With the deluxe edition of RAM, many changes to the previously established Paul McCartney Archive Collection have been made. All the stops have been pulled out for what many consider among the very best—if not THE best—album of McCartney’s solo career. Gone is the hardcover book format seen with McCartney, McCartney II, and Band on the Run, replaced with a sturdy box. Inside the box is an elaborate array of memorabilia and no less than four CDs and one DVD. If you love RAM, cracking open this box set is pretty much like heaven.
The album itself is, of course, the key component. Twelve tracks of melodic genius, bursting with idiosyncratic arrangements and varied vocals (McCartney’s late wife, Linda, provides effective harmonies throughout). From his first post-Beatles U.S. number one hit, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” to lesser known cuts like “Long Haired Lady” and “3 Legs,” RAM is a true delight. The melodies take unpredictable twists and turns and every nook and cranny of the album seems to be filled with something interesting.
Beyond that, the second disc has eight bonus tracks—perhaps a little skimpy, but most of what is here is well worth hearing. The A- and B-sides of McCartney’s first post-Beatles single, “Another Day” and “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” open the disc (the latter track is a lost classic with a fiery lead vocal). “Little Woman Love” is associated with the Wings era, since it first surfaced as the B-side to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (1972), but it originated during the RAM sessions. Previously unreleased outtakes include “A Love For You” (the song appeared on the soundtrack to the 2003 movie The In-Laws, but not this mix), “Hey Diddle,” and the instrumentals “Great Cock and Seagull Race” and “Sunshine Sometime.”
The real goodie on this disc is the previously unreleased two-man jam, “Rode All Night.” McCartney plays electric guitar, backed only by drummer Denny Seiwell, and together they just tear it up for about eight minutes. It’s truly a must-hear for anyone who doubts McCartney’s capacity for rocking out.
Exclusive to this deluxe edition are a reissue of Thrillington (originally released in 1977 under the pseudonym Percy “Thrills” Thrillington), which consists of all 12 RAM tracks rearranged as a kind of instrumental big band album. McCartney doesn’t play on it at all, which might make bring its overall value into question. But what it does do is reinforce just how incredibly inventive his songwriting was for this album, as arranger Richard Hewson mines the possibilities quite deeply, coming up with highly listenable results. Also exclusive to the set is the mono version of RAM, never commercially released as it was only intended as an alternative for AM radio stations to air. The mono mix is unique, rather than simply a fold-down of the stereo mix. As such, it provides some subtle (and occasionally distinct) differences.
The DVD is exclusive to the box and is honestly a little underwhelming. “Ramming” is a 15 minute featurette about the making of the album. McCartney’s comments are heard over a montage of illustrations and photos. I wish he would sit for the camera and reminisce about this stuff, it seems a Classic Albums-type format would be justified (at least for key albums in career). Music videos are included for “3 Legs” and “Heart of the Country,” while some home movie footage features Mr. and Mrs. McCartney singing “Hey Diddle” at home (part of this was previously seen in the Wingspan documentary). The best piece is “Eat at Home on Tour,” though it’s curiously out of step chronologically. It’s a video montage of Wings’ 1972 European tour, with Denny Laine and Henry McCullough. The soundtrack is very cool, a great sounding live recording of Wings playing “Eat at Home.”
As for the printed materials, the best item by far is the 112-page book. There are extensive reflections on the album by McCartney, as well as Seiwell and guitarists Dave Spinozza and Hugh McCracken. There is also plenty of info about Thrillington. Personally I won’t likely look at the rest of the stuff that often, but some it is very nice to have. The handwritten lyric reproductions are extremely realistic looking, complete with doodles and scribbles and such. Five 8×10 high quality photographs, suitable for framing if you’re so inclined, are also nice inclusions. A little collection of album cover outtakes, while not too exciting, offers more to look at. The “Small Book of Sheep” is a little less interesting. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a book—about the size of a cigarette pack—full of photos of sheep on McCartney’s farm.
Some improvements to the packaging have been made for the deluxe RAM, namely the way the discs themselves are stored. In the previous three Archive Collection deluxe editions, the discs were in pockets inside the back of a hardcover book. This, of course, resulted in minor scuffs on many buyers’ discs. For this box set, the discs are each in their own loose-fitting paper sleeve, nestled in their own compartment in the box. I honestly hope they don’t return to the tight pockets for Archive Collection releases, but then again I can’t imagine many of his other albums will receive treatment as lush as this.
If all that weren’t enough, the deluxe box also includes a business card with a code for high resolution 24bit 96kHz downloads of both the stereo version of the album and the bonus audio disc. To sweeten things even further, there are two additional tracks included in the download: “Uncle Albert Jam” (a silly two minutes of tomfoolery) and, much better, the eight-minute “Eat at Home/Smile Away (Live in Groningen, 1972).” We’re still not quite done, as the package also includes a one-year membership to McCartney’s official website. It’s a pricey set, but definitely a standard-setter for the Paul McCartney Archive Collection so far.