Tug Of War

Paul McCartney

Capitol, 1982


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


On McCartney II, Paul's photo on the cover made him look like a scheming juvenile delinquent. As for the shot on the follow-up, 1982’s Tug Of War, it appears that Paul has been reduced to a quivering, scared little boy hiding in a dark closet. 

Just what has he done wrong to make him so afraid that he might get in trouble and be punished?  The answer, of course, is that he was eventually found guilty of recording what is undoubtedly his best album since Band On The Run.

The No. 1 hit single “Ebony And Ivory” only tells a very small part of the story.  With the help of his old friend, producer George Martin, McCartney crafted an album that is sure to please practically everyone. Teaming up with music industry legends Stevie Wonder and Carl Perkins was the key ingredient that was needed to give the overall album a big boost.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

They say good things happen in threes, and that is indeed the case on this album. The first good impression is made by the second single, “Take It Away,” which I have always felt deserved a better fate when it came to chart success. The next high point comes with Wonder’s other contribution, the oh-so-funky “What’s That You’re Doing.” Martin must have really been out of his element when recording that one, though perhaps he channeled Quincy Jones in order to get it just right. The third most noteworthy track is the Carl Perkins rockabilly duet entitled “Get It,” which is injects some refreshing fun and humor into the mix, always a plus.

Where Tug Of War falters is whenever Paul resorts to British high camp and slight acoustic ballads. The pretentiousness can be found on bloated tracks like “Wanderlust” and “The Pound Is Sinking,” which sounds at times like a second-rate “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Two tracks that seem to missing that extra something special are the sludgy title track, as well as the drippy “Somebody Who Cares.” 

However, I did happen to find “Dress Me Up As A Robber” interesting for the mere fact that it shows Paul isn’t afraid to change it up by singing in a different key.  Another standout comes in the unexpected form of “Ballroom Dancing,” which is a mash-up of multiple genres and contains a ballsy and impressive vocal performance.

Later in his career, McCartney’s albums would slowly but surely be stripped down to a bare-bones sound, free of artifice and unnecessary bells and whistles. This, unfortunately is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can appreciate Paul’s decision to approach music in a simpler, more straightforward way, but on the other, much of his creative spark and dynamic style has been lost in the trade-off.

But this one is a highlight from when he was still near the top of his solo game.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.