I’m with Moo on this one – mono is pretty pointless. It makes sense if the artist originally mixed it in mono, and intended its release in mono, but most of the time it’s a marketing ploy aimed at audiophiles.
Take this release for example – the limited edition release of McCartney’s second solo album in mono, complete with the most minimal sleeve I’ve ever seen (aside from the scrawl on the top left of the sleeve, the only mention of the album name and artist is on a small slip of paper inside the inner sleeve – it makes the packaging of The White Album look like Sgt. Pepper’s). There’s no reason for it to exist. Mono had been left behind by this point, and all releases were universally in stereo. It exists merely as a curiosity.
However, it’s by a Beatle, it’s a limited collection, and therefore it’s collectable – hence why I bought it. I have the stereo version, with its garish sleeve (possibly the reason this mono release is so minimalist?) and it’s always been a firm favourite. In fact, I swapped my CD copy of the album for the vinyl version back in the late 90s. My Huddersfield friend Dom Beresford had it on vinyl and wanted it on CD. I felt the opposite, so we did a fair trade. The record is forever marked by this transaction – a sticker on the label around the centre of the disc proudly declares it is the property of Kirklees Libraries & Arts.
There’s been a hell of a lot of love for this album of late. It is very good – about a million times better than his hotchpotch debut album; but as much as I love it, and regard it as my favourite McCartney album, it’s not as good as Band On The Run. I don’t subscribe to the theory that his Wings material is more of a group offering – to me, they’re McCartney albums with a couple of hired hands to play some of the instruments so he didn’t have to play everything.
In terms of the quality of the songwriting here, he matches the strength of his output on Abbey Road. The melodies are strong enough to support an orchestral version of the album – something I’ve been listening to a lot recently. To me, Ram is as strong an album as Imagine – in fact they’d make a killer double album – but it’ll never be as loved by the public as Lennon’s album. There are no big hits, and definitely nothing close to the universality of Imagine’s titular track.
Hit: Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey
Hidden Gem: Ram On