November 22, 2021 5 min read
Welcome to Nick’s Picks Volume 7!
My pick this week shows one of the most iconic musicians of all time in a state of limbo. Caught between the breakup of the biggest band in history and the formation of the next game changing outfit he would be responsible for, this absolutely incredible piece of work shows Paul McCartney (and wife Linda) simply “figuring it out”. If only it could be this great for all of us right? Celebrating it’s 50th anniversary almost to the day (We are 3 days off of the original release) this week’s Nick’s Pick is Paul McCartney’s Ram.
Fresh from a bitter legal battle against the other 3 Beatles over their dissolving of their partnership McCartney set to “Move On” and began jamming with other musicians. After playing every instrument on his first solo album, recorded just a few months earlier, McCartney began auditioning other musicians in the attic of a New York building before moving to a rough area of the Bronx where he and wife Linda auditioned potential band members in a basement. Under the guise of “recording a commercial jingle”, None of the musicians who showed up knew they would be auditioning for Paul until they arrived. After a handful of players, Paul connected with drummer Denny Seiwell while Linda selected guitarist David Spinozza. Spinozza would later be replaced with session great Hugh McCracken.
The album begins with “Too Many People''. An obvious dig at McCartney’s former writing partner and bandmate, John Lennon, as well as his wife Yoko Ono. “Too many people preaching practices, don’t let ‘em tell you what you wanna be” (Lennon would later retort with the giant middle finger that is “How Do You Sleep?” On Lennon’s incredible “Imagine” album, but that’s another pick). “Too Many People” simply showcases Paul’s new found confidence and attitude. In terms of layers and vibe, the sound of this track, specifically the chorus is the sound the great Jeff Lynne would go on to perfect in the not too distant future (for best example see Tom Petty’s incredible “Free Fallin”). The next track “3 Legs” is a Robert Johnson-esque blues. Often cited as a dig at the other 3 Beatles, and while McCartney has never confirmed or denied this allegation, I think Yes! “Ram On'' with its ukulele backdrop shows Paul at his simplistic best. Note the harmony vocals of Paul and Linda that lay like a cloud on the track while Paul scats what would normally be a guitar solo. “Dear Boy” written about Linda’s previous husband showcases some incredible Beach Boys type vocals and panning effects that work in place of instruments, something that Queen would use to an unimaginable level in just a couple years. The next track “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is probably the most popular track on “Ram''. 1 part “A Day in the Life”, 1 Part “Golden Slumbers”, 1 Part brilliance, this song, to me, is one of the greatest gems in Paul’s solo catalog. The orchestration, the bird chirping effects (listen in headphones… always!), the left and right turns of the music and the great guitar playing from Spinozza make this an absolute standout track. “Smile Away” closes side 1, a driving rocker reminiscent of the Doors’ classic “Roadhouse Blues” with some Zappa lyrics thrown in for good measure, “Smile Away” is another track using The Beach Boys vocal orchestrations to fatten the overall simplistic feel of the song.
Side 2 begins with “Heart of the Country”, I can picture Paul playing the acoustic guitar part on his porch at his country home. It has a very Band-esque thing happening. Great, yet subtle bass playing from the master in the left channel. “Monkberry Moon Delight” finds McCartney singing in one of his most aggressive voices. Love this song and the way Paul sings it, it really reminds me of how Tom Waits would go on to approach some of his delivery, it has that same grit, gravel and punch. “Eat at Home” is a straight up rocker! Reminiscent of what the Raspberries would do with “Go All the Way”, in fact I think the Raspberries owe Paul some money, the song is nearly identical. HA! Fair warning, It gets stuck in your head and stays planted for days. I mentioned it a couple tracks back but it bears repeating, listen to this record with headphones! There is so much going on in the background of these songs, specifically “Long Haired Lady” has banjo, harpsichord, slide guitar and some incredible orchestration sprinkled throughout. In a similar fashion to “Uncle Albert”, “Long Haired Lady” has many twists and turns to give it some extra charm. “Ram On” from side 1 makes a brief reprise before bridging into my hands down favorite track, “The Back Seat of My Car”. What a way to close a record! This track is what makes Paul McCartney the beast that he is. From the opening notes the song just has an epic vibe. The piano feels like you’re driving down a rainy city street at about 4 am. It continues to build and build, adding layer and layer of vocals, guitar, orchestra and piano. From a production standpoint it stands up to anything from Paul’s career. When he hits the “big note” at the end, there are few moments better in life, at least in mine.
For its 50th Anniversary, a brand new half speed mastered version has been unleashed!Cut at the iconic Abbey Road studios by mastering engineer Miles Showell the album is also issued on heavyweight, 180 gram vinyl. I own 8 different versions of this album in various configurations and I have to say I was extremely impressed with the sound on this one! It’s available in stores now!
“RAM” isn’t “Abbey Road”, nor is it “Rubber Soul”. What it is is Paul McCartney resetting his path after changing the world with 3 other men, learning to think outside of the box and pushing himself to a new height. It’s easy to forget the Beatles did all they did in just 7 years! When Paul recorded “RAM” he was just 28 years old. Damn! Paul and Linda of course would go on to form “Wings” to massive commercial and critical success but in my opinion he would never be this “pure” again. It's an album of truth and experimentation. Most importantly it’s another feather in the cap, a large one, of what makes McCartney one of the best musicians to walk among us.
November 22, 2021 5 min readRead More
November 22, 2021 5 min readRead More
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