Quick Review (LP): Rock N Roll by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Rock N Roll
Lost Highway; 2003

My Rating: C (46/100)

Best Tracks: "Burning Photographs", "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home"


He hates his label!

NOTES

  • "This Is It." OK, not bad.
  • "Shallow", "1974"…meaty, aggressive hard rock. Nothing special, but not bad.
  • "So Alive" is the sort of thing that, heard every once in a while, is a catchy vaguely Bryan Adams sounding tune. I once heard it a million times while staying at a hotel, and now I hate it.
  • Round about "Luminol" I start to realize that very little separates this from the dustbin of alt-rock history.
  • "Burning Photographs" is a cool tune with a strong melody. 
  • Same with "Anybdoy Wanna Take Me Home", but I prefer the Love Is Hell version.
  • This is way too fast paced as well. Adams just seems like he’s in a colossal hurry here.
  • All in all, this comes off like one big temper tantrum or something. I’ve really enjoyed the second half of Adams’ solo career so far, so I’m glad he’s left his childish ways behind.
  • Seriously, you are setting yourself up to be hated when you name an album Rock N Roll. There’s the inevitable backlash, and then there’s the utter lack of imagination inherent in such a title that immediately repulses the folks who want to like you. Hands down, this is the worst album in Adams’ catalog, almost a total throwaway.
  • Good + thorough review from AMG here, FWIW.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (3/5)
Consistency (2/5)
Songs (3.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Demolition by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Demolition
Lost Highway; 2002

My Rating: B+ (79/100)

Best Tracks: "Nuclear", "Hallelujah", "Desire", "Tennessee Sucks", "Tomorrow", "Chin Up Cheer Up"

Tuneful and raw, one of his better early records.

NOTES

  • "This is where the summer ends/In a flash of pure destruction no one wins…" Brilliant.
  • "Nuclear" is one of my favorite Adams tunes, and one of the most original sounding.
  • "Hallelujah" is another great one. Gorgeous melody, and so effortless.
  • "Desire" – another great tune.
  • I don’t know what it is, but even lesser tracks like "Cry On Demand" just sound better than your average cut from his first two records (esp. Gold). Honestly, I think they are stronger melodies.
  • I can attest to the fact that "Tennessee Sucks" in the summer, mostly cuz it’s hot and humid.
  • "Tomorrow" is one gorgeous weeper. Female vocals by Carrie Hamilton, who’s story is here.
  • How can you not love "Chin Up Cheer Up"?
  • Musically, Adams has a strange personality. It’s a bit confounding how he goes from high speed hard rockers to hushed and paced weepers with so little effort. It works though.
  • Never really understood why Ry’ was so down on this album. In my book, it’s one of his best, and it features some truly great tunes. It sounds natural, effortless, completely unforced and enjoyable. I think it’s something about his label forcing a new release culled from disparate recording sessions or something like that. In my opinion, they did him a favor here, because this contains some of his best early work.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Gold by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Gold
Lost Highway; 2001

My Rating: C (47/100)

Best Tracks: "New York", "Firecracker", "La Cienega Just Smiled", "When the Stars Go Blue", "Wildflowers"

Pyrite.

NOTES

  • "New York, New York" is a big ol’ airwaves play. It’s a catchy tune.
  • "Firecracker" = decent alt-country. "Firecracker" = formulaic alt-country as well.
  • Unapologetically steals the descending chord progression from "The Weight." ("Answering Bell")
  • "La Cienega Just Smiled" is one of the prettiest tunes Adams has written. It’s also a frustrating recording, because his vocals sound so muffled.
  • "The Rescue Blues" sounds like a watered down Counting Crows outtake.
  • Adams’ version of "When the Stars Go Blue" is not my favorite (see The Corrs), but hey, it’s his tune, and he does a pretty good job.
  • "Nobody Girl" is some serious filler. A total throwaway.
  • As much as the first six or seven songs sound a little too radio-friendly, the slow and brooding stuff in the middle is just really bad. ("Sylvia Plath")
  • I like the power-pop harmonies on "Enemy Fire." Otherwise though, it’s sort of a boring tune.
  • "Gonna Make You Love Me" has a glimmer of life to it.
  • OK, "Wildflowers" does a little something for the album’s latter half. Not an amazing tune, but a worthy one.
  • And it just goes through the record’s last few songs. An incredible amount of filler here.  I imagine there are a handful of great songs here that could have combined with songs from Adams’ other pre-Love Is Hell stuff to make a really good album.
  • At times, this record is frustratingly generic. I blame it on Ethan Johns’ production, which makes the rough places far too plain.
  • According to the Wikipedia page, Adams wanted to "create a modern classic." That sounds like something Billy Corgan would say.
  • The AMG review yields some needed perspective: Half the fun of the album is playing "Spot the Influence": "Answering Bell" is a dead ringer for Van Morrison (with fellow Morrison enthusiast Adam Duritz on backing vocals), "Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues" is obviously modeled on the Rolling Stones, "Harder Now That It’s Over" sounds like Harvest-period Neil Young, "New York, New York" resembles Stephen Stills in his livelier moments (Stephen’s son, Chris Stills, plays on the album), and "Rescue Blues" and "La Cienega Just Smiled" suggest the influence of Adams’ pal Elton John. OK, fair enough, but that still doesn’t rescue ~60% of the songs from being sub-par and formulaic.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (2.5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consistency (2/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (3.5/5)

Tracks of the Decade: “To Be Young” by Ryan Adams

ryanadams2“To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)”
by Ryan Adams
from HEARTBREAKER (2000)

Nobody was as omnipresent as Ryan Adams this decade. Recording ten full-length LP’s, releasing numerous other tracks on EP’s and compilations, and appearing in association with artists from Counting Crows to Elton John, Adams began the decade with his own FREEWHEELIN’ and ended it roughly around his own NEW MORNING. I won’t go so far as to say that he peaked extremely early, but I will say that I don’t think he ever topped the remarkable beauty of the lead-off track from his debut, HEARTBREAKER. I remember thinking “To Be Young” made a huge case for Adams as Dylan’s second coming, managing to channel Robertson’s lead riffs over the devil-may-care shuffling rhythms of BLONDE ON BLONDE. While the lyrics are nothing special, Adams scores big by letting the simple language of lovelorn youth do the talking. “When you’re young/You get sad/Then you get high…” Adams sings, riding the lyrics on the lush melody like an old surf legend. Incredulity ensues on the bridge – “Oh the days the rain would fall your way” – as Adams ushers the song to new heights and seems right on the edge of emotional flame out. Simply brilliant, all around. While Adams unleashed a lot of great material on the public this decade, “To Be Young” set expectations so high that I don’t think he could’ve ever topped it. Who cares about the whole Dylan-thing anyway? Adams gave us a song for the ages here.