Paul McCartney’s Archive Collection Series

Paul McCartney Performs At The O2 Arena
Jim Dyson / Getty Images

Over the past couple of years, Paul McCartney has mounted a major reissue program he calls The Paul McCartney Archive Collection.

Not to be confused with The Paul McCartney Collection (a similar but much less ambitious reissue program from 1993), the Archive Collection series is an opportunity for McCartney to reissue his solo back catalog with many more rarities, additional tracks, and DVD video content - all presented in lavish packaging.

While each has been impressively presented and there has been some interesting extra content included, the sets in the Archive Collection series so far have not been without their detractors – with complaints from serious collectors that some of the releases have been a bit light on with content and there’ve been missed opportunities to comprehensively include demo versions, outtakes and the like.

For each of the CD reissues in the series, there are usually standard (1 CD), special (2 CD), and deluxe editions (with 2 or 3 CDs plus DVDs) for fans to choose from. In the case of Tug of War in 2015, there was even a very limited and collectible super-deluxe edition which came in a unique red acrylic case and included five numbered photo prints. Apparently, only 1000 were produced for worldwide distribution...

For vinyl fans (and there are still many of you out there!) each of the releases in the Archive series has also seen a gatefold double LP issued (and in the case of Wings Over America a triple LP). 

The Archive Collection is not being reissued chronologically. The albums are being released almost in a thematic way, with titles being grouped together for their relationship to each other.

It all kicked off in October 2010 with Band on the Run, (originally from 1973). This album is one of McCartney’s best and most-loved solo releases. Released in the Archive series as a standard single CD (which contained the remastered album only), there was also (unique to this title only) a double CD plus DVD special edition. The DVD contained over an hour of rare and previously unseen footage including the 1974 documentary One Hand Clapping. The ultimate Band on the Run was the deluxe edition, a 3 CD plus DVD set which came in a lavish hardback book that was beautifully illustrated. It was a very good start to the series.

Next, in May 2011, came two related Archive releases. The McCartney album, Paul’s very first solo outing from 1970 following his departure from The Beatles, and McCartney II from 1980. Despite being ten years apart these two albums are linked because of similarities in the way they were created. Paul took a real one-man-band approach to both, working alone in his home studio. For the Archive reissues both get a standard single CD, a special 2 CD edition, and for the deluxe version of McCartney a 2 CD plus DVD (which was considered to be minimal in content), and McCartney II a 3 CD plus DVD set (which was very generous in the amount of unreleased and bonus material on offer). Of the two, the McCartney package is recommended.

The fourth release in the Archive series came in May 2012 and was the popular Ram LP (originally issued back in 1971). Here we have a bit of a change of format for the deluxe version. It is not just a fancy book, but a box set that contains a number of books and replica archival material like handwritten lyrics and photos. Really nicely done, the box set contains no less than 4 CDs and a DVD. One of the CDs is the very rare Thrillington album, a completely instrumental version of Ram that McCartney had recorded using top-flight London session musicians and had released under the nom de plume Percy Thrillington. Another CD was a mono mix of the complete Ram album, so there was plenty on offer for fans here. Ram was also issued in a standard single CD and special 2 CD edition where the bonus material was included unreleased tracks, B-sides, and the single “Another Day” - which had been a number five hit for Paul on the US charts and a number two in the UK. Ram is a great addition to any collection.

Fans had to wait another year for the next in the series. It was Wings Over America and again the deluxe version was delivered in a box, not a book, which is fair considering it was originally issued in 1976 as a big triple-LP set. The deluxe edition comes with not one but four books, and wealth of replica memorabilia is also included. There are 3 CDs and a DVD too. Interestingly, the only other CD release in the Archive series was the standard CD version, but being a triple LP originally, it’s a double CD set.  

In November 2014 there were two further releases. Venus and Mars (1975) and Wings ​At The Speed of Sound (originally from 1976) were issued at the same time. Both came in a 2 CD standard edition, and a 2 CD plus DVD deluxe edition. The deluxe editions reverted to the more familiar hardback book format and again are lavishly illustrated affairs. As with all the Archive Collection, Paul McCartney personally supervised all aspects of the reissues and the remastering work was done at Abbey Road by the same team that did all The Beatles catalog. Of these two ​Venus and Mars is the clear pick.

2015 saw another two albums reissued concurrently, and it makes sense because they are pigeon pairs. Tug of War (1982) and its follow-up ​Pipes of Peace (1983) came as 2 CD special editions, while Tug of War received 3 CDs plus DVD and Pipes of Peace a 2 CD plus DVD in the deluxe treatment. Both were in the familiar hardback book form and included previously unreleased and rare tracks, home videos unreleased archival video and promo films. Pipes of Peace also sported a brand new, 2015 remix of the Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson hit “​Say Say Say”. Tug of War is the keeper.  

The detailed packaging for these sets have won Grammy awards. In 2012 Band on the Run picked up 'Best Historical Album', and in 2014 Wings over America won '​Best Boxed or Special Edition Package'.