By Hans Ebert
For some reason, I always thought “Ram” was Paul McCartney’s second solo record though it did feature wife Linda and a few sidemen some of whom ended up in Wings. Apparently, I missed the synth pop of “McCartney 2” somewhere along the way though familiar with the singles “Coming Up” and the cult hit “Temporary Secretary” which continues to be sampled by DJs.
Though friends and music critics thought it to be “scattered”, “Ram”, at least to me, was brilliant. I can still feel the texture of the album cover whereas many of the tracks remain favourites- not for their studio perfection and trying to boldly move Pop music’s chess pieces across the board- but for doing exactly the opposite. Like bringing this Beatles fan back to terra firma. One can’t be up there on Blue Jay Way with Lucy in the Sky forever.
Recordings like “Too Many People” and “Dear Boy” offered a glimpse of how easily McCartney could come up with melodies- even if these were only fleeting glimpses of ideas that could be further developed.
There was the far more finished “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and the extremely delicious bit of goofiness on “Monkberry Moon Delight” where he adopted his Fats Domino/Little Richard persona.
Like how the unabashedly romantic “Maybe I’m Amazed” with one of his most soulful vocals shone on “McCartney”, it was “Back Seat Of My Car” that had the same effect on “Ram”- one of those perfect love songs he’s seemingly able to pluck out of thin air.
Who knows what Paul McCartney was thinking about when he wrote anything? For this then- kid in Hong Kong who had read how much Brian Wilson’s “Pet Sounds” had influenced him enough to go back into the studios and rework “Revolver”, this gorgeous track seems to carry on with his admiration for the songs and harmonies of the Beach Boy.
Was “Ram” as good as “McCartney”, the solo record he dropped along with the news that he had left the Beatles? Depends on what “good” means to anyone who grew up thinking that the Beatles could walk on water with Chauncey Gardener by their side.
What I do know is the effect both records had on me- something home grown and far removed from the experimentations of the Beatles. It was kinda like taking a chill pill and without help from any Blue Meanies.
It was someone being given the privilege to hear and follow one of the greatest popular music songwriters of our time showing us his creative process. How fragments of good ideas can lead to far more finished and even classic tracks.
And now there’s “McCartney 111”. With everything written and recorded while he, like many of us, was in quarantine, it shows just how productively he made use of his time.
He has said how he welcomed this time alone to write, play every instrument, record and, closing in on 78, understanding that even Paul McCartney needs to market his product. There’s been a very strong pre-launch push with teaser campaigns and various interactivity with music fans and he’s recently been making himself free for interviews and talk shows with hosts like Jimmy Fallon.
Sure, we’re talking about Paul McCartney who just needs to show up, but there’s something NICE about making himself available. You really want to like his new music. You don’t want him to fail. He doesn’t. It’s like the release of “Egypt Station” in 2018. It might not have been a great record, but it definitely passed the “audition”.
When hearing about his collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West, I couldn’t see it working out. But it did. “FourFiveSeconds remains one of the finest slices of pop and R’nB heard in a long time. It’s a very very overlooked track.
He’s toured, he’s appeared on the most memorable episode of “Carpool Karaoke”. He found time to publish a book for his grandkids “Hey Grandude”.
He could have asked anyone to appear on this new record. Anyone. Taylor Swift, Dave Grohl etc. He decided that he’s been around long enough and some experience with the greatest pop group ever to know how it all works.
Personally speaking, this new solo record by Paul McCartney is what especially us in music needs. It offers hope and inspiration and makes one feel comfortable and is comforting.
Making this record and releasing it during these lockdown days is almost a reassurance that things might change, but that we’ll be alright in the end.
All we need is peace and love.
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