Press To Play

Paul McCartney

Capitol, 1986

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


As far as great singles are concerned, there are no less than three of ‘em to be found on Paul McCartney’s out-of-left-field Press To Play

The very first track, “Stranglehold,” is a great slice of country-fried rock in the tradition of Eric Clapton and John Mellencamp. The timeless slow song “Only Love Remains” has some of the most beautiful piano and strings you will ever hear, while the exciting lead-off single “Press” seems to pick up where Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” left off. 

Produced by Collins’ producer Hugh Padgham, Press To Play represents McCartney as a changed man. His entire sound has been given a much-needed overhaul, although the songwriting isn’t quite up to par.  Perhaps that is why the album didn’t exactly bowl over critics or the public when it was first released. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Weak lyrics aside, this effort has more than enough fresh, fun material to enjoy. The re-release has a couple of bonus tracks, including the great “Spies Like Us” single from the movie of the same name.  There are elemental, New-Agey sounds on uneven songs like “Footprints” and “Pretty Little Head,” while “Talk More Talk” is a clattering piece of psychedelia that is made even stranger by distorted spoken word passages. The inclusion of the breezy pop tune “Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun” is a welcome one, since it is helps to break up the dense tension of the album’s first half.

Kicking the second half off in high-gear is the bar-room brawler “Move Over Busker.”  Big and brassy is clearly the intent that so much of Press To Play is made to imply. Paul really comes unhinged -- and is virtually unrecognizable -- on the in-your-face rock number “Angry,” while “However Absurd” has an epic feel that also demands your immediate, full attention. 

Listening to this album again after all these years, it has finally dawned on me that it sounds even better today than it did back then. Even Tug Of War tends to lose some of its luster after repeated listens, but not here. In retrospect, it was wise of Paul to switch producers, despite the fact George Martin has long been a favorite of Beatles fans everywhere. 

In the mid-80s, Padgham was the most-in-demand producer, so it makes all the sense in the world that Paul would choose him over George. Purists needn’t have worried, because Martin would return for several more McCartney albums that were to come.

From an artistic standpoint, Press To Play is a drastic departure that is admirable, especially coming from someone like Paul McCartney. It proved that he was fearless in choosing to take a giant step outside of his safe and predictable comfort zone. In my mind, that is the mark of a true artist. I would never make the mistake of underestimating him again, that’s for sure.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 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.