Music Review: Paul McCartney - Tug of War and Pipes of Peace (Archive Collection)

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The reevaluation of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career continues full-steam ahead with the upcoming (October 2) reissues of Tug of War (1982) and Pipes of Peace (1983). Though largely recorded concurrently throughout McCartney’s often uncertain early post-Wings era (1980-1982; Wings officially disbanded in ’81), the two albums are distinctly different offerings. War finds McCartney, at the dawn of middle age, largely casting rock and pop trends aside for a stately, magisterial sound. Reteaming with Beatles producer George Martin, War bristles with classic McCartney melodies and a mature, reflective outlook.

Peace, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the same quality level on a song-by-song basis. With George Martin still behind the board, the production is teeming with brilliant flourishes that often elevate some of the more pedestrian offerings. But heard in its newly-remastered form, Peace actually stands on its own two legs as a sturdy, adult contemporary pop record. There are pleasures to be found throughout, just maybe not quite as obvious as on War. In fact, a good shorthand way of putting it: Tug of War will appeal to even the most casual McCartney fans, while Pipes of Peace will have a much easier time finding favor with fanatics. 
 
tug of war deluxe (380x237).jpg So what’s new about these long-awaited entries in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection reissue series? First of all, my advance review copies are no-frills versions without any of the extensive liner notes and photos that will be found in the premium-priced deluxe editions. Tug of War’s deluxe version will include both the original 1982 mix and the 2015 remix. This the first time an Archive Collection reissue has included a new mix. Purists can rest easy, as none of the songs have been fundamentally altered in the new 2015 remixes. What is evident in the 2015 version is a greater level of separation in the instrumentation. The album sounds fresh without sounding all that different. The groove hits harder in the lesser-known of two Stevie Wonder duets, “What’s That You’re Doing?” The acoustic guitar in “Wanderlust” has been de-emphasized and is now better integrated in the overall sound. I’m not entirely sure why a full remix was deemed necessary, but it sounds so great it’s unlikely to bother anyone (especially since the original mix, again, will be part of the full deluxe version).

Among the War bonus tracks, we finally get the excellent B-sides “Rainclouds” and “I’ll Give You a Ring, which haven’t been available since their original vinyl releases. Less interesting, but still nice to have, is the solo version of “Ebony & Ivory.” Unfortunately, this isn’t as comprehensive as it could (and should) be, as the single mixes of “Take it Away” and the title track aren’t included. They’re both on the Wingspan compilation, but it would’ve been preferable to have them here (freshly remastered). The rest of the tunes are demos of various album tracks. “Dress Me Up as a Robber” is a sequence of several demos, showing the development of the song. The “Ebony & Ivory” demo is basically just the chorus and main riff. “Something That Didn’t Happen” is the “hear me lover” section of “The Pound is Sinking,” apparently originally begun as a separate song.

Over on Pipes of Peace, we finally get the B-side “Ode to a Koala Bear,” also not reissued since its original vinyl. Those familiar with the Liverpool Oratorio will recognize “Christian Bop” immediately as a rock version of “Dance.” Many fans have wondered why there’s a demo of “Simple as That,” but not the finished version as found as a bonus track on the 1993 Pipes of Peace reissue. I’m not sure if that track is being saved for inclusion on a future reissue, but this demo is for a different song. The “Simple as That” demo found on the new release only shares a title with the previously available version. “Twice in a Lifetime” is, however, included. Along with a few not-terribly-revelatory Peace demos is the truly outré “It’s Not On,” replete with bizarre, vari-speeded voices and impenetrable lyrics. As such, it’s interesting enough to count as a real treat. 
 
pipes of peace deluxe (380x258).jpgSure to spark debate amongst fans is the inclusion of a 2015 extended remix of the blockbuster Michael Jackson duet “Say Say Say.” The most interesting element of this particular remix is that some of McCartney’s vocal lines are sung by Jackson. I was so startled to hear Jackson sing the complete opening verse instead of McCartney, I immediately started the track over to confirm what I was hearing. Omissions on the new Pipes of Peace edition: the single edit of the title track (which omits the opening fanfare) and the original 12” remix of “Say Say Say.” There really is no good excuse for these missing tracks, since there’s more than enough empty to space to fill on these second audio discs. 

Both War and Peace include DVDs. Neither is a particularly well-appointed disc. The War DVD contains music videos for “Tug of War” (two versions), “Take It Away,” and “Ebony and Ivory.” The less-familiar version of “Tug of War” is comprised of press conference and photo shoot footage. There’s also a featurette called “Fly TIA: Behind the Scenes on ‘Take It Away’.” The piece covers the making of the elaborate, John Hurt-starring “Take It Away” video. One of the highlights of this 19-minute documentary is a closing credits jam, shot on the set of the video between takes, featuring McCartney on keys, Eric Stewart on guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums.

The Peace disc has videos for “Pipes of Peace,” “So Bad,” and “Say Say Say.” It’s worth mentioning that these are presented in their original full frame, 1.33:1 aspect ratio rather than the cropped versions found on The McCartney Years DVD set (and also, “Version 1” of “Tug of War” was not on that set at all). That said, although the music is in sync with the picture, it looks as if there’s a frame-rate problem with “Say Say Say” (the video looks, quite frankly, terrible; the image suffers from a weird motion blur). There are also three featurettes which are basically home movie footage apparently culled from McCartney’s private collection. “Hey Hey in Montserrat” has McCartney and family, along with Ringo, George Martin, and the rest of the musicians clowning around during some down time. There’s some priceless footage of a young, relaxed Michael Jackson riding horses with the McCartneys. The most interesting piece is a short “behind the scenes” at George Martin’s AIR Studios (the best bit finds McCartney making an Alien figure “sing” the Peace track “Keep Under Cover”). Too bad there wasn’t more of that type of footage.

Keep in mind, while the basic Archive Collection editions include the two audio CDs, the DVDs are only part of the deluxe editions.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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