Paul McCartney – Tug of War

More Paul McCartney

Tug of War

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  • You’ll find oustanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on this vintage UK pressing of McCartney’s Tug Of War – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Relatively rich and full-bodied, yet still clean, clear and spacious, with note-like bass and smoother vocals than most 
  • A copy with transparency and clarity like this lets you appreciate George Martin’s masterful production work
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… crowd-pleasing genre-hopping.. in general — it is, by design, a record that gives the people old Beatle Paul — but McCartney in general.”

Drop the needle on the opener Tug Of War and listen to how wide and deep the sound field is. Take It Away follows with a bit of an ’80s reggae feel, and on the better copies you get meaty, tight bass that sets the foundation for the fun to follow.

Some of McCartney’s ’80s albums — and let’s be honest, some of his ’70s albums too — can drag a bit at times, but this one is pretty darn consistent. Allmusic gives it 4 1/2 stars, matching Band On The Run.

What the best sides of this McCartney album have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1982
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on Tug of War.

A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.

More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way the engineers wanted it to.

Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.

Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.

Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.

Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

What We’re Listening For

Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on Tug of War.

A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.

More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way the engineers wanted it to.

Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.

Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.

Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.

Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Tug of War
Take It Away
Somebody Who Cares 
What’s That You’re Doing? (feat. Stevie Wonder) 
Here Today

Side Two

Ballroom Dancing 
The Pound Is Sinking 
Wanderlust 
Get It 
Be What You See 
Dress Me Up As a Robber 
Ebony and Ivory (feat. Stevie Wonder)

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Like 1970’s McCartney, 1980’s McCartney II functioned as a way for Paul McCartney to clear the decks: to experiment and recalibrate in the aftermath of his band falling apart. This means 1982’s Tug of War is, in many ways, the very first Paul McCartney solo album, a record recorded not at home but in a studio, a record made without Wings and not co-credited to Linda, who nevertheless is present as a backing vocalist.

McCartney recognized this album as something of a major opportunity, so he revived his relationship with Beatles producer George Martin and brought in several heavy-hitters as guests, including his hero Carl Perkins, his Motown counterpart Stevie Wonder, fusion star Stanley Clarke, prog rock refugees Eric Stewart and Andy Mackay, and his old bandmate Ringo Starr, whose presence was overshadowed by “Here Today,” an elegy written for the murdered John Lennon.

…much of the charm of Tug of War lies in the excess around the edges, whether it’s the rockabilly lark of the Perkins duet “Get It,” the later-period Beatles whimsy of ‘”The Pound Is Sinking,” the electro-throwaway “Dress Me Up as a Robber,” or the long, electro-funk workout of “What’s That You’re Doing?,” a track that’s a fuller collaboration between Paul and Stevie than “Ebony and Ivory.”

Such crowd-pleasing genre-hopping finds its apotheosis on “Take It Away,” a salute to eager performers and the crowds who love them, which means it summarizes not only the appeal of Tug of War in general — it is, by design, a record that gives the people old Beatle Paul — but McCartney in general.