Friday, July 18, 2008

Paul McCartney 2: Ram

Paul spent most of 1970 feeling sorry for himself, suing the other three Beatles and recording with the New York Philharmonic. Despite the simple “Another Day”, released as an early standalone single, the resultant album seemed as if he was trying to assuage the fears of those who thought McCartney was too homey; now that he Got Back, it was huge production time, like side two of Abbey Road. For the most part, Ram is still an extension of the family values of McCartney, but with more filled-in sound. Also, being credited to Paul and Linda McCartney, you hear a lot more of her. (Get used to it.)
“Too Many People” is a nasty tune that was taken to be a slap at John; whatever the truth is it’s still a toe-tapper. “3 Legs” is a dumb blues with lyrics that seem to mean more but probably don’t, then it’s over. (Somehow John thought this was about him too.) “Ram On” has one idea, and a good one, but since it doesn’t go anywhere it’s left behind. “Dear Boy” is not about John no matter what he thought; rather it’s a “so-there” to Linda’s first husband. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is stitched together from several fantastically melodic sections, none of which make any sense, but are all great. The orchestra is especially dreamy in the first part. After the truly exhilarating (acknowledgement to Nicholas Schaffner) “hands across the water” section it too heads off into the sunset amid the cacophony that starts “Smile Away”, another dumb yet great song. He’s definitely having fun, and we can hear it.
“Heart Of The Country” could fit easily onto the previous album, and is the first of several songs he would write over the years about sheep. “Monkberry Moon Delight” is utter nonsense, too loud and much too long. The ending is especially irritating. “Eat At Home” has a bit of a Buddy Holly snap to it, with effective rising and falling link sections. (This was actually selected as the single outside of America and Britain, and a good choice.) The orchestra returns for “Long Haired Lady”, which gets points even with Linda’s obnoxious vocals and those flatulent horns. “Ram On” comes back for another minute, then teases us with what would resurface two albums later as “Big Barn Bed”. “The Back Seat Of My Car” makes everyone happy with that one great song he puts on every album, with globs of strings and words that make sense for a change. It’s also one of the better Beach Boys homages out there. When he repeats that they believe they can’t be wrong you can almost believe him.
Flawed though it is, Ram still garners high marks, as it would be better than a lot of what would follow. It fits nicely with the first album too. There’s a little of everything, and there’s a real flow to the sequence. But Paul was still trying to find himself, and he wasn’t quite there yet.
Ram has gained respect over the years, usually among younger fans coming late to the story. Its emergence as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, right around the 41st anniversary of its original release, was a Big Deal, available in a variety of increasingly collectible (read: expensive) LP and digital variations. Fans on a budget would have been pleased with the 2-CD version, which added the “Another Day”/“Oh Woman, Oh Why” single and the later “Little Woman Love” B-side, plus five long-booted session outtakes. Those who sprung for the mega-box got that plus a massive book and two more CDs: one containing the promotional mono mix of the album, and another with the Thrillington album, an officially sanctioned Muzak version of the songs recorded in 1971 and shelved for six years.

Paul and Linda McCartney Ram (1971)—
2012 Archive Collection Special Edition: same as 1971, plus 8 extra tracks (Deluxe Edition adds another 23 tracks and DVD)

4 comments:

  1. Any thoughts on sound quality of original CD (well, the 1999 version) vs. reissue options? Is the standard single-disc reissue, at $9.99, perfectly adequate?

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  2. My ears can only be trusted in extreme cases, so I don't pretend to be an authority on audiophile territory. This version of Ram sounds fine to me; I only ever had the '80s version on CD. If you don't care about the bonus tracks, I'm sure the $9.99 should suffice.

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  3. Per your "younger fans coming late to the story" comment, no less an authority than Mandy Moore once told me how she dug this record, and I sadly had no ability to wow her with my own observations. Time to remedy so I can be ready the next time I bump into a perky teen starlet.

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  4. Indeed. And then you can compliment for me on her cover of the Waterboys' "Whole Of The Moon".

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