Review: Paul McCartney's 'One Hand Clapping' is an Enjoyable, if Oddball, Collection for Serious Wings Fans

Paul McCartney's reissue campaign, which once regularly trotted out expansive, well-organized box sets focused on his solo and Wings album releases, has been wandering off the path into unpredictable territory lately.

Rather than get the big London Town and Back to Egg sets we've been clamoring for, and which would nicely round out the reissues of Paul's Wings work, we've  instead been getting stuff that's unexpected and which is completely out of left field.

Back in February, to coincide - roughly - with the 50th anniversary of the Band on the Run album, McCartney put out a reissue of that album accompanied by a disk of "underdubbed" versions of the LPs tunes minus orchestral overdubs and other polishing.

And now we get One Hand Clapping, an audio-only version of tracks from an abandoned 1974 Wings TV documentary. While it's now being billed as a "live album," it's not a concert performance. There's no audience. Wings are simply running through tunes in the studio before the cameras but, since this is an audio release, we don't get any of the accompanying visuals.

Why the McCartney camp chose to put this out on CD and vinyl rather than as a DVD or Blu-ray is a little baffling, but the audio, as those of us who've heard it via various bootlegs over the years can attest, is enjoyable, if also a little all over the place.

It's a big mish-mash: We get a selection of nicely performed Wings tunes; an unremarkable instrumental jam;  snippets of a couple of Beatles tracks performed by Paul solo, and a few McCartney rarities ("Let's Love," "I'll Give You a Ring," "All of You"), also all performed by Paul on his own. 

As a collection of tunes, it's interesting, and it has historical significance, as the recordings capture a new Wings lineup with guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton added to the fold. Yet, it all seems more like a random assortment of tracks, rather an a planned-out album or performance. 

Personally, I'm more apt to revisit these tunes individually, or as part of other playlists I might assemble on my own. The Wings tracks, for example, would fit in better with a collection of Wings rarities from the era, while the solo Paul tunes would be fun to hear alongside a collection of his solo demo recordings. In any event, though, I'm sure I'll be listening to this stuff a lot more  than I will be the "underdubbed" Band on the Run album.

So, yes, I'm quibbling, but not exactly complaining. Like most fans, I'll take my rare Macca and Beatles tracks wherever and however I can find them. But I'm also perplexed why One Hand Clapping isn't a video release instead of an audio one. And I also wonder why they didn't just include all of this stuff - not just bits and pieces of it - on the big Band on the Run box set issued several years ago.

And, maybe more to the point, I question how this release and the underdubbed Band on the Run release are any more commercially viable than an expanded reissue of London Town or Back to the Egg. Even if a big box set of either of those albums isn't economically realistic (which I also question), they could be expanded to double-disks with some associated extras and outtakes and sold that way. In either case, I bet they'd have more of an audience than rough takes of Band on the Run or the soundtrack to an unreleased movie that most people have never heard about.

Surprises are nice, but it's also enjoyable to get what you want.