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Ryan Adams – Rock N Roll

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 16: BMV #16 (3-For-$10 #8) Ryan Adams – Rock N Roll

Ryan Adams is another artist that I buy whenever I see him, especially in a 3-for-$10 situation!

I found this interesting (from Amazon):

“Enjoyment of Rock N Roll–Ryan Adams’ follow up to his alt-country hit, Gold–is largely dependant on both your approach to it and your knowledge of rock’s rich history. There’s definitely plenty to enjoy, if you look in the right places and don’t focus so much on others. If you know zilch about music, but love gritty, rough and ready rock with big, fat slices of tunes, crunching guitars and attitude, then this will make you growl. If you loved Gold, but secretly hoped something rockier would emerge after Adams’s much publicised socialising with the Strokes and tribute-paying to Noel Gallagher, then this may be your record of the year. However, if you know your stuff, then you may feel uneasy. Not disappointed, but a little cheated. Why? Because, internal record-company politics and artistic tantrums aside, this is more Ryan Adams “In the Style of…” than anything else. For instance, “This Is It” sounds exactly like a Strokes song would sound, “Shallow” is Definitely Maybe-era Oasis (even down to the stolen T-Rex riff) and “So Alive” is 1980s U2.

That isn’t to say the songs aren’t anything short of fantastic (especially the almost ethereal, emotional “So Alive” (“Today I watched the boats / Moving through the harbour / Walking on water / In your arms I stay”)–great melodies, great guitar work. But you have to wonder, why. Thinking about that can only diminish enjoyment. It’s not his best work, but still damn good dirty fun. –Cortman Virtue”

I can totally hear what Virtue means, but I think maybe I’m a little more forgiving. Adams worked at such a prolific pace for so long, this probably had to happen at the point it did. At least he put it all on one record instead of spreading it out over several. 

You see, other reviewers pointed out (rightly) that the problem is expectations. This album followed Heartbreaker and Gold, which some consider to be some of his best post-Whiskeytown work. But what was lacking, then, was perspective. Adams has been so all over the place (and so consistently good) for so long now that it’s easy to look back at 2003 and know that this was him just getting his rock on, as much as it was nodding to several of his favourites. 

I dug it, and it adds to the pile of Adams awesome. Crank it and let the music take you.

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Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger

We were in London recently to visit my sister and, during our rambles, I rescued this record from an over-crammed shop. Now, I tend to go back and forth with whether or not I like Ryan Adams’ music. I’ve heard most of his albums by now, and even some of the EPs and singles of stuff he’s seen fit to pour onto the market like a flood these past few years. I like a lot of it, but sometimes, man… 

For example, he had that whole Rock ‘N Roll thing, where nothing seemed (to me) to be sounding quite right. Demolition was largely like that for me, too, as though he was trying too hard and not quite getting what he wanted. But I still love most of Gold, and even more so do I love Heartbreaker. And, having played it more than once now, I really like Easy Tiger. A lot.

Adams’ songs are musically solid. Bedrock, in fact. The Cardinals are frighteningly capable musicians too, which brings great weight to the party. The understated background flourishes of pedal steel, slide, piano or whatever they choose are completely pleasing.

I like that Adams likes the acoustic guitar (it suits him), and his plaintive voice usually matches the mood he sets perfectly. He’s a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll and, when he hits the nail on the head, a whole lot of great song-writing in the grand old style.

The only track that threw me on this record was the first one, Goodnight Rose. It’s a nice enough song, but I had to double-check the case and the label on the disc to make sure I’d inserted the correct album, the first time I played it. The vocals don’t sound like him at all, but more like a slightly-stoned John Hiatt. Hm.

But after that initial jolt, there’s a very, very comfortable groove that’s found. While he might get a little bit rockier (e.g. Halloweenhead), the majority of the tracks sound like a lazy Sunday afternoon on the creaky back porch, looking out at the haze of the summer heat and wishing Monday would never come. Pearls On A String takes it one step further, sounding like it could’ve come straight off the O Brother soundtrack. And so on. Lots of great stuff here, for those quieter moments in your day.

Sheryl Crow is on here somewhere; I didn’t hear her voice, but she’s credited so she must’ve sat in with the band. And there’s a picture in the booklet of Henry Rollins and Adams comparing tats, but no Hank on the record (that I could tell), nor in the credits. So, at a guess, perhaps the pic comes from when Rollins was putting together the Rise Above benefit CD for the West Memphis Three a few years back (Adams contributed a very personalized version of Nervous Breakdown to that project, as you all know well). Cool.

A ringing endorsement of this album from Stephen King is definitely interesting, and the fact that Adams is wearing a digital calculator watch in the cover picture cracks me up a whole lot. Man, I haven’t seen one of those things since 1985 or so. Aren’t you glad I notice all of the little things?

In sum, this is a really really good record. If you ever find yourself standing in a record shop, wondering which of his efforts to try, you really won’t go wrong with this one. Recommended.
 

Track Listing:
01 Goodnight Rose
02 Two
03 Everybody Knows
04 Halloweenhead
05 Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.
06 Tears Of Gold
07 The Sun Also Sets
08 Off Broadway
09 Pearls On A String
10 Rip Off
11 Two Hearts
12 These Girls
13 I Taught Myself How To Grow Old

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