Monday, May 21, 2012

Paul And Linda McCartney: "Ram" (1971/2012 re-issue) 3-Disc CD Review

When I was in my early teens I had a summer job as a janitor at the grammar school, cleaning all the desks and such.  As you can imagine, it was totally lame.  What made it bearable was that one of the guys in charge of this operation brought a small boom box to work every day.  And the tape he always played was Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram.  Rather than get sick of this album, which is what one might think would happen, I actually grew to love it even more.

Now Ram is being re-released as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, with plenty of bonus material.  It's wonderful to revisit this album, and it sounds better than ever on this remastered edition.  Half of the tracks were written by Paul McCartney, and half by Paul and Linda.  A lot of these songs are on the silly side.  So sure, it's light fare, but it's so damn good.  Joining them on this album were Denny Seiwell on drums, David Spinozza on guitar and Hugh McCracken on guitar.

There are two discs of bonus material.  The first is a CD, with more than a half hour of tunes.  The second is a DVD, with footage of Paul and Linda from the early seventies.

"Too Many People"

Ram opens with "Too Many People." I've always loved this song.  It has a bit of that goofy pop joy that Paul is so great at bringing to a song, and it features some wonderful work on electric guitar. As he says on this release's DVD, this song was aimed at John Lennon.  With that in mind, here is a bit of the lyrics: "Too many people going underground/Too many reaching for a piece of cake/Too many people pulled and pushed around/Too many waiting for that lucky break/That was your first mistake/You took your lucky break and broke it in two."  I love that wild instrumental section at the very end of the song (I wish it went on a bit longer).

"3 Legs"

The second track, titled "3 Legs," is a deliciously silly bluesy folk tune that then becomes a rock song when the electric guitar is added. I love the backing vocals on this one. And really, what is this song about?  Here are some of the lyrics: "A fly flies in/A fly flies out/Most flies, they got three legs/But mine got one."  And then, "My dog, he got three legs/Your dog, he got none."

"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"

"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is probably the most famous tune from the album. The first half has kind of a great, lazy feel (though as always, I could do without the rain sound effect).  It's the second half that I've always loved (the "Admiral Halsey" section), with the lines "Hands across the water (water), hands across the sky."  The song is so much fun, with its playful touches throughout, which are delightful.

This one was co-written by Linda McCartney, and was released as a single later in 1971, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Smile Away"

"Smiles Away" is a great rock tune. This is one that is just pure fun.  There is nothing too serious here, and there's nothing wrong with that. This song isn't going to affect you emotionally, or hit you on an intellectual level.  It's just a bit of fun.  But it works as such.  It has elements of early rock and roll, particularly the backing vocals.  Paul instructs the others, "Now smile away quietly now" and then "Smile away horribly now."

"Monkberry Moon Delight"

Paul McCartney really lets his vocals rip on "Monkberry Moon Delight." I love when he shouts out tunes like this.  This song has a simple catchy rhythm, and also has the best title on the album.  This is another that was co-written by Linda McCartney.

Bonus CD

The bonus CD has eight tracks.  The first is "Another Day," one of my favorites of his.  This song is so simple, yet so pretty. It describes an ordinary situation, but this woman becomes very vivid. Paul McCartney is skilled at capturing the details of daily life, calling attention to certain characters.  Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Sometimes she feels so sad/As she posts another letter to the sound of five/People gather round her and she finds it hard to stay alive/It's just another day"  "Another Day" was co-written by Linda McCartney, and released as a single in 1971.

"Little Woman Love" is a seriously fun little tune, that features some nice stuff on piano. Sure, the lyrics don't offer any great insights into the human condition, but that's okay.  The song starts, "I got a little woman I can really love/My woman fit me like a little glove/You know I'll always love my little woman love."  There is a great (though brief) moment on bass in this song.

"Hey Diddle (Dixon Van Winkle Mix)" is a pretty tune with a steady drumbeat. This is a song that will bring a smile to your face (and the more I listen to it, the more I love it). It's one of those simple, yet completely effective songs.  (By the way, Dixon Van Winkle was one of the album's sound engineers.)

"Great Cock And Seagull Race" is a bluesy rock and roll gem. I especially enjoy the piano on this instrumental track.

"Rode All Night" is a pretty loose little jam. It has something of an improvised vibe, a testing of the waters, and so it's messy at times. It definitely sounds like a song that's not quite finished, but its raw quality is exactly what I like about it. They sound like a garage band. And at nearly nine minutes, there is a certain perceived reluctance to end this song. (Or maybe they just weren't sure when or how to end it.)


The third disc is a DVD that contains approximately a half hour of footage.

The first track, titled "Ramming," features a recently recorded interview with Paul McCartney in which he talks about the album. Accompanying that audio track are photos and interesting graphics.  Paul McCartney talks a bit about the breakup of the Beatles and going to Scotland (and there is footage of Scotland).  He also talks about Linda's vocals, and about holding auditions for the band.  There are photos of them in the studio in New York.  Music from the album plays under Paul's audio track.  And he talks about certain songs from the album, particularly "Heart Of The Country," "Dear Boy" and "Too Many People."  "Too Many People," he says, was a message to John Lennon "across the airwaves." Of course, this is the most interesting bit, as he talks about how he felt Lennon "was preaching a little bit about what everyone should do, how they should sort of live their lives, and I felt that some of it was a bit hypocritical."  Paul even mentions the song war and Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?"

The DVD also has music videos for "Heart Of The Country" and "3 Legs," both of which were filmed in Scotland in 1971.  Both of them feature footage of Paul and Linda on horseback.

And there is footage of Paul playing "Hey Diddle" on guitar, seated on the ground with Linda and their dog.  Linda is singing too, and you can hear the kids playing in the background.  This is great stuff.  This too was filmed in Scotland in 1971.

The last section of the DVD is titled "Eat At Home On Tour," and it's footage of Wings on tour.  Very cool stuff, including concert footage, backstage footage, and footage of the "Wings Over Europe" tour bus (the kids had a playpen on top of it, something that would most likely be frowned upon these days - but I'm sure they had a lot of fun).

CD Track List

CD 1
  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
  12. The Back Seat Of My Car
CD 2
  1. Another Day
  2. Oh Woman, Oh Why
  3. Little Woman Love
  4. A Love For You (Jon Kelly Mix)
  5. Hey Diddle (Dixon Van Winkle Mix)
  6. Great Cock And Seagull Race (Dixon Van Winkle Mix)
  7. Rode All Night
  8. Sunshine Sometimes (Earliest Mix)
  1. Ramming
  2. Heart Of The Country
  3. 3 Legs
  4. Hey Diddle
  5. Eat At Home On Tour
Ram was originally released on May 17, 1971.  This special re-issue of Ram is scheduled to be released May 22, 2012 through Concord Music Group.   It is also being released on vinyl and as a box set.  Last year's releases in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection included McCartney and McCartney II.

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