I still scratch my head over the savage reviews Paul McCartney got after the Beatles’ breakup: OK, McCartney might have been a modest, self-effacing effort—although 42 years’ distance has made it sound as experimental and eclectic as the rest of the man’s misunderstood solo career—but 1971’s Ram, the latest in the ongoing (but much too slow!) revamp of Paul’s entire recorded catalog, has always been a freewheeling platter of Beatlesque songs—and who better to make an album of Beatlesque songs?—that holds up alongside Band on the Run as McCartney’s best album yet. Perhaps the reviewers thought that giving wife Linda credit for co-writing half the songs was going too far…who knows?
From the effortlessly hooky opener “Too Many People” (a not-so-subtle swipe at what he saw as former bandmate John’s preachiness), Ram is as melodically and musically assured as ever, while also being the most sonically adventurous recording he would make pre-Band on the Run. The glorious five-minute soundscape—and Paul’s first post-Beatles Number One—“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is another example of Paul’s genius for elaborate symphonic mini-suites, as are the phenomenal “Long-Haired Lady” (which opens with Paul’s “well, well, well, well, well” lovingly aping Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band primal scream) and the joyous closer, “The Back Seat of My Car.” There’s also delightful English absurdity in “3 Legs” and “Monkberry Moon Delight,” while “Smile Away” and “Eat at Home” are among Paul’s most infectious rockers.
The remastered Ram sounds so clear it seems brand new: the acoustic guitars on “Ram On” and “Heart of the Country” have an immediacy heretofore missing, and the ecstatic harmonies on “Dear Boy” shimmer and float through the speakers. A second disc, comprising singles and outtakes, includes the instantly hummable hit “Another Day,” the rocking B-sides “Oh Woman Oh Why” and “Little Woman Love,” and the galvanizingly epic “Rode All Night.” Ram “special editions” include a DVD with a 10-minute Paul reminiscence of the album’s creation, as well as vintage video clips for “Heart of the Country,” “3 Legs,” and “Eat at Home” in concert.
Now if we could just get these Archive Collection re-releases put out at faster pace!