Ram, the second post-Beatle LP from Paul McCartney has just been reissued through Hear Music. There are numerous ways for the uninitiated to acquaint oneself with its contents, but the best is likely the two-disc Special Edition. It pres...
Ram, the second post-Beatle LP from Paul McCartney has just been reissued through Hear Music. There are numerous ways for the uninitiated to acquaint oneself with its contents, but the best is likely the two-disc Special Edition. It presents the contents of this hard-fought classic alongside a second album of appropriate bonus material.
Paul McCartney was the member of the Fab Four that so many used to relish knocking around. Whether it was in spirited bar chats or animated discussions at parties, when the tide turned to The Beatles somebody could always be counted on for a hearty jibe at Macca’s expense. And in my above use of “so many” I’m generally referring to males and by “somebody” I’m specifically speaking of those who indisputably considered John Lennon to be the Best Beatle.
While for those truly devoted fans of the band there could simply never be a Worst, for many Paul was the Square Beatle, a designation not borne out by the facts, for he was as interested in the avant-garde as any member. Hell, in ’68 he co-produced “I’m the Urban Spaceman” by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band for Pete’s sake, an act that places him rather high up on the meter of cool.
However, others derided him as the Corporate Beatle. And yeah, it’s true that Paul never lost track of the business aspect of the whole affair, but his behavior in this regard hasn’t really played out as particularly odious in comparison to other rock star types of not even half his stature or talent.
But both Paul’s image and the assessment of his post-Beatle solo career has rebounded in recent years. Much of this might have to do with the constantly regenerating fanbase of the Four consistently growing older and perhaps letting go of the rebelliousness that inspired easy identification with Lennon or Harrison. It also might be related to the race for Coolest Living Beatle being down to him and Ringo “No More Mail, Thanks” Starr.
But seriously. In my estimation Paul’s general critical resurgence is a welcome phenomenon, if only because his first two solo records have finally gotten something approximate to the proper level of respect. And yes, for years I bought the baloney regarding the collective underwhelming nature of McCartney and Ram, too.
This was in part due to older acquaintances, even those quite favorable to McCartney’s work in The Beatles, being generally disapproving of his solo stuff, considering those early albums as grievous miscalculations of ambition (or lack thereof) and Wings (which of course wasn’t really Paul “solo,” being a band in its own right) as a severe pendulum swing into the other direction, offering safer though often more grandly scaled distillations of Paul’s talent.
But the kibosh was Landau and Christgau’s critical double whammy on Ram, which was enough to make me weary for years. And yet, as I kept stumbling onto really great albums that either Jon or Bob (or both) disdained, and as the general curiosity inherent to music fans started getting the better of me, I decided to take the plunge.
I sensibly started with McCartney, and was knocked plumb out by its stripped down feel; it’s been described as demo-like, and that’s accurate. In contrast to the over-slick efforts that were clogging the bins at my point of discovery, it was a real breath of fresh air. And unlike its rep, the level of the songwriting was excellent, and made clear that McCartney’s aims were indeed ambitious, though simply at odds with what the critical zeitgeist (it wasn’t add odds with the record buying public however; both McCartney and its follow-up sold an asston). But the high quality of Paul’s solo debut simply couldn’t prepare me for the exquisitely ramshackle affair that is Ram.
While I already knew and highly enjoyed “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” I was a fresh-faced newcomer to the wonky blues of “3 Legs” or the rollicking smack-talk of “Smile Away.” In “Monkberry Moon Delight” I found a deliciously snide and considerably twisted stomp, and “Ram On,” with it