History: Paul took the six remaining songs from the Tug of War sessions and went back into the studio in 1982 to record five more to make this album. Similar to his collaborations with Stevie Wonder, he chose this time to work with Michael Jackson on two tracks. He also did another song with jazz musician and bassist Stanley Clarke. George Martin returned for production.
My own personal history and initial prediction: So the main song that jumps out here is definitely “Say Say Say” which I heard a lot in my youth. I feel like it was a regular for the light rock station we listened to when I was a kid. I haven’t heard it in a while though. In my memory it feels more like a Michael Jackson song than a Paul song, so it’ll be interesting to see if I’m just forgetting his major contributions to it or not. After how much I enjoyed Tug of War I’m looking forward to this one.
Review: I have to say this feels like the kind of album that would reveal itself more to me on repeated listens. I found a lot of the songs hard to pin down from a genre perspective, being these really interesting mixes between pop, jazz, world music, a little bit of electronic sound, all of them fused together in a really unique way. I had a hard time pinning down if I was truly enjoying what I was hearing or not, but I was definitely intrigued.
Since we’re also in the age of music videos, that also adds an extra bit of depth to it all. For instance, the title track “Pipes of Peace” felt overly hippie in its words and just a bit too sickly sweet when I was listening to it for the album, but when I watched the music video I found it far more enjoyable. It’s Paul playing two soldiers on either side of the fight in WWI, and he and all the others come together for a moment of peace and understanding. In that context the song just seemed to fit a lot more. “So Bad” is another song I didn’t like at all on the album because while the harmonies are nice it’s definitely too far in that easy listening category for me, but the video which includes Ringo constantly winking at the camera and he and Linda clearly having a great time together made it far more tolerable to sit through.
Of the two Michael Jackson collaborations, “Say Say Say” is definitely the strong one, and it’s a better blend of the two of them than I remembered. It’s mostly that Paul is once again putting on a different voice so he doesn’t immediately stand out, but that voice is very complimentary to Jackson’s and it works really well. The “ooh ooh ooh ooh” moments are also this perfect blend of taking what the Beatles were famous for and mixing it with what Jackson was famous for and putting it together to make the perfect pop hit. I can see why it got the heavy rotation it did for such a long time. “The Man” on the other hand isn’t so strong, reminding me too much of other times in both their careers where they do songs like this I don’t really care for.
“Hey Hey” is also a great collaboration. I’m not familiar with Stanley Clarke, but I certainly get a feel for what kind of jazz he may do here, and I appreciate that Paul allowed it to be primarily an instrumental piece instead of trying to make it more pop. With all the other playing with styles that occur on this album it doesn’t sound out of place at all. Perhaps the most fascinating song on the album is “Tug of Peace” which plays with Paul’s previous “Tug of War” song and brings in elements of “Pipes of Peace” as well. It’s a mashup before such things were so well known, and it works better than Harry Nilsson’s mess of Ringo songs back on Stop and Smell the Roses.
There have been albums I’ve listened to on this journey where I know I want to buy it and listen to the songs again, but this is a unique one in that I’m not sure if I want to buy it and hold it for keeps just yet, but I definitely want to go back and stream it a few more times to get a better feel for it. Definitely worth checking out to see if it might be your cup of tea.
Singles released around this time:
“The Girl is Mine” – Before they did Paul’s songs together, he and Michael Jackson recorded this one. Paul doesn’t get writing credit on it, so I’m not sure how much contributions he had beyond his vocals. It is not good. Even without the knowledge that it’s a happily married man and a pedophile “fighting” over which one of them the girl belongs to, it’s just slow and boring and I’m kind of shocked Michael chose it as a single.
Next Time: Yoko puts together a mix of John’s final recorded works with some of her own in Milk & Honey.