Paul and Linda McCartney – Ram (1971)

History: After receiving a lot of criticism for doing McCartney all by himself, Paul took a trip to New York City and assembled a band to help him record a proper studio album. The album is co-credited to Linda because beyond providing backing vocals for the tracks, she also co-wrote 6 of the songs on the album, as well as the non-album single “Another Day.” Beyond the band, Paul also hired the New York Philharmonic orchestra to contribute to a few of the tracks as well.

My own personal history and initial prediction: The only track on the list that stood out to me is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which I remember liking. I mostly know this album as the one that got John mad enough to write “How Do You Sleep?” and it may be that at least perceived nastiness that has largely kept me away from the album until now. Having enjoyed McCartney though for the most part, I was hopeful for this one.

What I worked on while listening:

Review: When you lend a critical ear to an album done by Paul McCartney, it’s hard to not hold it up to high standards. This is a man who has written some of the most popular songs of all time, ones that are incredibly catchy with clever lyrics that either make you dance or touch your heart. So as I listened to this album, I was certainly waiting for at least one song that did that. Paul can of course also be fairly experimental at times, trying new things and new sounds that set his fancy. But unfortunately I found both of these things incredibly few and far between on this album. Most of the songs really only have one verse that is repeated in between the choruses, and while there isn’t anything wrong with the music, very little of it truly grabbed me in any way.

There are a few elements that I really like. The ukelele in “Ram On” is quite beautiful, and the harmonies on “Dear Boy” remind me very much of a Beach Boys song. “The Back Seat of My Car” builds to a really nice crescendo at the end which is a great way to end the album. “Heart of the Country” has a country western feel which pairs nicely with its lyrics. “Smile Away” has a good beat to it. “Monkberry Moon Delight” is certainly a song that grabs your attention and stands out compared to everything else on the album, but it’s just strange enough that I’m not sure I like it. I also truly love the Admiral Halsey section of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” as its so bouncy and catchy, but I think it deserves to be expanded into its own song rather than left with the rather sleepy sounding Uncle Albert portion.

It seems very obvious that Paul was reeling from the fallout of the Beatles break up and the nastiness associated with it at this time. “Too Many People” and “3 Legs” are pretty clear references to the hurt he was feeling, and the image of two beetles on the back cover of the album is pretty self explanatory in what it is meant to represent. Sometimes pain and turmoil can make for a good album, but it seems like Paul was trying to bury that hurt in a little innuendo and maybe also trying to prove that he was doing just fine without them all now, thank you very much. As such he just didn’t have it in him to make the best music he could at this point. I certainly don’t think this album deserves some of the scathing criticism it got upon initial release, of people claiming that Paul was nothing as a song writer and clearly the other Beatles had just been making his songs better all this time, but I can at least see why they didn’t care for it. With the benefit of hindsight I know Paul will turn this around once he gets a little more comfortable doing his own thing.

Singles released around this time:

“Another Day” – This song was recorded at the same time as Ram, and it could easily be another track on it. It’s slightly more catchy than most of the tunes on there with its “do do do do do” bits in the chorus, but similar to the others while it’s absolutely not a bad song, it’s missing that special something to really make it stand out for me. If it came up on a random shuffle of songs, I might leave it, or I might get bored halfway through and skip it to hear something else.

“Oh Woman Oh Why” – This is the b-side of “Another Day” and it absolutely feels like a b-side. It’s an instantly forgettable bluesy number. Not bad, not special, which I guess is what I’ve been saying about nearly all the songs here.

Next Time: John puts in his own two cents on the breakup and also co-writes one of the best songs ever on Imagine.

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