Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Those lines from "Too Many People", the first song on Ram, seem to set the precedent for the rest of the record. McCartney may have had something to prove with Ram, but he used it to push forward with what may be his greatest solo record. I'll be honest, this is a new revelation for me. Up until a few months ago, the only song I was really familiar with on this record was "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey". I can clearly remember the first time I heard that song on the radio as a kid over the PA at a Thift Store. I'm not old enough for it to have been a current single, but it still reeled me in. This was probably because it was more like a Beatles song and I was and am still obsessed the music of The Beatles. I had bought into the ridiculous notion that Ram was a less than stellar McCartney offering, and I had never even listened to the record! That was my first mistake...
My dad would always talk about how great it was, and try to get me to listen to it, but I never cared enough. I'm not sure why I eventually sat down and listened to Ram, but when I did, I was blown away! It is definitely a record best experienced straight through. "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" isn't even the best song on the album! There are so many subtleties that the listener might not even pick up on after the first few listens. For instance the backwards acoustic guitar on the third verse of "3 Legs" before it breaks into an captivating half time groove. Or the sound of a tape machine spinning up at the start of "Ram On" Or the fact that the vocals on "Dear Boy" sound like they were recorded through a Leslie speaker. Or the way that he over enunciates the word "horse" in second verse on "Heart Of The Country". I'm in love with the tone of the guitar on "Eat At Home". Speaking of guitars, the tone of the solo on "Too Many People" is insane! It sounds so similar to the tone used on his guitar solo on the Abbey Road track "The End".
Possibly the best moment for me on the record is the epic "Long Haired Lady". It's a winding journey of a song with all these twists and turns of guitars, horns, strings, delayed and layered vocals and an outro that calls back to an earlier McCartney masterpiece "Hey Jude". At the same time though, I find myself willingly haunted by the deceivingly simple title track "Ram On". The contrast of the ukulele and sparse percussion and a well placed Wuhrlitzer electric piano, perfectly complement the lush vocals complete with whistling. Genius.
The recording sessions gave birth to what eventually became Wings. McCartney recorded it in New York with hired session musicians. One of those dudes was Denny Seiwell who ended up being the first drummer for Wings up until Red Rose Speedway. Recorded, but not released on the album, were two songs worth listening to as well. The first is the single "Another Day" and the b-side "Oh Woman Oh Why" with the latter having a vocal take closest to songs like "I Gotta Feeling" and "Helter Skelter". Speaking of crazy McCartney vocal takes, the man has no fear. Just listen to "Monkberry Moon Delight" on the second side and you'll see what I mean. And, like my dad, I choose to believe he's saying "Catch up Super Fury, don't get left behind!"
here. That bootleg also includes rarities such as the radio promo mono mixes of the record which vary slightly from the official release and outtakes from the recording sessions.
Ram has officially become one of my 10 desert island records. I've listened to it countless times in the last few months. Actually, finding a copy on vinyl was what pushed me a bit to start collecting again. I thought it would be easy to find, but I couldn't get one anywhere in St. Louis for a couple months. I finally bought a copy off eBay along with Band On The Run. Then, of course, literally the day after I got my copy in the mail, I found three of them locally! I guess that how it goes.
Thanks for reading and keep checking to see what I'm listening to...
Next up I'll be doing a series on records with art designed by Hipgnosis and Storm Thorgerson. If you're not familar with those names...you are, you just don't know it yet...
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
here and here.
"I can't get lost / I cannot get confused / Something's misplaced / Maybe for good / And I can't get lost / I can't get confused". I couldn't find a version of the song online, so I guess you'll just need to go buy the record to experience it for yourself...
Another song that resonated was "Kosciusko". It's a driving rock song with a great hook. It reminds me most of their future aforementioned hit "Bed's Are Burning". What really hooked me was the string section backed breakdown towards the end of the track.
Overall, Red Sails In The Sunsent is a great record and while I'll keep it at the forefront of my collection because of the artwork, I'm sure it will make it to the turntable again at some point. It's apparent an album that absolutely needs repeated listens to understand the quality of the work it contains.
Thanks for reading and keep checking back to see what I listen to next...
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I heard once that the lyrics were inspired by a journal entry from a tallship log. I can't find any info to confirm this but I did find the following quote on ProcolHarum.com.
Says Gary (Brooker): 'A Salty Dog was the first time that we used orchestration. I wanted to have strings on the number and it was my first arrangement. I loved doing it. I'd met a viola player when we were on tour with the Bee Gees in Germany who were using an orchestra. He was very supportive, almost like a music teacher. He actually put an orchestra together for us and members were all leaders of top London orchestras. We got a very warm chamber music sound on A Salty Dog.' The song's lyrics were heavy on metaphor and reversed meanings of words, a device that Keith Reid used a lot. A good example is the captain's phrase 'All hands on deck - I think we've run afloat' instead of 'aground'. 'I don't know what it's all about', admits Gary. 'You can put your own interpretation on it. Somebody in America once wrote about the song for her university degree thesis. She developed no less than 17 different interpretations of the song, which were all a kind of valid. I've always sung it for BJ Wilson since he died a couple of years ago, and it does seem to be about man's journey through life in some way. It's also about the group. It's a glowing piece of writing.'
I recently found a copy of The Best Of Procol Harum on vinyl. Listening to it inspired me to start this blog. I've been tweeting about all the vinyl I've been listening to lately, but I wanted to say more about the music and art of the records. The compilation has most of songs recognized as hallmarks by the band (at least prior to 1972); "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", "Conquistador (Live)", "In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence"and "A Salty Dog", among others.
In listening there was one track I was not quite as familiar with. I'd seen a video of them performing "Simple Sister", but I had never listened to the studio version. HOLY F*CK is this song amazing! Right from the start the guitar line gets you. It's a similar sound and chord progression to George Harrison's tour de force "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and Chicago's blistering "25 or 6 to 4", but it doesn't stay there for long. This song is a layered masterpiece that deserves headphones turned up loud. The genius of the song is in the second half after the breakdown. They continue to add more and more with each cycle but it never feels wrong or over-produced - just epic!
Needless to say, I'm gonna wear out whatever grooves are left on this record! Go getcha some and check back soon to see what I listen to next.