An in-depth look at Paul McCartney’s “Tug of War” and “Pipes of Peace” reissues

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PAUL McCARTNEY

Tug of War (Deluxe Edition)

Concord Music Group/Hear Music

*****

 

Pipes of Peace (Deluxe Edition)

Concord Music Group/Hear Music

***

TUG

The Paul McCartney reissue program continues with 1982’s Tug of War and 1983’s Pipes of Peace, the eighth and ninth releases of what has been dubbed the Paul McCartney Archive CollectionTug of War is available in multiple formats: there’s a standard edition 2-CD set that includes a remixed version of the original album on the first disc and 11 bonus tracks (eight being previously unreleased) on disc two; the deluxe edition features 3CD’s (the original album, the 2015 remix, the bonus audio, plus a 30-minute DVD featuring music videos and more), along with a 112 page book with photographs by Linda McCartney, interviews with Paul and other key players, track-by-track information and more) and a 64 page scrapbook of lyrics, archival notes and photos. In addition, there is a pricey “super deluxe” version with a limited edition slipcase and five hand numbered photo prints exclusive to this collection.

PIPES

Pipes of Peace is also available in various configurations:  the standard edition 2-CD set with the original album (remastered) on disc one, plus nine bonus tracks (seven previously unreleased) on a second disc; the deluxe edition with both CDs, plus a DVD with three music videos and rare bonus film, as well as a 112 page book with more photos and interviews and a 64 page scrapbook that goes behind the scenes at the filming of the “Pipes of Peace” music video (which proves that as an actor, Paul McCartney is a great musician).  Both deluxe editions include a download card with free access to 24bit unlimited  high-resolution audio, and there will also be remastered vinyl issues with gatefold sleeves for both Tug of War and Pipes of Peace, with a download card included.

So having said all that – and it’s certainly a mouthful – are these reissues worth picking up? Well, yes and no. McCartney fans/completists will definitely covet the deluxe editions of both, but while Tug of War is definitely essential, Pipes of Peace is…not so much. The 2015 version of Tug of War, remixed by McCartney and Steve Orchard using the original analogue multi-tracks, is often nothing short of revelatory. Not only do the vocals sound more present and the guitars a bit beefier (especially on tracks such as “Ballroom Dancing”), but the sound is brighter overall and certainly less ‘80s sounding, making a wonderful album sound utterly timeless. In the accompanying book, Orchard mentions how he was “very conscious of retaining the original spirit of the mixes,” using vintage equipment to complete the task.

TUG   McCartney half-jokingly claims in the book that “…looking back on the Tug of War project, they’re all pretty zany ideas…pulling all these people in from everywhere!” “These people” included producer George Martin, Stevie Wonder (who duets with McCartney on the funkier-than-thou “What’s That You’re Doing?” and the still treacly after all these years “Ebony and Ivory”), rockabilly legend Carl Perkins (on the loose-limbed, good natured, acoustic-based “Get It”), the one and only Ringo Starr, 10cc’s Eric Stewart, former Wings mate Denny Laine, and others. But, as always, the star of the show is Paul McCartney, who dressed up this, his first post-Wings album (and also his first after the death of John Lennon), with a bundle of solid tunes that are by turns elegant, rocking and emotionally charged (the gentle, elegiac “Here Today” was McCartney’s musical tribute to Lennon, and to this day, it never fails to elicit tears).

High points are plentiful, and include the stately title track, the propulsive, horn-fed “Take it Away,” the fun, nostalgic rocker “Ballroom Dancing” and the glorious perfection of “Wanderlust,” one of McCartney’s finest and most under-appreciated solo efforts. It’s not too much of a stretch to consider Tug of War to be McCartney’s Abbey Road. It’s polished in all the right ways and remains the pinnacle of his 1980s output.

As far as the bonus audio, the boogie woogie of “Stop, You Don’t Know Where She Came From” recalls the unscripted jamming of the Beatles’ Let it Be sessions, while the brief demo of “Wanderlust” (without being adorned with the swelling orchestration of the officially released version) features a distinct “Let it Be” vibe. It’s also interesting to note that the demo of “Take it Away” is highlighted by a McCartney piano figure that sounds awfully similar to “Obladi Oblada.” (And is that an ever-so-faint “yeah, yeah, yeah” that’s heard at the close of the demo of “The Pound is Sinking?”)

The demos aren’t all interesting – “Something That Didn’t Happen” shouldn’t have – but it’s nice to have the non-LP B-sides “Rainclouds” and “I’ll Give You a Ring” present and accounted for. (A handwritten early track listing duplicated in the scrapbook shows “Rainclouds” was considered for inclusion on Tug of War, alongside tunes such as “No Values” (which would end up on 1984’s Give My Regards to Broad Street soundtrack), “Sweetest Show in Town” (which would end up on Pipes of Peace and titled “Sweetest Little Show”), and an unreleased tune called “Old Man Loving.”

Pipes of Peace seemed a blatant attempt to mirror the success of Tug of War – Starr, Laine, Stewart, Stanley Clarke, drummer Steve Gadd and producer George Martin were all back on board, and some of the tracks were leftovers from the Tug sessions – but it was far less successful both artistically and commercially (peaking at number 15 on the US album charts after Tug of War had reached the top spot).

A few of the songs on the remastered Pipes are somewhat grating throwaways: “Hey Hey” and “Tug of Peace” are the biggest offenders, but the bombastic, dated production flourishes of “Keep Under Cover” and “Through Our Love” (oy, those drums…) render them nearly as dismal. Luckily, there are a few gems sprinkled amongst the dross: “Sweetest Little Show” is lighthearted little number that’s at once bluesy and overwhelmingly poppy; “Average Person” is a classic McCartney trifle that is lyrically silly but maddeningly catchy (and almost nursery-rhyme-like); and the delicately sung “So Bad” finds McCartney reaching back to “For No One” for a bit of instrumental inspiration and slipping some soulful bass runs into the mix.

The two collaborations with Michael Jackson – the insistently funky hit single “Say Say Say” and the mellower, sadly undervalued “The Man” are wholly successful and serve as the centerpieces of Pipes. The clear highlight of the bonus audio is a new, seven-minute remix of “Say Say Say,” which features a rearranged vocal sequence that makes the song come alive in an entirely different fashion by utilizing two previously unused vocal performances by Jackson and McCartney. Aside from that pinnacle, unless “Ode to a Koala Bear” and a soggy, previously unissued instrumental titled “Christian Bop” sound interesting, it’s doubtful that the bonus audio will make more than one visit to your stereo. And unless home video of George Martin playing air guitar and Michael Jackson horseback riding trips your trigger, the bonus film on the DVD can probably be skipped as well.

To sum up, the Tug of War deluxe edition is essential, while the standard edition two CD Pipes of Peace set is probably sufficient for anyone except the most rabid McCartney fan. Now when can we expect that Back to the Egg archival release?

 

 

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