Much of the ex-Beatles solo material was either hit or miss, something that was going to be inevitable as it would be very difficult to continue with each release to match the quality of what was some of the greatest music ever committed to tape. Paul McCartney’s second solo album “Ram” however is definitely a hit. On this release Paul seems to return to his love of making music, and in many ways “Ram” represents a break from his Beatles past and a back to basics DIY approach to recording for him. Firstly, many of the songs on the album were conceived on his farm in Scotland, where he hid away from the public eye and the messy situation that was The Beatles breakup. This time away brought him closer to his family, while he kept himself busy by playing around on his guitar coming up with ideas for songs, but without the pressure to produce material for an album. The time out of the spotlight also seemed to translate well to the recording of the album, with Paul seemingly having fun with the songs on this album leading to a very loose sound across the album and experimentation with different song structures (short simple songs mixed with longer more experimental pieces), musical styles, and rhythms. Central to “Ram” is an underlying pop sound that includes a strong Beatles and Beach Boys influence in terms of melody and harmony on some tracks, but at the same time underneath this there is no formulaic concept style wise with folk, blues, and progressive/experimental rock making appearance throughout the album.
One notable aspect of this album was that it is the one and only album credited to Paul and Linda McCartney, and also marked the beginning of Linda’s involvement in Paul’s music, something that would become firmly established in Wings later on and would continue until her death in 1998. Linda co-wrote six of the songs on the album, sang harmony vocals on many of the tracks, and also encouraged Paul throughout the whole process in terms of song-writing while also acting as a calming influence during what had been a turbulent period in Paul’s life.
At the time of its release the record itself was panned by critics as being mediocre and uneven, critics that also included Paul’s former band mates who did not think much of the album musically. But what caught the wrath of the other Beatles the most was McCartney’s song lyrics, with John Lennon believing the songs “Too Many People”, “Dear Boy”, and “Back Seat Of My Car” as being subtle digs at him and Yoko, while George Harrison and Ringo Starr believed the song “3 Legs” to be an attack on the three ex-Beatles. Paul McCartney subsequently confirmed that the lyric “too many people preaching practices” from the song “Too Many People” was about John & Yoko, but denied that any of the other songs were about his formed band mates. Despite this initial reaction, time has improved the standing of Ram and it is now genuinely seen as one of McCartney’s greatest works, something that I support wholeheartedly. I believe “Ram” to be McCartney’s best solo album, while it would also sit in my top three Beatles solo albums in third place, edged out by “All Things Must Pass” and “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”. To me Ram is a proper collection of songs of equal standing with their being no absolute standout tracks but at the same time no weak tracks. Each song on the album is different from the next, while there is enough quality across the album to keep the listener engaged. So if you are interested in exploring what the ex-Beatles did once the party was over, Ram is definitely one of the albums you should start with.