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Review of RAM, 1971 Rolling Stone -- gold standard of a WORTHLESS CRITIC
17 July 2013
6.12am
Funny Paper
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This blowhard used a lot of big college words and was able to construct paragraphs that seem intelligent -- but he got almost everything dead wrong:

http://www.rollingstone.com/mu.....m-19710708

 

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17 July 2013
10.45am
meanmistermustard
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Ram was not a well-received album, its only thru time that its appeal has grown. Some folks would still agree with Jon Landau nowadays, I kind of agree with him over Monkberry Moon Delight ("And "Monkberry Moon Delight" is the bore to end all bores: Paul repeats a riff for five and a half minutes to no apparent purpose"), it lasts way too long, I am fed up well before it ends. Cut it down by 3 minutes and I might go back to it .

I don't get bothered by reviews and critics as everything is relative and based on opinion, She Loves You was slated in at least 1 review when released as was Pepper as will a number of albums, singles, books, films and who knows what else that have become classics.

He told us not to get overwhelmed by grief and whatever thoughts we have... to keep them happy, because any thoughts we have of him will travel to him wherever he is. (John Lennon - 27/8/67)
17 July 2013
1.52pm
Duke_of_Kirkcaldy
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Thank goodness the 'Great Reappraisal' of his entire back catalogue over the last decade is paying off.  a-hard-days-night-paul-8

17 July 2013
2.13pm
Ben Ramon
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A lot of bands now embody and imitate the RAM ethos: as one review put it, "celebrating little pleasures with big melodies." Whimsical nonsense lyric set to music half-homespun, half-grandiose. It's all over the place, little bits and bobs rearing their heads in no particular order and then retreating back into the general fray. In 1971 it seemed ridiculous, especially from one of the main songwriters in a band that had so much to say; but nowadays with the rise of "indie" the style is extremely relevant. Plus the practice of having an untutored, "natural" sounding woman's voice singing in harmony with the male singer; something scorned back then but now taken up by plenty of folky lo-fi bands of the last twenty years, from Belle and Sebastian to Yo La Tengo. I can understand why everyone hated RAM when it came out, but really it was just incredibly ahead of its time.

 

 

 

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17 July 2013
2.47pm
parlance
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^^ Thanks for putting Ram into context, Ben. It's interesting reading reviews of the past, and this one is particularly insightful of the times. While the reviewer pretty much lambastes the album, I find that in 1971 he made observations that people make nowadays make about music in general and Paul and The Beatles in particular: that groups nowadays are often little more than a collection of solo artists or that the whole of The Beatles was better than the sum of the parts, for instance.

I find this paragraph in particularly interesting:

The odd thing about it is that within the context of the Beatles, Paul's talents were beyond question. He was perhaps the most influential white bass player of the late Sixties, the only one of the Beatles with a keenly developed personal instrumental style. He was also the group's best melodist, and he surely had the best voice.

Because you often come away with the sense that Rolling Stone just dismissed Paul as a lightweight wholesale. Perhaps when the magazine was still young, some objectivity was still possible? But the above quote shows that at least one critic had and was allowed to express respect for Paul's talent. I also think it's interesting the critic flat out called John's "Power to the People" flat-out awful.
 
parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

17 July 2013
5.59pm
Von Bontee
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That review's been discussed before, in the "Ram Remastered" thread.

As before, I note that Landau managed the remarkable triple achievement of being a music writer, rock critic, and record producer - and sucking at all three! He's done a great job as Bruce Springsteen's manager for the last 40 years, I'll grant him that. Also, apparently, he lost the vision in one eye a couple years ago after surgery to remove a brain tumour, so he gets my sympathy for that. But his writings are still those of a humourless prig. (One time back in the 60s he wrote a negative review of some blues album; and that he was an authority on the subject because "I've been listening to blues for six months now". He actually wrote that! Just like the old saying: A man has to suffer to sing the blues; but can apparently become an authority on it after only half a year of listening. What a douche.)

More thought-provoking Landau goodness:

“Traditionally there have been three types of Negro musicians in pop music. The first consists of artists who either for aesthetic or financial reasons have chosen to sever their ties with specifically Negro music and instead work in the general field of pop. Ritchie Havens, as an exponent of the contemporary urban ballad in the Ochs, Dylan, Paxton tradition, and Jimi Hendrix, as an exponent of freaking, are good examples. The second class consists of performers who are still working in one of the basic Negro musical forms but who seek to alter their approach enough to make it appealing to a large part of the white audience. Motown is the ideal example, but someone like Lou Rawls also falls into this category. Finally there is the hard core: performers who won’t or can’t assimilate, and therefore just continue to do their thing."

So to sum up: apparently all of black "pop" music is primarily defined by how "white" it is; and apparently Havens' blues roots and Hendrix' blues/soul/jazz elements don't exist; and in this entire universe of black music there are exactly THREE types of musicians! You know, just like how there are only three types of bird - ones that are big, ones that are small, and ones that are bigger than the small ones, yet not as large the bigger ones. Expert analysis, that.

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
17 July 2013
6.18pm
parlance
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Von Bontee said

More thought-provoking Landau goodness:

“Traditionally there have been three types of Negro musicians in pop music. The first consists of artists who either for aesthetic or financial reasons have chosen to sever their ties with specifically Negro music and instead work in the general field of pop. Ritchie Havens, as an exponent of the contemporary urban ballad in the Ochs, Dylan, Paxton tradition, and Jimi Hendrix, as an exponent of freaking, are good examples. The second class consists of performers who are still working in one of the basic Negro musical forms but who seek to alter their approach enough to make it appealing to a large part of the white audience. Motown is the ideal example, but someone like Lou Rawls also falls into this category. Finally there is the hard core: performers who won’t or can’t assimilate, and therefore just continue to do their thing."

So to sum up: apparently all of black "pop" music is primarily defined by how "white" it is; and apparently Havens' blues roots and Hendrix' blues/soul/jazz elements don't exist; and in this entire universe of black music there are exactly THREE types of musicians! You know, just like how there are only three types of bird - ones that are big, ones that are small, and ones that are bigger than the small ones, yet not as large the bigger ones. Expert analysis, that.

 

LOL. Dear lord, that was... execrable. And is that from the '70s? If so, who was still using Negro, especially in print?

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

17 July 2013
6.38pm
Ron Nasty
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Landau wasn't the only one at Rolling Stone writing reviews like that at the time. They were all trying to outdo Greil Marcus's opening line to his review of Bob Dylan's Self Portrait the previous year. Now a much reassessed album, considered a cornerstone of Americana, and rumoured to be the subject of the next in Dylan's Bootleg Series along with New Morning. Marcus opened his review with the unforgettable "What is this shit?"

Difficult to think of a more damning review!

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
17 July 2013
10.03pm
Von Bontee
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I always liked Greil Marcus, though! He had interesting insights and nice turns of phrase and a great sense of humour, qualities which I rarely encountered in Landau's stuff.

EDIT: Parlance, that piece was from 1967 or early '68, so "Negro" was still pretty much the standard terminology, although "black" was becoming hip. (Which Landau certainly wasn't!)

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
17 July 2013
10.21pm
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"Ram was not a well-received album, its only thru time that its appeal has grown..."

I knew with utter certainty, from the first moments I heard Ram played, back in the summer of '71 on speakers set out on the front porch of a house by people I didn't even know, that I loved it.  I didn't need Any Time At All.

 

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18 July 2013
1.25am
WhereArtEsteban
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RAM!! I love every bit of it!

Jon Landau just isn't a groovy enough dude I guess. With his comment saying "Eat at Home" and "Sitting in the Backseat of my Car" are the only worthy numbers shows his bias I think- destined for Bruce Springsteen (ironic he bashes Paul's "Smile Away" vocal, really). So something like "Three Legs" or "Heart of The Country" "Monkberry Moon Delight" probably sounded lame or off the cuff or something, but when viewed from a different perspective it's really not. 

My favorite is "Too Many People", I'm a sucker for a great opener and I'm shocked that this song didn't make the album for people like it did me! The vocals on "TMP" and "Admiral Halsey" are so inspiring, the energy is moving to me. And Monkberry is brilliant psychedelic-angst wordplay. John Landau must've been frigid as fuk

Personally I think "Heart of The Country" is a much more interesting track than "Blackbird"(but not more than "Mother Nature's Son"); certainly more relevant to me- feeling like getting away from the city etc...other than the "you were only waiting for this moment to arrive" bit, that's true for everyone a-hard-days-night-george-10

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18 July 2013
2.14am
Ron Nasty
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Von Bontee said:

I always liked Greil Marcus, though!

I wasn't slamming Greil though. I love his writing too. Just pointing out that his damning review of Self Portrait, an album that has latterly been reassessed, became legend with its first four words. There must have been a feeling among Rolling Stone's writers at the time that they hoped to outdo Greil's evisceration of Bob.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
18 July 2013
3.04am
parlance
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Even if some of the songs were thought of as frivolous, I'm amazed that anyone could listen to "Long Haired Lady" and coming away thinking of the entire album as "emotionally vacuous." I suppose Linda's bratty delivery could lend itself to that interpretation. But personally, the song gives me chills every time.

Considering how damning the review was, the 3 1/2 star rating seems pretty generous. :-/

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at YouTube and Vimeo.

18 July 2013
9.58am
Ben Ramon
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^ it seems that Paul felt the same way.

"I tried so very hard and I really hoped people would like it," Paul told Melody Maker's Chris Charlesworth after the critics' verdict was in. "I thought I had done a great album... I don't see how someone can play it and take in all that stuff and say 'I don't like it.'"

The bum notices came as a particular shock to Paul because he had recorded Ram with the critics somewhat in mind. "I thought McCartney was quite good," he would recall two years later. "But then it didn't quite do it in every way... it was very down-home, funky, just me... After it got knocked I thought... do just the opposite next time. So Ram was with the top people in the top studio. I thought, this is what they want. But again, it was critically panned."

It must have been pretty galling to pour your heart and soul into a record like that and receive such a hostile reception. I don't think John's brutal criticism helped matters either; although he later confessed to loving Eat at Home, and Monkberry Moon Delight (which he said he wanted to play during his stint as a guest DJ on a New York radio station in 1974, but it was too long so he opted for Jet instead). In fact, coming back to Rolling Stone and Landau's review, it's no secret that Jan Wenner was a good friend and ardent fan of John and Yoko and the magazine has never really been in Paul's corner. Although they did give Tug of War five stars, as I recall.

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19 July 2013
9.06pm
Von Bontee
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mja6758 said

Von Bontee said:

I always liked Greil Marcus, though!

I wasn't slamming Greil though. I love his writing too. Just pointing out that his damning review of Self Portrait, an album that has latterly been reassessed, became legend with its first four words. There must have been a feeling among Rolling Stone's writers at the time that they hoped to outdo Greil's evisceration of Bob.

I see your point. And if Landau had some of Marcus' pithiness and humour, I'd probably give his Ram takedown some grudging appreciation.

(I didn't know that Self Portrait had been critically reassessed lately! I figured that was just one or two bloggers/contrarians. But I understand that those sessions are the subject of Bob's next Bootleg Series entry, so I guess they're more popular than I realized.)

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
20 July 2013
12.26am
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I agree, WhereArtEsteban -- "Too Many People" is a superb rock song, it easily stands in the pantheon not only of McCartney's best rock songs, but I'd say of rock songs of all time.  I don't know why it remains so obscure.

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20 July 2013
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Ron Nasty
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Von Bontee said
I see your point. And if Landau had some of Marcus' pithiness and humour, I'd probably give his Ram takedown some grudging appreciation.

(I didn't know that Self Portrait had been critically reassessed lately! I figured that was just one or two bloggers/contrarians. But I understand that those sessions are the subject of Bob's next Bootleg Series entry, so I guess they're more popular than I realized.)

I could have been clearer in my original comment just what I meant rereading it. And I agree, Landau's pen never had the wit or intelligence to do what Greil did.

(As to Self Portrait, it has been gaining a different response since the mid-90s and the emergence of alternative country/Americana, of which it is now considered to be an early example of. Interesting looking at the Amazon reviews earlier, it's given a 3.7 overall, but they range from 2 to 5. Shows it divisive rather than hated as it was at the time. You're right about the new Bootleg Series release - covers Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning - out on August 27 [and includes two tracks with George, an alternate Time Passes Slowly and the co-written Working on a Guru, both recorded 1 May 1970]. The irony, the notes for The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 - Another Self Portrait (1969-1970), are written by one Greil Marcus!)

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
21 July 2013
10.33pm
Von Bontee
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Yeah, Greil did a re-evaluation (of sorts) of Self Portrait that was published in Mojo awhile back. Seems as though he's made his peace with the album. To an extent. Maybe...I'm not sure, he can be hard for me to understand at times, lol.

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
9 February 2014
6.43pm
tulane
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Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone Editor, was mad at Paul because Paul didn't invite him to a party.

A lot of it is childish.

I'll bet in the music press you will get bribes, blackmail and backhanders (or lack thereof) also determining what kind of reviews records get.

Critical reception can influence sales and massive amounts of money are at stake, so is it plausible that there is not some corruption involved.

Also, I think fashions are involved.

When you first come out you are trendy and revered as such.  Stick around a bit and you are dismissed as being the old guard and past it.  Stick around a bit longer and you are a living legend who can do no wrong.

As for Landau, he later became Springsteen's manager.  I like Bruce.  He's a likeable guy and I like some of his music but Paul is a much better musician than Bruce and yet Landau seemed to think the sun shined out of Bruce's backside whilst really laying into Paul.  I don't know.

9 February 2014
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I can see how a Springsteen fan would be the type of person who would find Ram mediocre -- i.e., a type who thinks all good music has to be serious and "relevant" and be charged with uninspired energy fit for charging the batteries of a car, but leaving the Muses... unamused.

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