Ram On: Revisiting McCartney’s Quirky Classic

Posted on:

< < Back to

Editor's note: The recent reissue of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram–available in remastered single disc, double CD and elaborate box set editions–has caused fans and critics alike to engage in a bit of revisionism.

Despite selling over a million copies in 1971 (reaching #1 and #2 on the U.K. and U.S. charts, respectively), Ram was lambasted by many critics upon release (check out Jon Landau's infamous Rolling Stone review).

However, time has been kind to this collection of silly love songs. Emily Votaw weighs in on McCartney's quirky classic.

Paul McCartney created a fascinating world with the odd, homespun sound of Ram. I can't help feeling that he should have stayed there.

Sure, Band on the Run and his future band Wings were solid musical ventures, but nothing McCartney released after 1971 even approaches the bizarre beauty of his second solo album.

Filled with quirky, nonsensical lyrics ("3 Legs," "Monkberry Moon Delight") and endearing off-the-cuff melodies ("Ram On"), it's clear that McCartney was simply doing what came naturally–crafting beautiful, ornate arrangements with slightly goofball lyrics ("Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," the album's big single, is a prime example).

Much of the lyrical content concerns cozy domesticity, but Ram has its share of rocky, spiky moments as well.   

"Too Many People," McCartney's musical open letter to John Lennon, has a bite that is absent from much of his later work. The breezy Bacharach feel of "Dear Boy" belies the slightly snotty tone of the lyrics (written about Linda's ex-husband). Elsewhere, "Eat at Home" has an upbeat power-pop feel.

While they may be considered lightweight, tracks like "Heart of the Country" and "Long Haired Lady" provide a balance to the rockers; casual pop ditties that wouldn't have been out of place on The White Album.

The remastered original album is definitely worth the investment, but the bonus tracks on the double CD/box set are superb. Featuring obscurities such as "Little Woman Love" and "Oh Woman, Oh Why," it's like a whole other album.

In fact, the bonus selections (pretty hefty at eight tracks) run almost as long as the original album. Unreleased songs such as "Hey Diddle" and "Great Cock and Seagull Race" retain the goofiness factor, while the single "Another Day" still sounds as breathtaking and shoe-tappable as ever.

Looking at the liner notes, made up largely of domestic bliss-style photographs of McCartney and his young family, it’s pretty clear what kind of album Ram is. It's a "young" album, full of confidence and carefree attitude. However, there is a touch of melancholy about the whole affair that keeps things grounded.

It would have been great if Paul had kept making albums like Ram. However, part of what makes the album so remarkable is that it's so unique, so of-its-time, so McCartney. Whatever one thinks about Paul's solo work, the man has followed his own path, fashionable or not. Ram on, indeed.