Sometimes less is more.
At least that's the thought behind Paul McCartney and Wings' “Band on the Run (Underdubbed)."
Fifty years after its debut, the beloved album gets yet another rerelease, this time with a version that doesn't include bonus tracks but instead pulls back some of the layers that were added after the original rough mixes. Hence, “underdubbed” in the title.
This isn't the first time McCartney has revisited an album to strip off some of the bells and whistles to get closer to the original recording. He did it with the unfortunately titled “Let It Be Naked” back in 2003.
The “underdubbed” version of “Band on the Run” is notable for a slightly different song order from the U.S. release that will be jarring for those with the original sequencing committed to memory after decades of listening. The new order mirrors how the original tapes were discovered in McCartney's archives and omits “Helen Wheels,” which McCartney didn't intend to include on the album but did after it was a hit single.
Some of the changes with the songs themselves are subtle: a missing guitar riff or echo here, no backing vocals there. Others are more noticeable, like no orchestral overdubs, what sounds like a vocal flub on the title track and no vocals at all on “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.”
So, which version is better? They are different. The original still sounds fresh and exciting today, a half century later. There's a reason why it's McCartney's best-selling, post-Beatles release.
The better question is whether it's worth paying to hear the “underdubbed" version. The answer to that depends on your level of McCartney fandom.
If “Band on the Run” is part of your musical DNA, then “Underdubbed” is a fun alternate take that gives a window into what might have been. If that doesn't interest you, or you've somehow never listened to the original, stick with enjoying it the way McCartney first put it out.
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