Saturday, 27 October 2018
Paul McCartney - Ram (1971)
Released May 1971
Recorded in New York and Los Angeles
After the deliberately "home-made" feel of 1970's "McCartney", Paul McCartney continued in the same vein, to an extent, although this album benefits from a much fuller, more powerful production - more electric guitar, for example. It did still have that ramshackle feel to it, though, as if it were recoded in one of McCartney's farm buildings (it had not, see above). The whole "folk rock" laid-back thing was de rigeur at the time - Dylan, CSNY, The Byrds, Van Morrison, they were all at it. Why not McCartney? He ad a ten year legend to de-construct, after all. I am being facetious, but you certainly got the impression he just wanted to do some carefree, enjoyable music under no pressure. That is exactly what this album is. It doesn't really beggar too much analysis.
1. Too Many People
2. 3 Legs
3. Ram On
4. Dear Boy
5. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
6. Smile Away
7. Heart Of The Country
8. Monkberry Moon Delight
9. Eat At Home
10. Long Haired Lady
11. Ram On (reprise)
12. In The Back Seat Of My Car
"Too Many People" is a confident, solid rock song, with potent drums and electric guitar and a memorable hook. "3 Legs" is a light, folky and vaguely bluesy, enjoyable but inessential number. "Ram On" has McCartney in Beatles-style vocal tone, but is a pretty throwaway short piece of innocent, unthreatening fun. It doesn't really get anywhere, neither it supposed to. Stuff like this sounds like something laid down in a spare few minutes in the studio, with no real intention release.
The wistful, Beatles-esque "Dear Boy" has a hint of the material that Wings would put out over the subsequent years. It is, like all the album, cheerful, melodic and unashamedly unchallenging. McCartney still also had time for a bit George Martin-style orchestrated whimsy in the irritating but annoyingly memorable "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey". The former with its "Yellow Submarine" silly voices and the latter with its cheery brass and more haughty voices give Beatles followers their dose of McCartney silliness. Personally, I have always hated it, but still find myself singing along to it. It is another very Wings-like prototype. You almost expect it to launch into "ho hey ho" near the end.
As I said at the beginning, though, there is a fuller, rockier sound to some of this album, and we get some more rock with the chunky introductory riffs, electric guitar backing and doo-wop of "Smile Away". If this had been on "Abbey Road" everybody would have said it was great. As it was, the public at the time remained underwhelmed by McCartney's output, which was a bit of a shame because, if one forgets about The Beatles, this isn't a bad album. Then again, though, if it hadn't been for The Beatles, he wouldn't have got away with an album as quirky as this.
"Heart Of The Country" is blissfully pleasant and endearing, McCartney expressing the pleasures of his bucolic life. Lyrically and musically, it is enjoyable. "I want a horse, I got sheep, I want to get me a good night's sleep...".
"Monkberry Moon Delight" is another Wings-ish jaunty rocker. It is more proof that this is a more fulfilled, credible album than its predecessor. I have always quite the rock 'n' roll groove of "Eat At Home". "Let's eat in bed" declares McCartney, as if he were singing to Yoko. "Long Haired Lady" is musically inventive, atmospheric and credible. It amazingly manages to eke six minutes out of not much at all though. The brass part at the end is appealing, however, but the track is two minutes too long. "Ram On" is briefly and pointlessly reprised before the album's final and possibly best track, "In The Back Seat Of My Car". It is a bit indulgent in places, but it is full of good points as it veers tunefully here and there.
It is a shame the heavy "Oh Woman, Oh Why" from the bonus material didn't make it on to the album, or the seriously powerful rock of "Rode All Night". It would be a totally different album, and perceived so differently.
- October 27, 2018