Friday, 17 March 2017

"Ram: Special Edition - Paul McCartney Archive Collection" by PAUL and LINDA McCARTNEY (2012 MPL Communications/Hear Music/Concord Music Group 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






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"...Hands Across The Water..." 

Part of the on-going 'Paul McCartney Archive Collection' of CD Reissues - 1971's "Ram" was always going to be a tug on the old purse strings for Macca fans. And while I can't and won't buy any of the extortionate 'Super Deluxe' sets - I can live with this 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' because it gives me all I need. Here are the sheepish details...

UK released 21 May 2012 - "Ram: Special Edition - Paul McCartney Archive Collection" by PAUL and LINDA McCARTNEY on MPL Communications/Hear Music/Concord Music Group 888072334496 (Barcode 888072334496) is a 2CD Reissue and Remaster that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - Special Edition Remastered Album (43:17 minutes):
1. Too Many People [Side 1]
2. 3 Legs
3. Ram On
4. Dear Boy
5. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
6. Smile Away
7. Heart Of The Country [Side 2]
8. Monkberry Moon Delight
9. Eat At Home
10. Long Haired Lady
11. Ram On
12. The Back Seat Of My Car
Tracks 1 to 12 are his second solo album "Ram" (credited to Paul and Linda McCartney) - released 21 May 1971 in the UK on Apple PAS 10003 and 17 May 1971 in the USA on Capitol SMAS-3375.  Produced by Paul McCartney - it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 on the US LP charts.

Disc 2 - Special Edition Bonus Audio (33:08 minutes):
1. Another Day
2. Oh Woman, Oh Why
Tracks 1 and 2 are his debut UK 7" single released February 1971 on Apple R 5889 - both Tracks were non-album
3. Little Woman Love
Track 3 is the non-album B-side to "Mary Had A Little Lamb" - his 4th solo UK 7" single on Apple R 5949 released 12 May 1972
4. A Love For You (Jon Kelly Mix)
5. Hey Diddle (Dixon Van Winkle Mix)
6. Great Cock And Seagull Race (Dixon Van Winkle Mix)
7. Rode All Night
8. Sunshine Sometime (Earliest Mix)
Tracks 1 to 3 were featured as Bonus Tracks on the September 1998 Remasters
Track 5 featured as part of a song "Bip Bop/Hey Diddle" on the 2001 Greatest Hits 2CD set "Wingspan"
Tracks 6 and 8 are Instrumentals - Track 7 is 8:33 minutes long
Tracks 4 to 8 are Previously Unreleased Versions

Both as a looker and tactile thing - "Ram: Special Edition" certainly looks the part - but once you get past the lyrics in the attached 24-page booklet and the nice photos from his own personal archives - there's nothing else - no liner notes - not even the release dates of the LP or the 7" single on the Bonus Audio CD. There are no liner notes of any kind - no history and no illumination. And apart from the three single sides on Disc 2 (which we've had before many times on Remasters) - the rest are dismissible instrumentals that test the word 'Bonus' to its limits. Sure the Jon Kelly Mix of "A Love For You" and the Dixon Van Winkle Mix of "Hey Diddle" could actually constitute songs and even feel lovely at times in a small time way – but mostly this stuff just feels like he's taking the proper Michael. The near nine-minute guitar jam that is “Rode All Night” is particularly useless.

The Remaster was done at Abbey Road by the team that handled The Beatles - GUY MASSEY, STEVE ROOKE and SIMON GIBSON - and it's excellent. I've had the 1998 version for years and those idea changes in "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" feel more alive than ever before.

I've never understood why people rave about "Ram" as an album - as if it was some kind of folksy masterpiece – it isn't. "Too Many People" and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" have that songwriting magic for sure - but the rest of Side 1 feels like ditties trying to be songs. Also I'm hard-pressed in my later years to put up with his lyrical twaddle like "...a dog is here...a dog is there...my dog has three legs...". There's the shadow of The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" in the Ukulele-led "Ram On" - the remaster making those chunky keyboard notes and plucked strings count. The swirl of the voices in "Dear Boy" come out of your speakers from all angles - while the unlikely but beautifully produced American single "Uncle Albert/Albert Halsey" and the out-and-out rocker "Smile Away" end Side 1 with rain, strings and Paul singing about smelly feet (we're so sorry). The cleverly constructed "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is the nearest he gets to the best parts of "Abbey Road" on Side 2 and was a deserved American No. 1.

"...I look high...I look low...looking for a home in the heart of the country..." he sings on the Side 2 opener "Heart Of The Country" - those acoustic guitar flourishes and accompanied vocals as he plays are extremely clear - sounding better than they ever have. I can't really get on with the ketchup and soup puree lyrics of "Monkberry Moon Delight" - even if Linda's vocals are better. "Eat At Home" is a sort of semi rocker about eating in bed while the domestic bliss continues with "Long Haired Lady" - a song that just seems to amble and go nowhere - even with its best-ever sound quality here. "Back Seat Of My Car" would become his second UK 7" single on Apple R 5914 in August 1971 - a really pretty melody with string arrangements that deserved better than its No. 39 placing on the British single charts. "Another Day" and "Oh Woman, Oh Why" make for a cool stand alone single too.

The remaster is superb - but that half-hearted packaging and equally dodgy set of extras - lose a star in my book. He would of course go onto the huge "Band On The Run" in 1973 and "Venus And Mars" in 1975...

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