Paul McCartney – [Album]

Thursday, 14 June 2012

In the spirit of full disclosure, I used to hate Paul McCartney with a seething contempt reserved only for the likes of Steely Dan – a band who, in the ensuing years between such flannel-clad stubbornness and today, have muscled their way to the very front of the class at the music university of which my brain serves as dean.I'll never be able to forget how I once felt about McCartney and his music but, in 2012, Ram sounds an awful lot like the laughter of the last man standing. John Lennon’s self-aggrandizing, benevolent angst turned the man into a target and sealed both his self-made mythology and early demise.George Harrison’s decades-long journey toward enlightenment led him to the inevitability that no amount of mysticism or faith can save the human body from itself. Even if both these men took their spiritual convictions to the grave, here on this mortal coil, the fact remains that their respective output is relegated to back catalog permanence. Meanwhile, Richard Starkey remains the most likeable of the Fab Four and the member most validated by their amaranthine legacy; but his work with his All-Starr Band long ago painted him as the most Mesozoic of this cadre of pop practitioners.

Macca (a shorthand moniker that infuriates many, but seems a playful retort from The Cute One’s critics to his own early assertion that they defer to the surname Ramon), however, has spent his golden years (when not busy inspiring Phil Collins’ ex-wives to make off with obscene chunks of the drummer’s fortune) watching the tide turn on the adult contemporary figurehead role that had been thrust upon him in the aftermath dynamic of Beatlemania. Hindsight has given proof to the suspicion that all along Paul wasn't just the most talented but also the bravest and most experimental of the Beatles; he alone the heir apparent to George Martin’s golden cochlea. So steadfast was McCartney in his ambitions and prowess that he rightfully told Lennon where to stick it when his increasingly unhinged friend Phil Spector showed up to merge the halves of “I’ve Got a Feeling” at gunpoint.

McCartney’s (self-titled sans Christian name, notably excising the other half of his famed songwriting partnership) solo debut had landed in 1970, preceding the death knell for his band by a full month, giving fans the opportunity to settle into this sizable crack in the façade. As it turned out, that crack would lead the whole enterprise to shatter and in its place emerged the bitter expanse of Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. That album is considered a landmark, even pointed to as a forebear of the punk rock movement that by decade’s end was to play “Fat Man” to the pop landscape’s Nagasaki, just as the Beatles’ own idol Elvis Presley had played “Little Boy” to the Hiroshima of doo-wop.

Ram arrived in 1971, a much more settled-down and soothing affair than Lennon’s stake in post-Beatles realty. Critics at the time all but savaged the album, largely fixating on the fact that McCartney had the gall to sound like he was enjoying himself and the music he was making. Plastic Ono Band may sound like the more mature artistic work, but the sentiments contained therein are far more petulant than anything Ram committed to tape. Lennon’s rage at any and everything surrounding his increasingly cagey inner circle was enough that Arthur Janov deserves a co-writing credit for the album (honestly, on “Mother” at least, that point is genuinely arguable), while Ram found McCartney bliss-ed out on true love and good herb. Indeed, Paul actually does credit Linda McCartney as much as himself on the spine (maybe Janov should have taken him on as a patient) and while her creative contributions may be dubious, there is little question that her infectious spirit was all up in Macca’s shit during the making of the album.

Four decades on, Ram is a soundtrack to some bastardized version of a debutante ball for English geniuses weary of deferring their brilliance. Regarding the notion of a solo act, this album was the revolution that McCartney’s former band had prophesied. No longer was the onus on the foolish soul determined to strike out underneath his own shadow. Now the burden of proof was on the very question of whether or not Paul had needed those other three guys in the first place. I’m not saying that such is necessarily the case.The question, however, is definitely there and it holds up under examination.Macca’s glimmering, prosperous, and unbridled work here is what Sonic Youth once called “hits of sunshine”. Ram hits so hard and happy you just might piss your pants.



The Special Edition reissue of Paul McCartney's Ram is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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