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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ram by Paul and Linda McCartney

My musical tastes have expanded considerably since I wrote this review (never mind since I first heard it) but I still think it's a pop masterpiece and is still somehow criminally overlooked.

From (Originally written 2 September 2004)

The lyrics for most of these songs are very, very silly.

There, now that we got all of this album’s problems out of the way, onto my praising it into the ground.

Paul McCartney’s second solo album was a marked improvement over the first. For all of its charms McCartney’s eponymous debut suffered from incompleteness: most of the songs felt like works in progress. Ram on the other hand regained all of the charm of McCartney but felt more like a real album rather than a collection of home demos. It also helps that Paul’s songwriting is as great as it ever was. Or to put it in a different way, the melodies on this album are every bit as great as the ones he came up with for the Beatles. With that statement, I could pretty much end my review because, really, what else needs to be said? I won’t though, simply because writing short, to the point reviews has never been my style.

Anyway, as I was saying, Ram is filled with the kind of melodies that you can expect from a songwriter of Paul’s enormous stature. Catchy, innovative, diverse, entertaining and sometimes just outright strange, the music here offers everything you could possibly want from a great pop album. Things also never get stale because aside for the fact that Macca tends to make his melodies so interesting that you could listen to them over and over again, finding something new every time, Ram is also a very diverse album. Sure, just about every song here can be categorized as being pop, rock or country; no two songs on here sound even remotely similar to one another and a variety of moods and emotions are presented as a result.

Also, except for perhaps Band on the Run, Ram is far and away Paul’s most consistent solo effort. The lack of a “filter” that he had when working with Gorge, Ringo and especially John means that like most solo-Beatles albums, Paul’s albums tend to be maddeningly inconsistent. Some how though, Paul clearly didn’t miss a beat here as he puts out an album with nothing on it but seriously good music. I’m sure that there are those who might complain that the album is to poppy and in need of a good dose of “edginess” bur Ram is is a pop album and if you don’t like it you’re probably better off keeping away from pop music in general.

Then again though, the very first song on the album actually strikes me as being something of a rocker with a very defin
ite edge. In fact, Too Many People has gained a notoriety for including some scathing put downs of Macca’s former songwriting partner. What it should actually be remembered for though, is for being an absolute corker of a song. The melody itself is fascinating as it twists and turns continuously throughout but let’s not forget the very spirited performance that Paul and his backing band give that take this song to even greater heights. Plus the song ends on a truly rocking coda that seems to come out of nowhere but further proves just how wonderfully unpredictable Paul can be when he wants to.

Changing direction for the first but definitely not last time, comes 3 Legs, a country ditty that is every bit as catchy as it is silly. At least it starts off as a country ditty but by the time it ends I never really know just what genre of music it was that I was listening to, except that whatever it was
, “weird” is a word that definitely seems applicable. And speaking of weird, Ram On seems like a bit of a throwaway song but its simply to engaging to ignore. I can’t ever tell you why I like this song as much as I do but I suppose that’s just part of its charm.

I can, however, explain why I like the next song, Dear Boy. It’s all about the vocal harmonizing in this case. It’s a fairly simple little pop number but the way the different harmonies come together could give the Beach Boys a run for their money. It’s one of the album’s most beautiful songs. Uncle Albert/ Admiral Halsey is the album’s big hit and though it’s hardly any better than most of the rest of the material on this album, it certainly is a deserved one. Unsurprisingly, it has a few absolutely breathtaking melodies within its five-minutes, a cartload of heavenly vocals and some very fitting sound effects th
rown in for good measure.

It’s also probably the single that’s the most representative of Paul’s more, er, shall we say, eccentric side. Smile Away, in the meantime is yet another brilliant Ram album track. It’s a funky, wildly energetic little rocker that is actually really quite funny and yes, yet again the melody is as catchy, interesting and captivating as ever. Plus, you’ve just got to dig those fantastic backing-vocals – whatever you may think of Linda McCartney as a lead vocalist, you can’t deny that she was a superb backing singer.

This is of course followed up with another one of those odd little country songs, Heart of the Country. It’s probably the simplest song here but it more than makes up for that by being really quite beautiful. And besides, “simplest” is a very relative term and in this case means that its simply less insane than the other songs.

Speaking of insane, the very next track, Monkeyberry Moon Delight is simply one of the most outright psychotic songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a thumping piano based rocker that features a vocal performance from Paul that simply has to be heard to be believed and some surprisingly fitting poppy backing vocals from Linda. I should also mention at this point that though I’ve been paying the most attention to the vocals on this album, the instrumentation on this album by Paul and his very able backing band is also top class. I should also mention that trying to remember just who Paul’s backing band is on any particular album is the kind of gargantuan mental task that it tends to cause headaches and as such I won’t
really be mentioning anyone by name, as a rule. Anyway, back to the music.

Eat at Home is normally regarded as Paul’s most Buddy Holly-like song but seeing as how I’m not very well versed in Buddy’s music, I can’t really tell you whether that is true or not. What I can tell you, is that this is another superb upbeat pop-rocker that is a simple celebration of his and Linda’s love for one another and the simple life they lead. Long Haired Lady is also a song that was clearly written for Linda and it’s one of the album’s most interesting tracks. There is some really sweet, likable vocal interplay between Linda and Paul at the start at the track that then gives way to a beautiful but completely unpredictable melody. It’s so great in fact that it might be my favourite track on here.

We then get a short reprise of Ram Onbefore moving into another one of my favourite Paul McCartney songs, The Back Seat of My Car, an epic but unsurprisingly strange strong that ends this album off perfectly. It manages to be both moving and silly at the exact same time, a trick that only someone like Paul McCartney can properly pull off. But pull it off he does. This is anthemic pop music at its very best. Just listen to that unforgettably unique coda that ends off the song to see what I mean.

There are also two further bonus tracks on this Paul McCartney Collection remaster of the album. The first of these, Another Day is for all intents and purposes solo Paul’s version of Eleanor Rigby. Is it as great as that song? Well, no but it is superb in its own right. It was also Paul’s first solo single and a fine one at that. Oh Woman, Oh Why, the b-side of Another Day, isn’t quite as great as it’s a-side but it’s a fun enough little rocker.

Ram is very simply one of the very best pop albums you will ever hear and is very probably Paul McCartney’s greatest post-Beatles achievement. It may be lacking real lyrical depth but the astonishing melodies more than make up for that. It is also the first indication of just how weird much of Paul McCartney’s seventies work is going to be.

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