Though the title might suggest otherwise, Wingspan, the new two-CD compendium of Paul McCartney's 30-year career as a former Beatle, doesn't quite count as the Wings anthology we've all been waiting for. As purists will undoubtedly note, nearly half of the 40 songs presented here were released on Paul's early '70s solo recordings before he decided to pretend he was in a band again, and on the albums that followed the dissolution of Wings after the underappreciated arena disco travesty, Back to the Egg, in 1979. Judging by the photos in the deluxe booklet, a more appropriate title might have been #1 with a Mullet. These are the songs of McCartney's wilderness years, during which the good name he'd built up as half of the finest songwriting collaboration in history was summarily dashed against the rocks of a commercially viable, but critically eviscerated stint as a semi-solo artist.

Wings was a moveable feast, featuring wild stylistic divergence--from lo-fi frag rock to dual-guitar arena heroism to honky reggae--and dozens of members spread over five albums. Their hits were many, but the really interesting stuff never became FM staples. Though posterity has failed to acknowledge them, records like Wild Life and Ram were full of experimental energy, messing around with structure, texture, and sound--never veering all the way off the pop map--and taking chances that never received due credit. Even if a lot of it was crap. By the time his bizarro electronic masterpiece McCartney II came around in 1980, music cognoscenti had more or less written Paul off as a former Beatle who now sang stupid love songs.

A few unfortunate, unavoidable inclusions aside, Wingspan is a humble attempt to redress that misconception. Divided into "hits" and "history," the two discs deliver the familiar gems alongside more obscure treasures like "Daytime Nightime Suffering" and exquisite "Waterfalls" (a song later ripped off by TLC). And, mercifully, there's not an "Ebony and Ivory" in earshot.