Wednesday, May 30, 2012
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PAUL & LINDA MCCARTNEY - RAM DELUXE EDITION
It's true that while Lennon was going harder, with tracks such as Cold Turkey and Instant Karma, McCartney was going soft, with songs such as Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, a surprise hit. But gosh, shouldn't we celebrate both sides? Why the need to choose? After all, if it was a Beatles album with these disparate cuts, everyone would have hailed the mixture, as they had with Abbey Road, with Lennon's Come Together and McCartney's medley numbers. And of course, Ram isn't all Cheez Whiz, as usual there are heavier touches from him.
Back to my thesis though, why it's his best. It is a production triumph, with each song unfolding with surprises. Twists and turns, new layers, clever tricks, multiple parts, this is the man let loose, with no George Martin or other Beatles to limit what he could do. That doesn't mean its a masterpiece; while each song sounds great, lyrically there's some light-weight novelty numbers here. Nothing as bad as would come on future albums (the entirety of Wings Wildlife for instance), but I don't find it above criticism. Some of you will no doubt find the mouth-trumpet solo on Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey annoying; I think it makes the whole thing. Sonically, it is a marvel, with McCartney's ear for the sound of guitars, drums, bass the very best. Remember, he had to do it all now, and really shows how much he learned watching Martin and the EMI engineers.
I think there are a couple of classics on here, that match and surpass Band On The Run and Jet. Two Many People is a bass-heavy rocker, probably a comment about The Beatles split ("that was your first mistake/you took your lucky break and broke it in two"), and features a raw and excellent guitar solo. Back Seat Of My Car is one of those numbers where he throws everything at you, with new section after new section, tempo changes, strings flying in, and somehow it all comes out great. Along the way, even the filler is first-class; Ram On is a breezy ukelele number (way before George H. started going on about them, by the way) that somehow turns into a Brian Wilson-styled production/homage. The remastering on this deluxe version is tops of course, and I love having it on CD because I don't have to change sides anymore. It's one album that I only ever listen to completely through, from start to finish.
There are several versions available of the reissue, including a new 180-gram vinyl copy, and a multi-disc edition that includes a DVD documentary, and the instrumental versions McCartney recorded of the album a few years later with an orchestra, under the name Percy "Thrills" Thrillington. I kid you not. The best buy is probably the two-disc set, with the second CD a set of outtakes and non-album single sides, including the hit Another Day, but no real surprise gems. Hopefully a whole lot of people will listen to this with new ears, and not buy into the old prejudice against Ram.