Another hard to believe album that is 50 years old. Released in 1971, this was a McCartney solo album, before Wings, but made in partnership with wife Linda. That partnership was scoffed at by his publishing company, and some in the industry, who were not convinced that she was a real songwriter.
Linda McCartney took a lot of heat during the 1970s. Her musicianship and singing were also fodder, but who wouldn’t be if you were partnered up with Paul McCartney. Whatever her talent or contribution, Ram is one of the best solo or group albums of McCartney’s career.
The early 1970s were an interesting time for Paul McCartney. In some ways, he was the least successful former Beatle. The bar was set extra high for him, especially after his songwriting output in the second half of the previous decade. And as the orchestrator of the Beatles’ breakup, fans were waiting for him to find traction.
McCartney (1970) was greeted with surprise and some disappointment. His homemade album was ahead of its time and the gem, “Maybe I’m Amazed” only reminded fans what McCartney was capable of delivering.
Ram would reach number two on the Billboard chart and eventually achieve platinum status (1 million units sold). Interestingly, McCartney would release a single ahead of Ram‘s release, “Another Day” that did not appear on the album. The song, a bouncy acoustic number with tight harmony vocals would reach number five on the charts. It is great slice of soft rock, but was dissed for being lightweight and generic sounding. Ram was released in May 1971.
The first single from Ram was “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” did not appear until August 1971, when it would climb to the top of the Billboard chart. The song won a Grammy and sold a million copies, so lightweight or not, it was a very popular song.
For my money, Ram was a terrific album. It was a million miles away from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and John Lennon’s Imagine albums. McCartney had no deep self-reflection or worldly optimism, just silly, melodic pop songs. And yet, that’s okay. In a way, this album has a relaxed, homemade feel, although the production values are Beatles quality. This is a compliment to McCartney’s growth and skill in the studio.
John Lennon decided to poke a bit of fun with Macca by parodying the album cover photo. McCartney was pictured with a ram, Lennon included a postcard with Imagine with him grabbing hold of a pig.
The album was produced by Paul & Linda. McCartney played most of the instruments and sang lead and background vocals. Linda added harmony vocals and contributed co-lead vocals on one song. Drums were provided by Denny Seiwell, who would join the upcoming Wings lineup; Dave Spinozza and Hugh McCracken contributed guitar on some tracks.
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Too Many People” Paul McCartney 4:10 Reminds me of a slowed-down version of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” with the acoustic groove. The lyrics take a swipe at people throwing opinions and criticism at him.
2. “3 Legs” Paul McCartney 2:44 A sort of bluesy acoustic song, except it isn’t. Probably my least favorite song on the album.
3. “Ram On” Paul McCartney 2:26 The syrupy, ear candy Macca is known for. No wonder this was a junior high school make-out album.
4. “Dear Boy” Paul & Linda McCartney 2:12 One of the best tracks, soaring with sharp, layered vocal harmonies. An A+great production job. A song you don’t mind hearing over and over.
5. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” Paul & Linda McCartney 4:49 The song that everyone knows from the album, a story song, in the vein of Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour, sentimental, but without the psychedelics.
6. “Smile Away” Paul McCartney 3:51 An out and out rocker, an overlooked gem. Another song that has a bit of a 1950s rock shuffle to it, but I will overlook that. The playing is fabulous.
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Heart of the Country” Paul & Linda McCartney 2:21 A country-folk song, something that would have fit on Rubber Soul, with great mix of acoustic and electric guitars, much like the Beatles.
2. “Monkberry Moon Delight” Paul & Linda McCartney 5:21 I still don’t know what this song is about. It was some wonderful time and style changes. Linda’s background vocals are particularly good. The song is well-arranged and the production has some late 1960s effects that the Beatles used.
3. “Eat at Home” Paul & Linda McCartney 3:18 A mid-tempo rocker with echoing vocals about domestic bliss. It’s pretty standard, but Macca can turn musical meatloaf into a soufflé.
4. “Long Haired Lady” Paul & Linda McCartney 5:54 One of the most complex songs because of its many shifts in style. This is the sort of song George Martin feasted on, skillfully arranging with horns and building the momentum to a big, noisy fade out. Linda shares vocals on the track and does a great job.
5. “Ram On (Reprise)” Paul McCartney 0:52 Mostly a reprise, but it shifts gears toward the end and has a great segue into the final song on the album.
6. “The Back Seat of My Car” Paul McCartney 4:26 This always reminded me of a pseudo 1950s incarnation, in vibe and lyrics. But, it has a great rock groove to it when it shifts into overdrive for a big ending. A great way to end this record.