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on 31 May 2001
One of perhaps five essential albums Paul has made since leaving the Beatles, Tug of War was the first time McCartney had worked with George Martin since those heady times, and he rose to the occasion by producing an album that included some of his best tunes (with or without the other fab three) and his most concise lyrics.
Those who are annoyed by McCartneys tendency not to take himself seriously will not be impressed by the mildly ingratiating Ballroom Dancing, and Ebony and Ivory is a track whose trite sentiment is simplistic in the extreme.
But the pleasures on this album are to be found elsewhere, the fantastic production of the title track, the heartfelt hymn to Lennon 'Here Today', and the excellent 'Pound is Sinking' a track who's multiple parts remind one of a lower key Band on The Run or Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.
But these all pale into insignificance compared with 'Wanderlust', a song so breathtakingly beautiful that it will leave you literally speechless. In my opinion his finest post Beatles song, it counterpoints two contrasting melodies to incredible effect. In fact it may make you want to go and single handedly take issue with all those people who claim that McCartney was a spent force after the Beatles. It's that good - you may even forgive him for Ebony and Ivory...
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 October 2015
This review is of the remixed 2-CD set released in October 2015.

This album reached number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, and deservedly so. It was well received by critics and the public. The material here is high quality, the backing musicians are good (including Denny Laine and Ringo Starr) and production is by George Martin, the person who was always most able to bring out the best from McCartney's music.

Of great interest, of course,were the two tracks with Stevie Wonder. Of those two collaborations, 'Ebony and Ivory' has gone on to become a standard, probably because of its equalities theme. But in many ways 'What's that you're doing?' is the stronger track. Weighing in at almost six and a half minutes, it has the complex rhythms that underpin many of Stevie Wonder's classics.

Stand out tracks? 'Tug of War' and 'Take It Away' are two strong tracks to open the CD. Later comes the poignant 'Here Today', McCartney's sad tribute to John Lennon: still performed at some of his concerts today. 'Ballroom Dancing' has McCartney singing in his lower register which is where I think he has always been at his strongest. 'Wanderlust' is a beautiful melody.

In short, this is an album jam-packed with strong tracks and a variety that makes it a pleasurable listen.

By the time of this release, Wings had been and gone: this is therefore a true 'solo' album. But after the break-up of his group this time there was no period of self-doubt. Instead McCartney displays a confidence in his song-writing and performances and this is therefore a powerful album.

On the bonus CD 2, there's a collection of demos, a solo of 'Ebony and Ivory' and three tracks that don't appear on the 'main' album: interesting for Macca completists, 'Stop, you don't where she came from' has surfaced before on bootlegs. 'Rainclouds was the B side to 'Ebony and Ivory' and 'I'll give you a Ring' was B side to 'Take it Away'. The last two are fully produced.

Interestingly, there was no slip of paper in this CD advertising what the next re-releases will be in the Archive Collection. I wonder if that means it is coming to an end?

Update: My thanks to Dave (see comments below) who tells me that 'Flowers in the Dirt' has been advertised as the next re-release.
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on 29 March 2005
This album was so welcome in 1982, especially given Lennon's tragic and untimely killing and because we heard it was Paul on his own, not like on 'McCartney 2' but with a proper solo album with other musicians, free of any limitations which Wings had placed upon him. Whatever they were. But in any event, expectations were high. And on this record, McCartney did not disappoint. It is a fine record.
But is it any better than Wings? Probably not. For McCartney was the driving force behind every Wings album anyway. And here he substitutes the occasional Denny Laine vocal with guest appearances from Stevie Wonder and Carl Perkins. And here it works because it is a novelty. Collaborations with Michael Jackson or Eric Stewart would stifle his later 1980s output. But at least here, the songs are good.
'Tug Of War' is the sublime opening title track. It is such a fine song, with a decent lyric (if only Lennon could have heard this one!) and a magestic tune. Denny Laine contributes guitar so it is almost a Wings track anyway. The next track 'Take It Away' was a single but is with hindsight at least a pretty unremarkable song. Despite Ringo's presence on drums. 'Somebody Who Cares' is a great McCartney ballad, complete with a finger picking acoustic guitar solo from the man himself. Then we have the first of the McCartney-Wonder collaborations 'What's That You're Doing' which is an enjoyable disco-ish number. Not great but enjoyable yes. And now we come to 'Here Today', McCartney's heartfelt tribute to his ex partner Lennon. Easily the best song on the album, and recently performed in concert as well, 20 odd years later. Here we have Paul showing more emotion and love for someone other than Linda for about the only time in his life. I would dismiss any cynicism here. This is a Love Song, for John Lennon. Who can fail to be moved?
'Ballroom Dancing' is a decent rocker which could have fitted well on the Back To The Egg final Wings album. But the ever present Denny Laine is present here so it again has a Wings quality to it. 'The Pound Is Sinking' is interesting but ultimately forgettable. Silly lyric.
But on the next track 'Wanderlust' McCartney produces his best ballad in many a year. And the counter melody singing is really great. This song is about the highlight of the album. The song with Carl Perkins 'Get It' is charming and works perfectly in this context. 'Dress Me Up As A Robber' is an ingenious song which shows that Paul could still be innovative when he wanted to be. Infectious. So we come to 'Ebony And Ivory', the duet with Stevie Wonder, which has invited as much ridicule as George Bush over the years. But it is a heartfelt song recorded by two great artists, black and white. I personally think this song is great, an important statement less than twelve months after the ugly Brixton riots in London of 1981. Paul: don't listen to those tedious critics of this song. It is good. It was an important and valid statement to make in 1982. So there. OK so it was simple. But it was heartfelt. And what's wrong with that? I'd like to know.
All in all, this album is more consistent than any other McCartney offering from the 1980s. 'Flowers In The Dirt' (1989) obviously runs it close. But in 1982, the world and certainly the Beatle community welcomed this commendable album with open arms. And I for one will still defend it to this day.
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on 19 February 2005
Tug of War was Paul's first new album since the disappointing McCartney II. Much had happened in the 2 years since this, the break up of Wings, the irreparable loss of his old friend and bandmate John Lennon and a brief reunion of Paul, George and Ringo in 1981. The question was "Could he still cut it?!". Tug of War was a stunning return to form silencing all the critics. Paul was approaching his 40th birthday during the album's production and you can see that he was looking back through the years; the title track sums up the relationship of the post-split Beatles, "Ballroom Dancing" the Hamburg years and of course the touching tribute to John Lennon. It's FAB!!!!
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on 12 November 2013
When this album hits the mark it is sublime. And if it wasn't for a few negatives would surely deserve a 5 star rating:
Tug of War This opener really hits home. Great melody,great production (thank you George Martin) and a decent lyric. 9/10
Take It Away the first 20 seconds are great but then it turns into a formulaic song like say 'I've Had Enough (1978)6/10
Somebody Who Cares Nice song if a little soft. I can't help feeling that this album should have been Wings' swan song (most songs were written on 1980 when the band was still alive..just) 7/10
What's That You're Doing? Exactly. What? Boring 4/10
Here Today Absolutely sublime tribute to Lennon. And rightly featured in Paul's live set for the last 10 years+ 10/10
Ballroom Dancing Great song and 'cos Denny Laine is on electric guitar, practically a bona fide Wings song 9/10
The Pound Is Sinking Tiresome song, crap lyric 4/10
Wanderlust Top drawer,simplicity at its best 10/10
Get It Enjoyable if a bit forgettable 7/10
Dress Me Up Like A Robber Interesting stab at something different. Hats off 7/10
Ebony And Ivory Decent enough but seems rather out of place here. Should have been a stand alone single. 7.5/10

The B side I'll Give You A Ring (1982) should have been a bonus track but for some reason wasn't. I can understand why the other B side Rainclouds (1982) wasn't included. But all in all I wish this had been a Wings album as the collaborations with Perkins, Stevie here (and MJ and the needless retread of Beatles hits on Broad Street and Eric Stewart with what was to follow) do not add much to the McCartney catalogue. It took Paul until 1989 to recover his form fully. But when this album is good it is solid gold.
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on 3 October 2015
One of the best McCartney albums ever..... along with McCartney, Ram, Flowers in the Dirt, Flaming Pie...... a variety of styles the remix here is really works well and adds to the original version - bonus disc very interesting and worthwile. If you are a Beatles/McCartney you probably have at least one version of this album - but worth purchasing again for this version is wonderful. If you are not this is a good entry point as any into the McCartney catalogue ..... unmissable
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on 6 August 2012
I'm being a touch generous with my four stars but this is a good record. When it came out I didn't realise how up against it Macca was (I was only 14) but after the mauling the final Wings LP got he was under pressure to show he still had it. Cue a slick (but not overly so) George Martin production job and his most consistent set of songs since Band on the Run. The title track's lyrics could have done with a rewrite ("what with one thing and another") but it's a nice post-hippie plea and Take It Away is a good-time stormer. Wanderlust and Here Today are gorgeous and I'm going to stick my neck out and say I like both collaborations with Stevie Wonder. Ebony and Ivory has taken some stick but it was a catchy anti-racist song that made number one so what's the problem? I remember even the NME review said it would do more for racial harmony than most other efforts at the time. Nothing on Tug of War stands out like Jet, Listen to What the Man Said or Silly Love Songs from Wings' albums but this is a surefooted record with unusually high quality control throughout. And, as another reviewer has noted, this is the last album when Paul's voice still sounded great. Even by the time Pipes of Peace came out his range seemed to have shrunk and he wasn't going for the notes the way he still does on this record.
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on 1 August 2016
Perhaps Paul McCartney's best post-Wings solo album. Discounting the classic but decidedly overplayed 'Ebony And Ivory', this wonderfully produced album contains the shockingly underrated follow-up single 'Take It Away' with its sublime brass section, together with the beautiful 'Wanderlust', the rollicking 'Ballroom Dancing' and the heartfelt, poignant tribute to John Lennon 'Here Today'. Great to finally have this on CD.
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1982's George Martin-produced 'Tug Of War' is rightfully lauded as one of the highlights of Paul McCartney's solo career. Although there are times during the album when the instrumentation and production date this recording badly (specifically 'Take It Away' and 'Ebony And Ivory'), the wonderful thing about this album is that the songs are mostly fantastic and have no problem shining through the sometimes heavy 1980's feel, making this arguably Paul's best release of the decade - with the possible exception of 1989's 'Flowers In The Dirt'.

The powerfully uplifting anthem for peace, 'Tug Of War', starts the album brilliantly and is closely followed in terms of impact by the exuberant ode to music itself, the impossibly catchy 'Take It Away', which also features Ringo Starr on drums and George Martin on piano. 'Somebody Who Cares' is a beautiful song, reassuring someone who is down and lonely that there is always someone there for them and includes a rather heavenly acoustic guitar solo. Up next, the first collaboration of the album with Stevie Wonder, 'What's That You're Doing', has a feel of Stevie's magnificent 'Superstition' to it although it never really hits the heights of that track despite being a perfectly enjoyable, funky song.

As this album was Paul's first since the untimely and tragic murder of his former bandmate and songwriting partner, John Lennon, the fifth track (which would have been the last song on side 'A' of the original album) is the outstandingly touching and genuine tribute to his fallen friend, 'Here Today'. For me, it captures the relationship Paul had with John and the openly sentimental, honest lyrics coupled with the beautifully composed music, augmented by a tastefully arranged string section. It was a song likely to have been subject to careful scrutiny by fan and media alike and if ever there was a difficult subject to write about it was that, but Paul manages to write almost the perfect tribute and a truly classic song.

If you can almost imagine - you're back in 1982, you've dried your tears, took the record off the turntable, flipped it over and then put the needle back onto the vinyl... and then you're treated to bouncy, near-honky tonk piano and an uplifting, silly rock ode to 'Ballroom Dancing' which is infectious enough to get the feet tapping and a smile creeping across your face. It is just an example of the McCartney magic, to be tugging on your heartstrings one minute and then to make you filled with silly joy the next - a whole range of emotions all contained within one album.

'The Pound Is Sinking', a song about international currency, is an excellent three-part song which is also, post-Euro, fun to listen to and identify all of the now obsolete currencies. Because of the strength of some of the tracks around it, it is easy to miss the appeal and songwriting craft of this one, but it's a real corker, as is 'Wanderlust', a ballad of such shimmering beauty, that it is quite difficult to reconcile the fact that it was written about a drugs raid. Certainly one of the many highlights of this album and perhaps even one of his greatest songs ever, it features a soaring McCartney vocal and an excellent brass score.

From there on, the album peters out a little. 'Get It' is an admittedly foot-tapping song notable only for the fact that it was recorded with Carl Perkins. 'Dress Me Up As A Robber' is a little more interesting than enjoyable and reminds me slightly of the style of the man Paul was about to work with, Michael Jackson. Lastly, we have 'Ebony And Ivory', Paul & Stevie's pop duet about racial harmony which has a fantastic sentiment. Some people have criticised the song for being over simplistic about such problems but often the simple way of looking at things can really cut through a lot of complicated matters and I think, for the message, this song is great. Personally, I'd rather criticise it for the dated synthesizer sounds, but I really do like the song - unashamedly so.

Part of why this album is such a winner is because of the range of styles exhibited here - from the balladry of 'Somebody Who Cares', 'Here Today' and 'Wanderlust' to the funk of 'What's That You're Doing' - from the pure pop of 'Take It Away' and 'Ebony And Ivory' to the rock sensibilities of the title track and 'Ballroom Dancing', you're given an album which highlights most of Paul's strengths as a songwriter and very few of his weaknesses. This is an essential buy for any Paul McCartney or Beatles fan and justifiably regarded as one of his finest achievements as a solo artist.
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on 14 October 2015
The 1980's started for Paul McCartney the same way as the 1970's with a purely home made album 'McCartney 2', he followed this with one of his finest solo albums 'Tug Of War'. The album was made during a turbulent time for McCartney, John Lennon had been murdered with inevitable potential consequences for the other remaining Beatles also Wings his band of the previous decade had disintegrated following a Japanese drug bust which resulted in some jail time for McCartney. Tug Of War could be seen as McCartney's reaction to all these events in a sense he retreated into his past the album was made with The Beatles producer George Martin and he bought his tasteful arrangements to the album which exudes a greater range of instruments than had appeared on a McCartney album for some time with the brass on 'Wanderlust', the horns on 'Take It Away' and 'Ballroom Dancing' and the wonderful string arrangement on the touching tribute to Lennon 'Here Today' . As well as George Martin the album also included other names from McCartney's past with Ringo playing on the album and Carl Perkins on the lightweight rockabilly track 'Get It'. Then there was the collaboration with Stevie Wonder, the much maligned 'Ebony and Ivory' but also the wonderfully funky 'What's That You're Doin''. Musically the album shows McCartney at his most tuneful I enjoyed the guitars on 'Dress Me Up As A Robber' and the delicate 'Here Today' but my particular favourites on the album are the wonderful brass on 'Wanderlust' and the glorious big band sound of 'Ballroom Dancing'. So with this album you have McCartney retreating to the studio [he would not tour until the end of the 80's] and reconnecting with his past finding some of his best material in years, this can be heard on the extra disc of this album which displays his genius as an arranger the demo versions of the songs which for some artists are simply sketches of what is to come show that he already new where he was going with the tracks [a talent that can also be heard on the demo for 'Step Inside Love' on The Beatles Anthology 3]. This probably McCartney's finest solo album of the 80's [maybe his best so far] he would not be this good until he teamed up again with George Martin and Elvis Costello at the end of the 80's for 'Flowers In The Dirt'.
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