Friday, October 2, 2015

Paul McCartney- Tug of War & Pipes of Peace reissue review

The Paul McCartney Archive Collection continues in 2015 with the reissues of 1982’s Tug of War and 1983’s Pipes of Peace. These two albums have been newly remastered as well. As with the previous entries in the collection, a second disc of bonus tracks comes along with the original album. Personally, I feel this is an overlooked time in Paul’s career and it’s nice to see it get some love with these reissues.

 Paul McCartney - Tug of War
Tug of War
Original Album Rating: ****
Remix rating: ***
Bonus audio rating: *** 1/2

            Released in 1982, Tug of War is an interesting album from Paul McCartney. Not only is it the first album he released after the break-up of Wings but it sees McCartney working with Beatles producer George Martin again- for the first time since Abbey Road in 1969. Now almost two decades after the release of Please Please Me, this was the final product the two came up with. Tug of War is considered by many to be one of Paul’s best and I would agree. Hit singles came out of “Ebony and Ivory” and “Take It Away.” The former is a duet with Stevie Wonder while the latter is a catchy, fun ska-flavored track. There are some wonderful album tracks on this album such as the 1950’s rock n roll of “Ballroom Dancing,” the funky “What’s That You’re Doing” and the powerful “Wanderlust.” Aside from “Take It Away,” my personal favorite song on the album is “Here Today,” a song Paul had written as a tribute to his former bandmate John Lennon, who was tragically murdered in late 1980. Paul was in the studio recording material for the album when he first heard of Lennon’s death. The lyrics are heartfelt, as McCartney expresses his admiration and love for his late songwriting partner.

            Unlike the other albums in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, Tug of War has received a new remix. From what’s been written online, Tug of War was recorded when digital recording was new. In short, Paul wanted to remix the album. As much as I hate to say it, I’m not crazy about the remix of Tug of War. I did do some sound comparisons with the original mix (the 1993 remaster, which Amazon gave me a free MP3 version of after pre-ordered the reissue) and the remix. Comparing the two in Audacity, Paul’s vocals are just too loud for the most part. The changes made in the remix aren’t anything too special. Still, the remastering is top notch. I just prefer the original mix. If you don’t care about which version you’re listening to, then you can go ahead and get this. The original mix is included with the super deluxe edition but the retail price for that is expensive. If you’re looking for the original mix, you can try finding the 1993 remaster or just get an older copy on vinyl.

I did take some notes while listening to the remix. Here’s my track-by-track analysis of the remix:  

1. Tug of War- vocals sound more up front, the orchestra might be a little over-the-top or loud 
2. Take It Away- Paul's vocals aren't double tracked or echo in the second verse. You also get to hear George Martin's piano playing in the bridges/instrumental bits. I feel the vocals and backing vocals bury the other instruments. I miss the ska feel. 
3. Somebody Who Cares- Paul's vocals are air-y, sounds a little more stripped down with the bass and drums there in the background 
4. What's That You're Doing?- The "Good morning" bits are less robotic. I thought there were less sound effects on here but in Audacity, it sounds funkier. 
5. Here Today- sounded more acoustic and had more echo. Paul sounds like he's the only one in the studio aside from the strings. 
6. Ballroom Dancing- Bass is strong but Paul's vocals are too loud and the piano is almost out of the mix. 
7. Pound is Sinking- eh more guitars? 
8. Wanderlust- Paul's vocals are too loud, the music does sound nice though 
9. Get It- a little stripped down, Paul and Carl Perkins' vocals sound balanced
10. Be What You See- N/A 
11. Dress Me Up As a Robber- eh hard to tell. Guitars sounded good on remix. 
12. Ebony and Ivory- Less reverb and/or electronic sounds, Paul and Stevie's vocals are up front and clearer.

The bonus disc doesn’t offer too much, with a run time of 32 minutes. Demos of the album’s tracks can be found on here. The demos are all fair but there isn’t anything special on there, although I will say the demo for “Take It Away” sounds slightly different from the album version (I think some of these demos will be familiar to avid bootleggers, so it might not be anything new for them). Along with the demos are some tracks that haven’t seen an official CD release before. There’s an alternate version of “Ebony and Ivory” with Paul singing the whole song and then two B side songs- “Rainclouds” and “I’ll Give You A Ring.”  

 Paul McCartney - Pipes of Peace
Pipes of Peace
Original Album Rating: *** 1/2
Bonus audio rating: ***

            Pipes of Peace received mixed reviews when it was released in 1983. Paul had George Martin producing again but critics didn’t see it as a worthy follow up to Tug of War. I have to admit that before getting this reissue, I didn’t think Pipes of Peace was a good album. I thought the first three or four songs were good and that was it. After listening to this remaster, I like it a little bit more and part of that has to do with the remastering (which I will get to later). Compared to Tug of War, it is a weak album but there are some good songs on here. “Say, Say, Say,” duet between Sir Paul and Michael Jackson, is the biggest song on this album- as it was a #1 hit duet for Paul. The title track is also solid pop tune and received some airplay back in the day. The album tracks vary from underrated to mediocre. Before listening to this remaster, I personally liked the self-observant “The Other Me” and fast-paced 80s pop sounds of “Keep Under Cover.” With the new remaster, I can now appreciate some of the other songs. I still can’t get into “Hey Hey,” “Tug of Peace,” or even the squeaky clean “So Bad.” However, I do enjoy the whimsical “Average Man” and “The Man,” which is another song that features Michael Jackson. It isn’t as fun as “Say, Say, Say” but the vocal harmonies are great and I love the opening guitar work on here.

 I think the remastering job has really made this a slightly better album. My other copy of Pipes of Peace was an issue from 1989. I always thought that copy sounded lifeless and too quiet. This is much louder but not too loud. It sounds perfect, I think. With the new remaster, I can appreciate the production here. Even the songs I don’t care for still sound great (especially “So Bad.” The bass and drums are wonderful.)  As for the second disc, it contains 31 minutes of material. It follows the same structure as the bonus disc for Tug of War, in that the tracks are organized from demos to actual tracks. The demos, once again, aren’t that great though “It’s Not On” and “Simple As That” might keep some completists happy as I’ve been reading these cannot be found on bootlegs. The B-side to “Say, Say, Say”- “Ode to a Koala Bear” makes its debut on CD. There is an interesting remix of “Say, Say, Say” on here, which features MJ singing some of Paul’s verses!  

Overall, these reissues of Tug of War and Pipes of Peace are good for what they are. However, I have to admit of the entries released in the Archive Collection- this is probably my least favorite release. I’m not saying that they are bad. Although I can applaud the effort, I really don’t see me going back to the remix of Tug of War. In terms of the music, the remix of Tug of War is great. When it comes to the better remaster and/or reissue, Pipes of Peace is slightly better as I feel it benefited from the remaster. I can do without the bonus audio but it’s still nice to own. The Paul McCartney Archive Collection will continue with 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt. While I will pick up the next reissue, I feel that Paul and the powers that be are holding back. I would love to see reissues of Red Rose Speedway and Back to the Egg: both would offer a lot of bonus audio and maybe even DVD releases of the James Paul McCartney and the Back to the Egg  TV Specials (though those would probably only come with the super deluxe editions for each album). In the meantime, enjoy these two new reissues. 

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