I think we’ve pretty much established that I’m obsessed with Paul and Linda McCartney’s RAM album. After pre-ordering the 2 disc 2012 Remastered Edition of the album, I saw a deluxe version all over the internet, and, even though I said I couldn’t justify the cost, I found some things I could sell to cover it.
I had to. This album provides me far too much enjoyment for me not to delve even farther into the mythos of it.
So, with that, I thought giving some background into the album and explaining what comes in the deluxe box would be fun. Perhaps I may spark your interest in the album, even just enough to give the album a listen (listen for free here).
I wasn’t alive for any of this.
After the unfortunate but necessary breakup of The Beatles, to get away from the drama surrounding the breakup, Paul McCartney retreated to his farm in Scotland to work on writing the songs that would ultimately comprise RAM along with his wife, Linda. The album, McCartney’s sophomore album, was released in 1971 and was panned by critics, most notably Jon Landau of Rolling Stone magazine.
In my opinion, Beatles fans and critics wanted the album to be something it couldn’t be, a Beatles album, and while John Lennon and George Harrison were playing to the mainstream and releasing music that was much more akin to things released in Beatles days (c’mon, Harrison wrote most of what’s on All Things Must Pass, a phenomenal album, while he was in the Beatles), McCartney kept his approach to RAM simple and succinct. The expectation that he’d even want to produce anything remotely resembling a Beatles album is absurd given the circumstances of the time. Paul even took the criticisms that his debut solo album sounded not so professional and put the time and effort into recording RAM meticulously.
So we have this album RAM.
It’s not a masterpiece by any means. What it is is a down-home, fun, catchy, hippie, pop album. Not to go into any gory specifics, it reflects the time period, and most certainly reflects Paul’s experiences at the time. I said I wasn’t even alive, so how can I state what seems like a fact here.
The deluxe box recreates the time period, and gives a detailed look into some of the things that were going on at the farm while the songs were being crafted.
The container housing all of the special materials is the first thing that takes you back to 1971. The cover is wrapped in burlap!
Once you crack it open, the time capsule spews content.
There’s a special book that includes interpretations from historians, interviews with session musicians, producers, engineers, and Paul himself, and tons of photos that were taken while working on the album.
There is a super confidential looking envelope…
…containing legitimate, high-quality photographs of Paul, Linda, and the animals from the farm.
There’s another envelope with some strange chicken scratch on it, and if you look closely, the chicken scratch is drafts of lyrics from the songs!
Inside of this envelope are a number of sheets of paper that have been printed to duplicate Paul’s personal scratch lyrics, including coffee marks, creases, and folds. Really wild stuff!
There is A Small Book of Sheep…
…which is literally a small book of sheep.
Then you get to the media.
The set comes with the 2012 stereo remaster of the album and a second disc with remastered bonus tracks. It also comes with a bonus DVD which is probably the weakest thing in the set; it’s only 20 minutes of content, and about 8 are comprised of music videos that are just Paul and Linda frolicking on the farm over two of the songs.
The remaining CDs deserve some additional explanation.
Included in the set is a remastered version of the mono mix of RAM. The album was originally recorded with the intent of being mixed in stereo, but there were a limited number of pressings of a mono mix that was sent to radio stations in the early 70s. It is incredibly rare. For the 2012 set, the mono mix was remastered and digitized for CD (there is a limited edition vinyl version with characteristic white cover with handwriting as well). As you can imagine, the mono version sounds completely different. It’s actually mixed from the master tracks differently than the stereo version, so the dynamics varies in many places (for example: “Monkberry Moon Delight” sounds much more raw and distorted in the mono version, and the guitars are much more prominent in mono than stereo.).
Also included is an album called Thrillington, which has a story. In 1977, Paul released a fully orchestrated version of RAM under the ridiculous pseudonym, Percey “Thrills” Thrillington. My understanding is that it was dismissed since nobody knew who it was until years later when Paul casually admitted it was he, at which point the value of the album skyrocketed. It’s a wild thing to listen to. Listening to this version of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” makes me laugh so much.
Having all of this material has certainly increased the passion I have for the album.
Reading the positive reviews of the deluxe box (links below) set puts a huge smile on my face. This set is a must for a McCartney fan, and I would argue that the 2 disc stereo edition of RAM should absolutely be a part of everyone’s music collection. McCartney’s musical range is showcased, as no two songs sound alike. There is something for everybody on RAM.
RAM in the media!
- Pitchfork reviews RAM
- Drowned in Sound reviews RAM
- Metacritic reviews of RAM
- American Songwriter reviews RAM
- Pitchfork interviews Paul McCartney about RAM
Then there’s this amazing gem of a picture: