Pop/Rock, Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary, Album Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock

Album Review

Perhaps it isn't surprising that McCartney's grip on the pop charts started to slip with Pipes of Peace, since it was released after his 40th birthday -- and most rockers do not mature particularly gracefully. Although it's rather fascinating that the album didn't reach the Top Ten, despite a blockbuster duet with Michael Jackson in "Say Say Say," Pipes of Peace bewilders in other ways, particularly in its allusions to Tug of War. It often seems as if this album was constructed as a deliberate mirror image of its predecessor; it is also produced by George Martin, also contains two duets with an African-American superstar (Jackson here, Stevie Wonder there), also acknowledges an old bandmate (a Lennon tribute there, a Ringo cameo here), and even contains "Tug of Peace," a deliberate answer song to its predecessor. If only it were nearly as adventurous as Tug of War! Instead of dabbling in all his myriad musical personas, McCartney settles back into a soft rock groove, tempered somewhat by a desire to be contemporary (which means a heavy reliance on drum machines and synthesizers). Instead of sounding modern, McCartney winds up sounding like an aging rocker desperately trying to keep up with the time, but that in turn means that Pipes of Peace can often reveal what the early '80s were like for aging rockers -- he does embrace technology, but he winds up with immaculate productions that are decidedly of their time. Still, at its best, Pipes of Peace is ingratiating soft rock. In particular, the first side is close to irresistible, with the title track being a mid-tempo mini-epic, "Say Say Say" being fine pop-funk, "So Bad" being so sickly sweet that it's alluring, "The Man" being an effervescent Jackson duet, and "The Other Me" scoring with its square dance beats and winning McCartney vocal. Not enough to add up to a latter-day triumph from McCartney, but it still contains better songs than its blockbuster mid-'70s counterparts, and even if it's a little lightweight, it has more flair in its craft and more style in its sound than other McCartney albums, which is enough to make it a minor musical success, despite its disappointing chart performance.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Pipes of Peace
  2. Say Say Say
  3. The Other Me
  4. Keep Under Cover
  5. So Bad
  6. The Man
  7. Sweetest Little Show
  8. Average Person
  9. Hey Hey [Instrumental]
  10. Tug of Peace
  11. Through Our Love