Styled as a conspicuous companion piece to Tug of War, Pipes of Peace mirrors its 1982 cousin in many ways: its title track holds up a mirror to its forefather -- and, if that weren't enough, Paul McCartney serves up the knowing "Tug of Peace," an almost-electro collage that twists the songs into McCartney II territory -- it serves up two showcases for duets with a former Motown star along with a cameo from fusion superstar Stanley Clarke and, most importantly, it is also produced by former Fab Four ringleader George Martin. Some of that production occurred during the sessions for Tug of War, with roughly half of the record culled from outtakes from that album, but Pipes of Peace has a distinctly different feel than its predecessor, seeming fleet, adventurous, and modern, almost as an accidental riposte to the consciously classical Tug of War. Sometimes that whimsy slides right into silliness -- witness "Average Person," a music hall showstopper inexplicably shoehorned into the middle of the second side -- but that lightness allows McCartney to indulge in an instrumental funk collaboration with Clarke ("Hey Hey"), a super-slick bit of yacht pop with Jackson ("The Man"), a bit of confession disguised as a synthesized soft rock lark ("The Other Me"), and a galloping revision of Red Rose Speedway with "Keep Under Cover." If McCartney gets a little sticky on the ballad "So Bad," his melody saves him and the album's other two hits have aged exceptionally well: "Say Say Say" hits hard, sounding as funky as anything on Thriller, and "Pipes of Peace" achieves an earned grace. Perhaps Pipes of Peace doesn't have the gravitas of Tug of War but it offers something equally valuable: a portrait of an impeccable craftsman at play.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Michael Jackson