Ram (2012 reissue)

Paul McCartney

Hear Music, 2012


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


In fan debates over which Beatle has produced the best solo career, I generally fall on the side of Paul McCartney. I believe his work has shown a far greater depth stylistically, lyrically and instrumentally than the rest of his former bandmates. He has also show a great resilience, able to pull his career out of the doldrums more than once.  The decision on the part of the McCartney empire to rerelease 1971's Ram with much fanfare is a puzzling one, since it represents one of the low points in McCartney's career. Sure, Ram shows Paul at the start of an upswing, as he got back into an actual studio with an actual band and wasn't recording vocals in his bathroom anymore to produce reverb as he had done on McCartney. But still. Doldrums it is. Ram is a collection of silly songs that sound hastily written and recorded.

Still coping with the breakup of The Beatles, McCartney went off to his farm on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. This is the same place that would inspire the mega hit of the same name in 1976. Sadly, the area did not impart quite the same inspiration as it would later, and the album produced from the songs written there only contained small flourishes of McCartney panache. "Too Many People," "Monkberry Moon Delight," “ Heart Of The Country,” and "Dear Boy" are redeeming songs, but they are forced to sit next to "3 Legs," “Smile Away,” "Ram On" (twice!) and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey."  Just because "Uncle Albert" was a hit for McCartney at the time of the album and has become a radio favorite doesn't mean that you don't give it a hard listen and wonder, "my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 What is that?"

The powers that be know that this album is a purchase that only a true fan would make, so they load up the packaging with "extras" that aren't really extras at all. A second disc contains bonus tracks including "Another Day," which is the best song McCartney created between Let It Be and Band On The Run album, a couple of B-sides, and other songs that were deservedly left off the album. A DVD is included but offers nothing new with a couple of music videos of Paul and Linda riding horses around Scotland set to cheesy Ram music and a documentary of the period, which is a rehash of what was in the 2001 Wingspan TV documentary. (Don't remember that one? It's the one where Paul sits down and reveals details of his ‘70s career in a hard-hitting interview with his daughter.)

But you haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet!  The extra bonus of the super deluxe box set of Ram is the all-orchestral version of the album by the fictitious Percy "Thrills" Thrilligton. The good news is, if you think Ram is an awesome album, you may love the orchestral version. Otherwise it is just a superfluous side ego project used to keep McCartney busy in 1971.  Also for the superfan and audiophiles, there are vinyl versions available of the 2012 re-release.

As a McCartney fan and a lover of albums as a snapshot of an individual’s career, I can appreciate the importance of Ram.  It is a crucial step between the Beatles and Wings and in the healing of Paul McCartney. Some reviewers look at this context and thus inflate their grading of the album. But look at John Lennon, who also suffered depression and anguish from the Beatles’ breakup, but yet in 1970 and 1971 produced the only worthwhile albums he released in the ‘70s. George Harrison was liberated to create All Things Must Pass and Ringo – well, he was always Ringo, but still, they didn't fall off the cliff musically like McCartney did.  The annoyance is that Ram was re-released with bonuses that don't redeem the album at all and don't offer anything new for the adoring fan or McCartney historian.

Rating: D

User Rating: A


Wow. Not even sure what to say. I think this record is ridiculously good. Sure, there's some silliness here and there but the melodies and the instrumentation are top-notch and I am hard-pressed to think of too many better records from that era. When it debuted, still in the shadow of the Beatles, it was not well-received. But most critics have since come to realize how good it really is. Oh, well...different strokes and all. Ram on!!!
Recently I was hunting for something new to listen to on the Net, and I ran across a version of "Monkberry Moon Delight" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, it was pretty outrageous, so then I gave Paul's original another listen, it was even more outrageous! I gave the rest of the album a good hard listen, and came to the conclusion that it is now my favorite album by Sir Paul! I love the back-up vocals (I assume they are Linda) and the way the album is always "shifting gears" between "Ram On" to "Eat at Home" to the Burt Bacharach influenced "Dear Boy" to the Hey Jude'ish "Long Haired Lady" This is one of the first Alternative Albums.
To each his own, music is entirely subjective and variable. I don't think the Ram album is Paul's best work, and when I review I try to put the album in context with the artist's career and as a snapshot within that career. Paul has had better albums, and he had produced songs that were much tighter lyrically and musically than most of those offered here. Also keep in mind that I am specifically reviewing this release, which in my opinion carries with it completely superfluous "bonus material" that really serve to drag down the whole product. That consideration is included in my review.

© 2012 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hear Music, and is used for informational purposes only.