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Ram
Paul and Linda McCartney

Apple 3375
Released: May 1971
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Gold: 6/9/71

Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRam remains something of a puzzle to Beatle people. At the time of its May 1971 release it was roundly and harshly condemned by reveiwers such as Rolling Stone's Jon Landau, who called it "the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far," "incredibly inconsequential," and "monumentally irrelevant."

Still, to these ears anyway, Ram definitely has its moments: the exhilarating "hands across the water/heads across the sky" chorus in "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"; "Eat At Home," a fine McCartney pastiche of his hero Buddy Holly (and about time too); and "Back Seat Of My Car," an elaborate production number almost worthy of Brian Wilson's wet dreams. (These were also the three songs that made it onto singles, though each was released in a different market: respectively, America, Europe, and Britain.) Ram is certainly more varied than McCartney and boasts some lovely snatches of melody.

Paul and Linda McCartney - Ram
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The problem is that these remain snatches, none of which hang together to make for anything terribly memorable. Ram brings to mind a hollow chocolate egg: It is tasty, if just this side of sickly sweet, yet crumbles when one tries to sink one's teeth in.

"I tried so very hard and I really hoped people would like it," Paul told Melody Maker's Chris Charlesworth after the critics' verdict was in. "I thought I had done a great album... I don't see how someone can play it and take in all that stuff and say 'I don't like it.'"

The bum notices came as a particular shock to Paul because he had recorded Ram with the critics somewhat in mind. "I thought McCartney was quite good," he would later recall two years later. "But then it didn't quite do it in every way... it was very down-home, funky, just me... After it got knocked I thought... do just the opposite next time. So Ram was with the top people in the top studio. I thought, this is what they want. But again, it was critically panned."

The production was indeed far more ornate and slick than its predecessor, but the substance -- or lack of it -- was very similar. The words, when comprehensible, seemed to consist of more celebrations of "home, family, love"; and once again, the package featured a generous selection of family snapshots (including an obviously symbolic photograph of two beetles copulating).

Ram first appeared on the Billboard chart on June 5, 1971, reaching #2 and spending a total of 37 weeks.

- Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, pg. 145.

Bonus Reviews!

Paul & Linda debut like the sweethearts of rock'n'roll reborn, as the ex-Beatle continues to play the rock Romeo with little else on his musical mind. A good part of the fun is McCartney's light, clever arrangements and superb rhythm changes. "Smile Away," "Too Many People" and "Back Seat Of My Car" are wailing sentimentality.

- Billboard, 1971.

Paul McCartney may have found love, but judging from Ram, his second solo LP, he hasn't found out where his head is musically. The album consists of several dozen hits and pieces, covering most of the known pop world, spliced often uncomfortably into 12 cuts. Typical is "The Back Seat of My Car," which shifts from hard Fifties rock to syrupy Hugo Winterhalter violins to Mel Tormé crooning (complete with cocktail piano) and back to Fifties rock again -- all without much success. And the inventory for "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" includes a wiggly Biff Rose vocal, strings, French horns, bird whistles, a Beach Boys imitation, changing tempos and a thunderstorm. There are some nice moments, especially on a fundamental rocker called "Smile Away," but it mostly seems to amount to Paul's substituting facility for any real substance. It's like watching someone juggle five guitars: It's fairly impressive, but you keep wondering why he bothers.

- Playboy, 9-71.

This album has less of a work-in-progress feel to it than the first McCartney LP. This time he and Linda (credited with most of the songs) get together a widely differing set, full of very light and very clever arrangements (his "Heart of the Country" will bring in memories of Lovin' Spoonful and jug band jazz). Thre's a lot of sentimentality here as well that is carried over to the album jacket which has artwork from the children, blades of grass from the McCartney home, a lock of hair from the youngest child's head, all pasted down on the inside.

- Hit Parader, 11-71.

"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is a major annoyance. I tolerated McCartney's crotchets with the Beatles because his mates balanced them out; I enjoyed them mildly on McCartney because their scale was so modest; I enjoy them actively on "Monkberry Moon Delight" because it rocks and on "Smile Away" because it's so vulgar and funny. But though nothing else here approaches the willful rhythm shifts and above-it-all silliness of "Uncle Albert," most of the songs are so lightweight they float away even as Paulie layers them down with caprices. If you're going to be eccentric, for goodness sake don't be pretentious about it. C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

While lacking the polish of his later efforts, McCartney's second post-Beatles effort is brimming with melodies and intriguing ideas. Ultimately, it seems unfinished, but along the way one is treated to the delights of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" (a #1 hit), "Heart of the Country," and "Back Seat of My Car." * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Ram is credited to Paul and Linda McCartney, so you'll have to discount "Eat at Home" to accept more fully formed pop tunes from the hubby. Fluff, sure, but darn catchy fluff. * * * 1/2

- Roger Catlin, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

(2012 Deluxe Edition) After his homespun solo debut, Macca shot for the moon on the follow-up -- a grand psychedelic ramble full of divine melodies and orchestral frippery. This box adds B sides, artifacts and a lounge-y instrumental version of the LP. Ram sounds ahead of its time -- how many indie rockers could pull off such a daffy masterpiece? * * * * 1/2

- Simon Vozick-Levinson, Rolling Stone, 6/7/12.

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