Paul McCartney: Flaming Pie - Archive Collection Deluxe Edition

I've always looked at Paul McCartney's post-Beatles career—now getting into its sixth decade—as being on a sine wave. When's he's at the top of his game, he's at the apex (Band on the Run, Flowers in the Dirt), and when he's off the mark, he's at the nadir (Give My Regards to Broad Street, Press to Play). That being said, I have always admired Macca's desire to keep creating new material no matter what during these past fifty-odd years—sometimes with Wings, but mainly as a titular solo artist—not to mention his desire to chronicle as much of it as he can with an eye, and an ear, very much on cataloging its intrinsic historical value.

To that end, the 13th, and most recent, entry in his shrewdly curated Archive Collection is a deep dive into May 1997's Flaming Pie, Sir Paul's return to a more Beatlesque form. The Flaming Pie Archive Collection Deluxe Edition comprises 5 CDs and 2 DVDs, plus a 24-bit/96-kHz download card for the more hi-res inclined (i.e., like us). It's his most lavish Archive entry yet—and the most expensive. (There's also a limited, numbered collector's edition of 3,000 that adds 4 LPs to the box party.) If you're a Macca completist, you won't blink at the cost—but you still might wince—and, like me, you'll relish the depth of information, interviews, photos, and memorabilia included in the box's 128-page book. If your wallet needs a break, consider scoring either the 3LP set and/or 2CD collection for the time being, the latter of which contains a generous, 21-track selection of the bigger box's unreleased tracks, singles, and outtakes.


McCartney, Jeff Lynne, and George Martin all came together to forge a Pie production style I'll call "Lush Fabs"—and I mean that in the best possible way. Born out of Macca having reconnected with his mop-top roots during his participation in The Beatles' 1990s Anthology series, Flaming Pie (a title borrowed from John Lennon's oft-recounted 1961 dream about how to "spell Beatles with an a") reminds us just how good Sir Paul can be when he's reconnected with his muse.

The first disc teems with highlights. "The World Tonight" is a two-man reverie between McCartney and Lynne (with Macca channeling Ringo Starr via his own spot-on drumming), while the acoustic "Calico Skies" showcases his gift for melody (a surefire cosmic descendent of "Blackbird" and "Mother Nature's Son"). "Young Boy" is a grooving collaboration with guest guitarist/harmony vocalist Steve Miller (a decades-old favor finally returned after McCartney played as "Paul Ramon" on "My Dark Hour" on Steve Miller Band's Brave New World in 1969), and the uplifting, orchestral "Beautiful Night" showcases that signature Macca Rockestra style mesh at its finest.

Discs 2 and 3 include home recordings and studio roughs, though their combined 66 minutes could have easily fit onto one CD. The bare bones of "Somedays" (Disc 2) show why it was always one of the late George Martin's favorites, while the acoustified rough mix of "The Song We Were Singing" (Disc 3) demonstrates why it needed some more work to get to the finish line.


Disc 4 is a bit more experimental, with 8 minutes of "The Ballad of the Skeletons" featuring poet Allen Ginsberg speaking his mind, Philip Glass on piano, and Sir Paul on organ and percussion; six installments of the free-form "Oobu Joobu" radio series; and the semi-lost gem "Looking for You," featuring a growling, echo-laden lead vocal plus Lynne on guitar and Ringo on drums and congas (an edgy track that certainly would have made Harry Nilsson smile). Finally, Disc 5 takes us on a guided audio tour of the recording studio locale known as The Mill. (Me, I'm partial to both the Bill Black and Hofner bass segments, along with the longer Control Room visit.)

As to the video side, the two DVDs cover the basics. Disc 6, titled In the World Tonight, was originally released on its own in 1998 and veers between documentary and performance, with a little humor thrown in for good measure (plus one former U.S. President). Disc 7 consists of videoclips, EPKs, and a decent of-era interview with David Frost. Naturally, given this box set's pricetag, we audiophile types would have preferred a Blu-ray element be part of the proceedings, not to mention having a 5.1 and/or Dolby Atmos mix of the core Pie album itself (paging Giles Martin, for future reference).


What's next in this Archive series? June 1979's Back to the Egg and March 1978's London Town are apparently on deck—both of which I heartily approve—but I'd also vote for November 2001's Driving Rain. Either way, the Flaming Pie collection is a welcome reconnection with a career artist's aural genius. Thanks to the full breadth of the material in this box set, we get to see how the world of Paul McCartney rises to the occasion whenever his musical ideas are fully baked.

Label: MPL/Capitol/UMe
Audio Formats: 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM Stereo (CD); 16-bit/48kHz Dolby Digital 2.0 (DVD)
Length: 7:52:02 (4:27:36 on 5 CDs, 2:24:26 on 2 DVDs)
Number of Tracks: 72 (58 on 5 CDs, 14 on 2 DVDs)
Producers: Paul McCartney (executive producer, archive edition; producer, original album); Jeff Lynne, George Martin (original album)
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Jon Jacobs, Bib Kraushaar (original album); Alex Wharton (original album and bonus material remastering); April Golden (bonus material mastering); Aoife Corbett, Eddie Klein, Steve Orchard, Jamie Kirkham (archive edition)