I’m not going to get too long-winded here. Sadly, this album’s just not worth that much discussion.
So Tug of War was a BIG commercial success, and almost begrudgingly a critical one as well (even with the barbs tossed his way for the rather pedantic “Ebony and Ivory” single). So Macca’s got some momentum again, and to keep the heat going he dropped his followup LP Pipes of Peace a year and a half later. And why not? Half of the album consisted of songs recorded during the “Tug Of War” sessions: “Keep Under Cover” was recorded as far back as December 1980, “Average Person” and “Hey Hey” in Montserrat in February 1981, “The Man”, “Say Say Say”, and “Sweetest Little Show” in London later that year. The remaining six tracks were cut in the fall of 1982 to complete the album, although Paul did some additional work on “Say Say Say” with Michael Jackson in March and April of 1982 (during this period they also collaborated on “The Girl Is Mine” for Jackson’s Thriller album).
The resulting album isn’t horrible. It’s certainly well produced — George Martin returns again to the producer’s chair, Ringo and Denny Laine return for a few tracks, and Paul teams up with the aforementioned Jackson as well as Stanley Clarke on the instrumental “Hey Hey”. The album is, for all intents and purposes, “Tug Of War Part II”. But just not as good.
The best thing I can say about Pipes of Peace is that it is pleasant and well-produced and pretty much completely forgettable with maybe one or two standout tracks. I do not particularly care for “Say Say Say”, even if it was a huge hit for both McCartney and Jackson. I find the song dopey, musically uninspired, and repetitive beyond words. I much prefer their team-up on “The Man”, even if that song isn’t particularly strong. It has catchier hooks and is musically a hell of a lot more interesting. Songs like “Pipes of Peace”, “The Other Me”, “Sweetest Little Show” and “Keep Under Cover” don’t offend but they don’t particularly stand out either.
One song I really enjoy from the album is “So Bad”, a heartfelt falsetto ballad from Paul that admittedly is a little more than unrepentant treacle, but it’s Paul at his easy listening best. Paul probably realized this too, because he included it on his next album and movie.
On the crap side, you have disappointing swill like “Average Person” and “Tug of Peace”. The latter is a bizarre electronic reworking of the title track from the previous album. “Hey Hey” makes bass legend Stanley Clarke sound feeble, which isn’t an easy thing to do, but the song is weak and lifeless . Finally, “Through Our Love” is sorta kinda there, nice musicianship and production but the song is nothing you ever need to hear again.
Commercially, the album ended up faring well but not quite as well as its predecessor. Pipes of Peace eventually went Platinum but never made it to the US Top 10. The lack of a strong followup single to “Say Say Say” probably contributed to this, although “So Bad” (a superior song) did scrape the Top 30. Overall Pipes of Peace feels like a whole bunch of outtakes, even if half the album consisted of new material. The album is flaccid and a sad portent of how McCartney’s solo endeavors would fare throughout many years to follow.