Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Paul McCartney RAM (1971)


Second time ’round, and lo! what a wonderful effort. This time around Paul has got a professional drummer (Denny Seiwell) and his wife (Linda McCartney, if you’re not informed) to help him with the playing, so there are no significant problems with songs being underarranged or something. Actually, just for fun, the album is credited to ‘Paul & Linda McCartney’ – evil tongues say that Paul only did this to earn more money from the record company, and they were even sued by some record company executives or managers who wanted Linda to prove her composing skills, heh, heh… in any case, she probably did prove something, because the family won the lawsuit. Oh well.

Some songs on here do feel a little bit thin when it comes to full-fledged arrangements, but it’s certainly less of a throwaway than before: thin or thick, all of the songs are finished products. Hey, what’s that I said? This is a great album! All the songs display a great songwriting talent – a talent equal to that of one of the Beatles, indeed! How could this guy write just as well as Paul McCartney of Beatles’ fame? Oh, see, lots of people usually forget that this is Paul McCartney of Beatles’ fame. They usually treat him as a separate Paul McCartney, and that’s where the problem lies.

Anyway, there are lots of fantastic musical ideas displayed all through this record. Ram is, in fact, the ideal place to start with Paul if you’re looking for something relatively calm, stripped down and cozy: whereas later on Paul would incorporate a lot of bombast into his work, especially in the mid-Seventies when he was successfully posturing as a glammy stadium-rocker, on Ram he simply plays the part of a humble little farmer – just look at him handling the ram on the front cover! (Which, was, by the way, later parodied by John on the back cover of Imagine, where he was holding a fat pig by the ears).

If there is a theme underlying the album, it’s the theme of ‘quiet silly little fun’: Paul sings about the advantages of living in the country, the fussiness of big city life, the pure delights of family life and the innocent pleasures of teenage days. All of this is, of course, drenched in his usual ‘nonsensic’ approach and heavily spiced with moments of sheer delirium, but that doesn’t make the album any less entertaining – on the contrary, I adore this delirium. And isn’t delirium the highest form of art, by the way?

Let’s run around, then. First of all, for those who doubted it, Paul shows us that he can still pull off a mean funny rocker: the groovy ‘Smile Away’ with its famous line ‘well I can smell your feet a mile away – smile away!’ is just the thing for you, based on a gruff, dirty, smelly (yeah) little riff and graced by stingy, exciting guitar solos, plus the doo-wop harmonies borrowed from another age. From another age also comes the wonderful Beach Boys-like retro harmony number ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’, a perfect ode for all the little dudes and doves. From the recently passed age we have the terrific psychedelic brain-muddler ‘Monkberry Moon Delight’ – the song would have easily fit on Magical Mystery Tour, if only for the fact that not a single line in the verses ever makes sense.

But who wants sense when one gets a magnificent vocal melody instead, not to mention the guy almost throwing a fit as he keeps repeating the title of the song over and over in some mantraic trance – almost like Harrison repeating ‘Hare Krishna’ in ‘My Sweet Lord’? Isn’t that absolutely, totally hilarious?

Practically everything on here rules, yes, even including the Twenties-inspired comic number ‘Three Legs’ (lots of critics thought it was about the lame fate of the band, but that’s at least arguable). No matter that these songs sound so ‘home-made’: it only makes them closer to you. Where does he get those brilliant melodies? Like, for example, the slightly sad, but bouncy acoustic riff of the title track? Or the sharp, mercilessly pounding piano chords of ‘Dear Boy’? Or the jolly Mellotron (don’t tell me it’s a real trumpet) cookie in ‘Admiral Halsey’? Or the catchy happy lines of ‘Eat At Home’? Did he really think of all of them himself?

The two songs, however, that come close to being the greatest on this album are the two side-openers. ‘Too Many People’ has some great lyrics, an unforgettable hook in each verse, and one of the best codas to a Paul song: if you haven’t heard that frantic guitar solo at the end, or the way it suddenly transforms itself into a lot of overdubbed ‘stinging’ acoustic guitars, you don’t know nothing about Paul at all. And ‘Heart Of The Country’ may be silly and lightweight, but I deem it a logical successor of ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, only in a more funny context.

I don’t give a damn about what that song really meant for Paul (about finally settling down and solving his old-time problems, probably), but it sure means a lot for me, and don’t you dare write it off as stupid pop crap! It’s an epochal song. And don’t forget the wonderful pop suite of ‘Long Haired Lady’ which sounds like one of the most gentle and mysterious love ballads I’ve ever heard. Sounds very Brit-flavoured, too. Who’s that long-haired lady? Is it Linda McCartney or the Queen of May?

So, you probably already understood that this is my favourite McCartney album. Indeed, I prefer it even to such a highly-acclaimed album as Band On The Run, just because it’s so home-made and fresh and delicious, and also because lots of these cool tunes could have easily made their way onto The Beatles or Abbey Road or anywhere like that. And let me tell you this: I totally and absolutely despise even the slightest effort to dismiss the album as ‘lightweight’ or ‘charming, but disposable’, or anything like that. It’s absolute hogwash that ‘music should make sense’.

Music should impress; and this music is so well-written, memorable and catchy that it can’t but impress. And in any case, I don’t really see how Ram can be more ‘lightweight’ than, say, A Hard Day’s Night. Personally, I would take these funny little Edward Lear-like lyrics over the Beatles’ early love cliches any day of my life. And the melodies rule. They rule.

This is unquestionably the best pop album of 1971 and one of the best pop albums of the entire decade. A true classic.


April 6, 2013 - Posted by | Paul McCartney Ram |

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