Saturday, January 26, 2013

Smell the Grass in the Meadow

Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram. Is this what drives some people crazy about Paul McCartney--that even when he makes a record as Brian Wilson-level nutty as this, he still sounds unperturbed, dapper, cheerily tuneful, as if he were still singing about yesterday and another girl rather than, as he does here, three-legged dogs, his wife's hair, smelly feet, butter and grass and ketchup? That while John Lennon was off wrestling with his and the world's demons, and George Harrison was busy crafting the best of the ex-Beatle solo albums, Macca was playing sheep farmer with a ukulele and trying to turn his wife into a passable musician?

Well, let the haters hate, but I've spun this record many more times than Plastic Ono Band or All Things Must Pass. Maybe it's the lively, bittersweet folk/rock sound, with a fair amount of fuzz bass and Rhodes/Wurlitzer vibrato and country/blues vocal inflection, as well as some Beach Boys harmonies that make the Brian Wilson analogy all the more apt. With the exception of the authentically unhinged "Monkberry Moon Delight," these are by and large thoroughly companionable tunes, equivalents in song form of warm woollen mittens and hot soup on a cold day.

They're also, to my ears at least, clear antecedents for the eccentric but hooky high-strung folk blues of Lindsey Buckingham. Indeed, much as I like some of his later Wings records, I somewhat prefer this outlying, bare-bones, finding-his-own-sound augmented-solo approach. This really feels like a record he and Linda made for no one else but themselves, and God bless their addled bucolic souls for it.

John Eberhardt 1) Take it back. 2) Please. This was the beginning of his decent into middle-of-the-road pop, not the depth of unleashed content that was All Things Must Pass. 3) "Dapper?"
Linda Buchwald I'm glad you appreciate Ram, one of Paul's best solo albums, if not the best. Also, John and George could write songs just as silly.
Cinco Paul I love this album. To me it has nothing to do with being middle-of-the-road; in fact, I'd call it the first indie pop album. Its influence is huge. It was unappreciated when it first came out, but I think it's certainly risen in status since then. "Too Many People," "Back Seat of My Car," "Dear Boy"--these are great songs, expertly performed.
Rob Weinert-Kendt @John: If Macca's second post-Beatles effort is the beginning of the end for him, what are BAND ON THE RUN and VENUS AND MARS? I don't think he hit bottom till the 1980s (and he made one more great album since then, CHAOS AND CREATION). I think I acknowledge here that ALL THINGS is on another plane; it's just not as close to my heart. And really, my point about RAM, whether you love it or hate it, is that it's not middle-of-the-road at all; it's ornery and goofy and weird, and it doesn't have the gloss of the Wings era. In short, whatever flaws RAM has, and it most definitely has them, they're not the result of it being too pandering or pop.
 John Eberhardt I will give you that it may be his most cohesive work within the Paul cannon both overall & as far as full, individual songs go (by '73, he was the primarily the master of the medley - such as "Band on the Run"). I did say that it was a decent from here - which would mean it would be a decline from a high point in the catalog. As a whole body of work, my biggest issue with Paul's work has been his perfectionism - that he overproduces. For me, McCartney stands out as a better album, as it is both raw & still had somewhere to go afterwards. That said, I hold to my initial criticism of the word "dapper."
Jason Mandell Well said.

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