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674620 Posts in 27224 Topics by 4010 Members - Latest Member: angleofreason May 28, 2022, 07:01:03 PM
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Author Topic: Paul McCartney's RAM - the most 'beach boys' Beatle album?  (Read 932 times)
barto
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« on: April 04, 2022, 02:14:53 PM »

I was listening to RAM recently and struck by the Wilson influence in this one. A couple of thoughts I jotted down -

-Ram On
--Sounds like it could have been a smiley smile outtake. You get some bass vocals very reminiscent of Mike.  Some really cool harmonies in general behind this sparse production effort.

-Dear Boy
--Starts off extremely Beatles-y...but about 25 seconds in we get some beach boys style harmonies with a 'child is the father of the man' style counterpoint

Uncle Albert
--Brian Wilson style chords and bass all over this one. Some smile esque 'vocal noises', humor, transitions

Smile Away
--Sounds like a prototype of 15 Big Ones era

Monkberry moon delight
-- Mashing triad piano, cool backing vocals. Reminds me of night blooming jasmine and ding dang a bit

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JK
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2022, 10:52:41 AM »

I was listening to RAM recently and struck by the Wilson influence in this one. A couple of thoughts I jotted down -

-Ram On
--Sounds like it could have been a smiley smile outtake. You get some bass vocals very reminiscent of Mike.  Some really cool harmonies in general behind this sparse production effort.

-Dear Boy
--Starts off extremely Beatles-y...but about 25 seconds in we get some beach boys style harmonies with a 'child is the father of the man' style counterpoint

Uncle Albert
--Brian Wilson style chords and bass all over this one. Some smile esque 'vocal noises', humor, transitions

Smile Away
--Sounds like a prototype of 15 Big Ones era

Monkberry moon delight
-- Mashing triad piano, cool backing vocals. Reminds me of night blooming jasmine and ding dang a bit

Fascinating observation, barto. I gave all the tracks a listen (I'm not familiar with the album as a whole) and I see what you mean, particularly in the first three instances.

For completeness' sake, here is the album in question. Starting times of songs are in the first comment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdGaLyow4Ag
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2022, 08:00:46 AM »

I remember there were some great discussions on this topic back on the Smile Shop board, at least I think it was on the Shop. But there are definitely what a lot of listeners familiar with Ram and BW's work especially from 66-70 would call similarities if not direct influences. The element to get past is the groove on some of McCartney's tracks, once you get past the differences in grooves from Paul's rhythm styles to Brian's preferred styles, you definitely hear the similarities. And of course there are some tracks like "Too Many People" which are 100% Macca, especially with the screaming and extremely quirky guitar solos.

One track not mentioned, and a personal favorite, is "Long Haired Lady" featuring some of the most prominent and cool Linda McCartney vocals ever recorded. Now on this track, I definitely hear the BW elements, some more subtle and maybe wonky than others, but I hear them. From the vocal harmony, to the way the song flows in "movements" that are sometimes totally unrelated in everything from meter to rhythm to overall texture, yet it all fits together like a patchwork quilt. It's very, very similar in design to what Brian was doing with his segmented, what some call "modular", writing from 66-68. All the parts could have formed totally different song segments or songs overall, but instead they're stitched together. And it's not like Paul's Abbey Road medleys or "suites", but closer to BW's approach on Heroes, GV, Been Way Too Long, etc.

And dig some of the vocal and instrumental interludes on Long Haired Lady...some of those could have been on a Brian production from that magic era 66-68. The jarring shifts in texture, orchestral or vocal explosions, unexpected down-shifts and unusual transitions, neo-classical melodic fragments that could have been on a Left Banke album or unused attempts by BW/VDP at writing "Wonderful", etc, and it's all underpinned by a funky R&B IV-I chord vamp that glues it together.

A great song that fits into the list above as holding onto some of that BW similarity while not overtly sounding like a knock-off or a nicked idea.

The thing about Ram is I heard that first, before hearing Smile or Smiley Smile in any fully aware capacity. When I was devouring both books on The Beatles and trying to buy up 45's and albums at yard sales and flea markets when I was around 10 or 12, I remember reading a passage where a critic had literally lambasted "Ram" as "the nadir in the decomposition of 60's rock so far" or something like that...and I immediately had to see what that was all about. I found a 45  of "Uncle Albert" but it was pretty badly scratched. PS - Did anyone get or still experience the minor thrill of sorting through stacks of 45's when they're priced dirt-cheap and seeing an Apple label or a Capitol "swirl" label or that great red and white "Colgems" label? Simple pleasures...

Anyway, I though Uncle Albert and Too Many People were pretty cool, although sometimes Uncle Albert can be a little too precocious depending on your listening mood. But then I finally found a copy of Ram at a flea market for what was either 2 or 3 bucks. I bought it, played it, and thought it was very quirky and cool. "Long Haired Lady" stood out along with the ones from the 45.

Then some years later, I heard some of the Smile tapes and Smiley Smile...and I was thinking wow, yes that's two musicians' versions of the same kind of recording and writing approach. Very experimental, very home-brewed and lo-fi, but masking some pretty detailed recording and arranging techniques under the "hey kids, let's make our own album right here!" kind of scene.

It was cool several decades later to see Ram eventually get the "deluxe" box set treatment, as well as a re-evaluation and rediscovery from a new generation of listeners, and also get some cred and props for being one of the original DIY/lo-fi projects ironically coming from one of the biggest musicians in the world. It's like Smiley Smile where that one still hasn't quite gotten to more mainstream cred and acknowledgement, yet musicians and more aware listeners recognize what Smiley was and is in the timeline of development for various later genres and sub-genres like the whole "lo fi" and Elephant 6 categories into the 90's.

Part of it for me is how both Brian and Paul were known for grand, epic productions using full studio groups and the height of recording technology at their creative peaks, yet here they are not far removed from those peaks stripping it down and going for home brew...yet some of the epic techniques are still peeking through the sonic murk.

 
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barto
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2022, 04:20:41 AM »

I can't attest to the accuracy of this quote about 'Dear Boy's but this is interesting -

https://www.the-paulmccartney-project.com/song/dear-boy/


From mixing engineering Eirik Wangberg:

How did you achieve the sort of ď4 dimensionalĒ Paul and Linda angelical harmonies?

It was quite a challenge for me to do these things. But, when it works itís really lots of fun Ė especially if the arranger (Paul) knows his job. As Paul really knew what he was doing (laughs), the harmonies and voice tracks (there were many ones) did not step on each other or kill each other in the mix. As you may already know, Paul is here inspired by the Beach Boys vocal arrangements, whom I also have recorded. Elton John calls these harmonies the best heís ever heard!

Engineer Eirik Wangberg, interviewed by Claudio Dirani, 2005
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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2022, 07:05:15 AM »

Don't forget "Back Seat of My Car"; it could pass as a Beach Boys song during that period (minus McCartney's signature screaming vocals at the end).  I suppose the Love You album is the closest thing the Beach Boys did that best resembles Paul's execution of RAM.  The recent half speed mastering vinyl release of this album sounds fantastic!
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2022, 08:01:18 PM »

Not to derail the thread but I am torn in my opinions about this LP and basically all of Paulís 1970s albums. They donít grab me as much as I would like them to. Clearly Ram is a lot slicker and more polished than Love You but somehow I am always ready to listen to Love You and seldom feel inspired to listen to Ram. Itís also interesting that as bad as some BB lyrics can be, I usually prefer them to Paulís 70s lyrics, which are often as inane as sumuhama. by the way I am a huge Beatles fan and I own many of the Wings canon but seldom feel like playing those LPs-maybe it is my loss.
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