Music Review: Paul McCartney – ‘Tug of War’ and ‘Pipes of Peace’ (Archive Collection Reissues)

Sources: Blog Critics | All Things Michael

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Available from Concord Music Group on October 2, 2015 are the latest additions to Paul McCartney’s award-winning Archive Collection reissue series. Tug of War and Pipes of Peace were mostly recorded together throughout 1980-82. The best material landed on War, which was a global chart-topper and multiple Grammy nominee in 1982 (including Album of the Year). It features two collaborations with Stevie Wonder: the funky “What’s That You’re Doing?” and the mega-hit “Ebony and Ivory.” The leftovers, plus a pair of Michael Jackson collaborations (the mawkish “The Man” and another mega-hit, “Say Say Say”), wound up on Peace in 1983.

For the new reissue, available as a two-disc CD set or a three-disc CD plus DVD deluxe edition, Tug of Warhas been remixed. The change in overall sound is not dramatic, which should be welcome news for anyone planning to pick up the lower-cost two-disc version (which only includes the remix). Completists, however, can still get the remastered original 1982 mix as the third CD in the deluxe edition. The new mix boasts a broader dynamic range, with notably crisper high end and full-bodied low end. War is one of McCartney’s most consistently strong albums and its exciting to hear it sounding so fresh.

The second disc contains seven demos of album tracks, one demo for an unreleased song (“Stop, You Don’t Know Where She Came From”), and three B-sides (“Rainclouds,” “I’ll Give You a Ring,” and the solo version of “Ebony and Ivory”; the former two haven’t been commercially available since their original vinyl release). The deluxe edition’s DVD is a bit skimpy, containing four music videos (“Ebony and Ivory,” “Take it Away,” two for “Tug of War”; each framed in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1) and a 19-minute documentary about the making of the “Take it Away” video. The doc is the best part, featuring great behind-the-scenes footage of McCartney and the band (which, for “Take it Away,” includes Ringo Starr) plus guest star John Hurt.

Pipes of Peace, while not remixed, sounds noticeably better than the old 1993 reissue. Both War andPeace were produced by Beatles producer George Martin. The layers of Martin’s often intricate, inventive production can be more fully appreciated in the new remaster of Peace. The underrated, album-closing ballad “Through Our Love” sounds richer than before, particularly when the climactic orchestral score kicks in. The over-driven lead guitar on “The Man” cuts sharper, while the acoustic showcase in “Sweetest Little Show” feels more delicate than before.

Nine bonus cuts adorn the second disc in the both the standard and deluxe Pipes of Peace. Three are demos for album tracks, but it’s the demos for “Simple as That” and “It’s Not On” that are most fascinating. While the ’93 Peace edition contained a track called “Simple as That” (a contribution to a 1986 benefit album, The Anti-Heroin Project) and that song is absent from the new edition. The included “Simple as That” demo is for an entirely different song which just happens to have the same title. “It’s Not On” is a strange little art rock song that McCartney probably should’ve pursued further (it’s definitely more interesting than Peace‘s weakest tunes, things like “Hey Hey” and “Tug of Peace”).

Peace‘s second disc also contains the B-side “Ode to a Koala Bear” (a reverb-drenched pop number that has been unavailable since its original vinyl 45 release), “Twice in a Lifetime” (the theme song to a 1985 Gene Hackman movie), and the previously-unreleased instrumental “Christian Bop” (incorporated years later as part of McCartney’s classic work Liverpool Oratorio). Also on the second disc is a new 2015 extended remix of “Say Say Say,” notable for its utilization of alternate Michael Jackson vocals in place of lines sung by McCartney on the album version.

The Pipes of Peace deluxe edition DVD includes three music videos (“Pipes of Peace,” “Say Say Say,” “So Bad”) plus three home movie-based featurettes. One shows McCartney and crew goofing around during some down time, another features candid footage of Michael Jackson riding horses with the McCartney family, and the most interesting piece is behind-the-scenes footage in George Martin’s AIR Studios. Here we see McCartney working on a few tunes, including “Keep Under Cover” and the ultimately unused “It’s Not On.”

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The Concord Music Group-supplied advance copies are simply the discs held in a CD wallet, without the elaborate printed materials (including extensive liner notes and photos) that will accompany the full deluxe editions.

 

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