyless kind of person (or possibly a Bruce Springstein or REM fan) not to enjoy it.
A review of the 2cd/dvd Super Deluxe...
If you're a Wings or Macca fan, these recent SDE releases in the PM Archive Collection have been pretty decent outings, especially Ram and Wings Over America. Up until now at least. Gone are the linen bound book style presentation replaced with poorly manufactured product (including the discs themselves) from China. Now I'm all for free market/trade and all that sort of thing but this is obviously an exercise in extending your profit margin. Whether it's by Starbucks or MPL Communications, the results are very unimpressive and these two most recent additions to the archives are of such cheap quality I'm very concerned for the next instalment of the series. If they are as poorly made as Speed Of Sound and Venus and Mars, I won't be buying them which is such a shame because I really like this period of Paul McCartney's career. The music is four - five star albums, the presentation is a big fat zero for me.
on 18 December 2014
McCartney was on a roll here. After "Band on the Run", surely anything that followed would be downhill from there. Not so, I actually think this is as good or better though I really think it is a shame that the title track is only an intro and a reprise ... it's one of the best tunes that Macca ever put together .... and he's written a few of those.
on 29 November 2014
This was my first the first solo Beatles album I brought many years ago. Perhaps Venus and Mars is not McCartneys best album. But it contains one of Paul's finest songs with the wonderful" Love In Song". The album is well produced and well performed. A pretty good starting point.
on 20 November 2014
The only and crucial blemish of these reissues is absence of detailed credits of all bonus tracks - the 1993 remasters mention info about bonus tracks - year of recording, B-sides of singles etc. And why another version of Hey Diddle was included here? There is different mix on Ram - though, truly, I don't hear any significant difference between both of them. It is very pity. And another confusing thing: all the tracks composed by Paul (as credited in older editions) are now credited as by Paul and Linda!! It is very marketing failure.
on 19 November 2014
There is a Slight skipping at 2:45 in Magneto and Titanium Man ("to gather our force and run" / between "out" and "Force") on disc 1 that manufactured in China bought from Amazon Canada. You will not notice it, unless it hears it carefully, because it is a very trifling instant. There is the same faulty point also as Japanese pressing SHM-CD. Downloded High-Res,i-Tunes and Vinyl have no faulty point. I contributed comparison of the faulty point to You Tube. If you watch this video,You will notice the gap of sound.