Paul McCartney – Press to Play (1986)

History: After Give My Regards to Broad Street proved to largely be a commercial failure, Paul turned to producer Hugh Padgham to help give him a more contemporary sound. Padgham had worked with bands like XTC, The Police, and Genesis and helped give the album his signature sound. Paul also cowrote many of the songs with his guitarist Eric Stewart this time around. Unfortunately the album did not chart well and was Paul’s worst selling release up to that point.

My own personal history and initial prediction: This is another one that despite being in my lifetime I have no memory of whatsoever and the song titles don’t look familiar. I’m not quite sure what to expect after Give My Regards to Broad Street being mostly a walk down memory lane.

Review: This album is really weird to listen to. It sounds so much like a lot of the music I heard growing up, but is also very much not what I expect to hear from Paul. There’s a quality to it that does make it feel like Paul is trying really hard to fit in, but that may be unfair. Paul has always embraced new styles and genres and loves experimenting with it all. I had watched an interview with him when he was promoting Give My Regards to Broad Street, and in it the interviewer asked him about all the makeup and hairstyles that people were sporting at that time, and didn’t he think it was too much about appearance and not about music? Paul handled the question perfectly, pointing out that people made such a big deal about the Beatles’ hairstyles back in the 60s, and that it was all just another form of expression. He also specifically praised Boy George for his singing and said if that was how he wanted to dress it was all right with him. So I don’t think this is a case where a man is out of touch with the times and is just desperately doing something to “sell out.” It looks a lot more like he was recognizing that what he was doing on his own wasn’t entirely working and he was willing to get some feedback from others to try to improve.

It’s interesting to hear now that this was someone who worked with Genesis and The Police. While listening I kept getting vibes of Steve Winwood, Peter Cetera, even Robert Palmer at points, but in retrospect I definitely hear the resemblance to Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required. There’s a lot of blues inspiration and “Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun” has a touch of reggae influence as well. “Talk More Talk” is fascinating with its spoken word moments throughout that seem to be almost stream of consciousness thoughts. “Only Love Remains” is a more classic ballad that we would expect from Paul, but the rest is very, well, 80s for lack of a better descriptor.

I think my biggest issue with the album is that it just doesn’t seem very lyrically inspired. I’m not connecting with these songs. There’s no real storytelling going on, or maybe anything that is there is being drowned out by the production. It’s definitely music first lyrics second which doesn’t always work for me. That said I did give the album a second listen, partially just to make sure I wasn’t too tired the first time since I had listened before bed, and I have to say the songs were growing on me the second time around. I think it helped to be over the shock of the change in style and really just settle in to it. So I definitely don’t think it’s a bad album at all, but I do also feel like there are much better albums from this time period I would probably turn to first if this was the music I was in the mood for.

Singles released around this time:

“Spies Like Us” – Another uncharacteristic of Paul guitar driven song that was the title track of a film starring Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. The music video also features Paul and the stars goofing off at Abbey Road Studios. I think I was so distracted by the way Dan Aykroyd was hamming it up that I barely remember the song now.

Next Time: George releases Cloud Nine! I’ve been looking forward to getting to this one.

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