When Paul and Linda McCartney released Ram in 1971 — the only album credited to both of them — it didn’t meet with the warmest of reviews from critics or McCartney’s former band mates in the Beatles. Fans of McCartney’s pop master craftsmanship in the Beatles were puzzled by the rough, unfinished quality of his first solo album, McCartney, and when Ram was more of the same, it was too much for some to take. As for the Beatles, Ram was written at the height of McCartney’s feud with ex-songwriting partner John Lennon, who believed many of the songs (correctly in some instances) were not so subtle jabs at him.
In the years since, Ram has undergone a critical reappraisal. No longer in the giant shadow of the Beatles, when viewed for what it is, Ram stands as one of McCartney’s best solo efforts. The album has been remastered as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection and is available in a number of formats from single disc to a five-disc Deluxe Edition. This review focuses on the two-CD Special Edition, as well as the DVD that is only included in the Deluxe Edition.
The album opens with the raw rocker, “Too Many People,” a song McCartney admits to containing lyrics about Lennon. McCartney insists the opening line is “piss off cake,” not “piece of” and one doesn’t have to think very hard to figure out where his venom is directed. The track is raw and primal, but still melodic in the choruses (It is a McCartney record after all).
“3 Legs” finds McCartney in a bluesy mood in another song reportedly about his ex band mates while “Ram On” is a tripped out ukulele number if that makes sense. The dreamy track is revisited later on in the album (That track is called ”Ram On” as well.) The title of the song comes from a play on Paul’s old pseudonym for checking into hotels, Paul Ramon.
“Dear Boy” sounds like McCartney’s tribute to the sounds of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys with its complex harmonies and backing track while “Monkberry Moon Delight” is one of those great McCartney character songs as he delivers a stunning throat-destroying vocal performance. The album's most well known track is, of course, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” The multipart epic and song-within-a-song format of the track is a harbinger of things to come in two years with “Band On The Run” and remains one of McCartney’s most beloved songs.
Disc two includes a number of bonus tracks, including the non-album single of “Another Day” backed by the gritty “Oh Woman, Oh Way.” Also included are the previously unreleased “Lady Madonna”-sounding “Little Woman Love” and the up-tempo “A Love For You,” which saw its first release on the soundtrack to The In-Laws. The version presented here is a much different mix however. The sound quality throughout is a revelation compared to previous editions of the CD.
The DVD, which is available in the Deluxe Edition, contains a short documentary about the making of the album entitled “Ramming,” the promo videos for “Heart Of The Country” and “3 Legs,” a clip for “Hey Diddle” and “Eat At Home On Tour,” documenting McCartney’s early live shows with Wings.
Unfairly maligned upon its release, Ram has become one of the many high points of McCartney’s career. The two-CD Special Edition is a must-own for any serious McCartney fan.