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Three new Ryan Adams albums... again.


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This can't be for real.

Can it?

According to this post and Rolling Stone's daily blog, Ryan Adams plans to release three new albums in 2006-- including one double album.

Oh no. Ryan Adams released one really great album in 2005. Unfortunately, the music was spread out over three CDs. Somebody needs to convince this guy that more is not always better. Something tells me that the problem isn't going to be solved by 4 CDs in 2006.

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This is hardly interesting I guess, but I really can't stand Ryan Adams. And I'd started in time with the man, when he was decent, and I thought he was promising, with his first album. Actually upon several listens I thought the guy could do better already. Then came Gold and I just couldn't stand it. Unless I don't get it (which is still possible). It just sounds all cliches to me. Like an alt.country Lenny Kravitz or something.

Now, since my negative view doesn't bring anything on the map, if anyone can enlighten me about Ryan Adams qualities or greatness or undeniable talent, I keep my mind wide opened.

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This is hardly interesting I guess, but I really can't stand Ryan Adams. And I'd started in time with the man, when he was decent, and I thought he was promising, with his first album. Actually upon several listens I thought the guy could do better already. Then came Gold and I just couldn't stand it. Unless I don't get it (which is still possible). It just sounds all cliches to me. Like an alt.country Lenny Kravitz or something.

Now, since my negative view doesn't bring anything on the map, if anyone can enlighten me about Ryan Adams qualities or greatness or undeniable talent, I keep my mind wide opened.

Well, I have a slightly higher view of Ryan, but I do sympathize with what you're saying. If I can push aside the fact that he's an annoying, arrogant jerk, I think he occasionally writes very good songs. His three 2005 albums marked a comeback of sorts, at least for me, and convinced me that he shouldn't be written off entirely. But even there, there was so much filler, so many half-assed attempts where it seemed like he wasn't even trying, that I found myself more annoyed than enlightened or entertained.

But I keep coming back, mainly because I really, really like those early Whiskeytown albums. Faithless Street, Stranger's Almanac, and Pneumonia are all terrific albums -- little filler, and great, raw singing and songwriting. I will confess that none of his solo albums have really done all that much for me. Heartbreaker had some wonderfully morose ballads, and some self-indulgent whining. Gold was clearly his attempt to hit the mainstream. There were some good songs, especially stacked toward the beginning of the CD, and a lot of mediocre songs. And everything else has left me cold.

I keep hoping. But plans for three new releases (and four CDs) in 2006 don't inspire much confidence that Ryan will return to the early form that made him so memorable.

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If I have the time, I think that for each of Adams' new albums, instead of writing one carefully crafted review, I'll write three mediocre reviews. That's nine shoddy reviews coming up!

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Alright Andy, thanks for the answer, so I should try the Whiskeytown stuff sometime (haven't heard any).

Absolutely try out Whiskeytown. Pneumonia is *such* a good record. "Jacksonville Skyline" alone is worth the price of admission.

bvl

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I'm begining to think Ryan Adams and Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Co./Songs: Ohia/Jason Molina) have some sort of bet about who can release more music in any given year.

"It is scandalous for Christians to have an imagination starved for God." - Mark Filiatreau

I write occasionally at Unfamiliar Stars.

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Geez-- Andy couldn't've put it any better. I thought you could've pulled one great album out of Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights, since both had very high points and lots of so-so territory. How do guys like this keep writing? At least Frank Black mines obscure California history and Bob Pollards downs more Pabst when they hit a brick wall.

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I actually like the turn Adams has taken in the last year or two -- since Love is Hell, which I like quite a lot. After jumping quickly between styles for a couple years, he's settled into dirty-rocker, jamming mode, thanks largely to the Cardinals and to his strange obsession with recreating, exactly, Jerry Garcia's guitar tone from Live/Dead. My opinion of him will likely change (for good or bad, I'm not sure) when I see him next week. I'm really looking forward to the show.

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In my opinion, the three very different stylistic goals behind each of the 2005 albums makes it impossible to mash them into one single piece, despite the, ahem, helpful advice of some listeners.

As a Ryan Adams fan, I've simply come to terms with the fact that the man is prolific. As a poster on that linked website observes, the man tends to share his imperfections as an artist rather than knocking out over-polished albums like, say, U2. "Cold Roses" is spontaneous and partially developed; "29" is obsessively coherent as an album. "Jacksonville City Nights" pretty much just rocks. It's his right as an artist to throw tunes out there haphazardly. Considering the many gems to be found among his later discography and the overall consistency he displays with each album (not to mention the drastic individuality each album possesses), I shall continue to listen.

And honestly, I hate to bring my bitterness onto this board, as I'm sure most of you people don't deserve it. But there are gajillions of kneejerk reactions on the Internet, all of them stating "QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY". Most of them haven't listened to anything past "Heartbreaker". I understand the urge to apply the same rules of creation to every artist, but please, let the man do his own thang. And then take a few spins to discover just how much storytelling complexity and unity there is in a piece like "29". And then don't try to slap songs from "Cold Roses" onto it.

:(

Edited by Sundered

I reason, Earth is short -

And Anguish - absolute -

And many hurt,

But, what of that?

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In my opinion, the three very different stylistic goals behind each of the 2005 albums makes it impossible to mash them into one single piece, despite the, ahem, helpful advice of some listeners.

As a Ryan Adams fan, I've simply come to terms with the fact that the man is prolific. As a poster on that linked website observes, the man tends to share his imperfections as an artist rather than knocking out over-polished albums like, say, U2. "Cold Roses" is spontaneous and partially developed; "29" is obsessively coherent as an album. "Jacksonville City Nights" pretty much just rocks. It's his right as an artist to throw tunes out there haphazardly. Considering the many gems to be found among his later discography and the overall consistency he displays with each album (not to mention the drastic individuality each album possesses), I shall continue to listen.

And honestly, I hate to bring my bitterness onto this board, as I'm sure most of you people don't deserve it. But there are gajillions of kneejerk reactions on the Internet, all of them stating "QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY". Most of them haven't listened to anything past "Heartbreaker". I understand the urge to apply the same rules of creation to every artist, but please, let the man do his own thang. And then take a few spins to discover just how much storytelling complexity and unity there is in a piece like "29". And then don't try to slap songs from "Cold Roses" onto it.

Of course, you're allowed to like Ryan Adams. But some of us have a different take on his prolific songwriting. Some of us see that as the inability to edit and engage in the critical appraisal of one's own work. And some of us have a different take on his imperfections as an artist, and just see them as, well, imperfections. Nobody's looking for a polished album along the lines of U2. But coherent writing would be a plus. So would some engaging melodies. Some of the stuff on Heartbreaker and 29, in particular, is deadly soporific.

It really is okay to release an album that mixes styles. Ryan Adams himself did it on Gold. So I don't buy the notion that "three very different stylistic goals behind each of the 2005 albums makes it impossible to mash them into one single piece." Go ahead and mash it up, Ryan. Just mash it up on 12 good songs instead of 12 good songs and 25 mediocre/underwritten/muddled ones.

And I don't really buy the "rules don't apply to Ryan" argument either. It reminds me of my days as an English teacher when students would tell me that their mangled syntax and impenetrable prose was "their style" and that therefore it was above criticism. Ryan Adams doesn't exist in some exalted part of the musical universe, immune from the issues that apply to every other songwriter and musician. I've heard every album the man has made, and I wish he'd made a few less. His whole approach screams self-indulgent to me. He seems incapable of telling good songs from bad songs; consistency is the last word I would apply to his work. He seems to think that we need to be blessed with several dozen new songs every year. And he seems to mistake whining and self-pity for revelatory songwriting.

I also think he's talented, and that's why he's so frustrating. I agree with you; there are a number of gems in his later discography. But they tend to be overshadowed by the mediocre/underwritten/muddled mess. I'm not looking for more polish. I'm looking for more care. Sometimes I wish he gave a damn instead of assuming that his every musical belch and fart was worthy of posterity.

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Of course, you're allowed to like Ryan Adams. But some of us have a different take on his prolific songwriting. Some of us see that as the inability to edit and engage in the critical appraisal of one's own work. And some of us have a different take on his imperfections as an artist, and just see them as, well, imperfections. Nobody's looking for a polished album along the lines of U2. But coherent writing would be a plus. So would some engaging melodies. Some of the stuff on Heartbreaker and 29, in particular, is deadly soporific.

It really is okay to release an album that mixes styles. Ryan Adams himself did it on Gold. So I don't buy the notion that "three very different stylistic goals behind each of the 2005 albums makes it impossible to mash them into one single piece." Go ahead and mash it up, Ryan. Just mash it up on 12 good songs instead of 12 good songs and 25 mediocre/underwritten/muddled ones.

And I don't really buy the "rules don't apply to Ryan" argument either. It reminds me of my days as an English teacher when students would tell me that their mangled syntax and impenetrable prose was "their style" and that therefore it was above criticism. Ryan Adams doesn't exist in some exalted part of the musical universe, immune from the issues that apply to every other songwriter and musician. I've heard every album the man has made, and I wish he'd made a few less. His whole approach screams self-indulgent to me. He seems incapable of telling good songs from bad songs; consistency is the last word I would apply to his work. He seems to think that we need to be blessed with several dozen new songs every year. And he seems to mistake whining and self-pity for revelatory songwriting.

I also think he's talented, and that's why he's so frustrating. I agree with you; there are a number of gems in his later discography. But they tend to be overshadowed by the mediocre/underwritten/muddled mess. I'm not looking for more polish. I'm looking for more care. Sometimes I wish he gave a damn instead of assuming that his every musical belch and fart was worthy of posterity.

For the record, I wasn't referring to musical styles, as "29" has the musically incongruous "The Sadness". I was talking about the attitude of each album: the religious portent/grandiosity of "29" as compared to the lackadaisical 'been poor all my life' "Jacksonville City Nights". (Can you tell I'm not a music critic?)

We seem to be coming from two different perspectives in other respects. Although I don't think all of the albums are fully developed, I find about 80% of Adams' music enjoyable and worthwhile. I'm therefore more ready to take each album on its own terms, with separate lyrical and atmospheric goals. If a good portion of the music strikes you as musical farts, then obviously you will be less likely to indulge the artist.

Not sure about the whole "exalted musical universe" dealio. I don't think he's ignoring the rules, because I'm pleased with the majority of his output. However, I expect a different range of outputs from him. I'm going to switch to a filmmaking analogy, because I'm far more versed in that medium. Rather than expecting a labour of love each time, along the lines of Wong Kar-Wai, I'm willing to put up with some Richard Linklater-style mediocrity. I respect the man; I know he's intelligent and interesting. So I don't sweat it when Bad News Bears gets released.

Some of your other complaints seem to switch into other issues aside from the prolific concerns, which can be explained by our differing reactions to his body of work thus far. I wouldn't describe his lyrics as "whining self-pity". I enjoy his crooning ballads, but I also like his self-mockery. "Starlite Diner" is a mopey song about a kid who's stood up...by fifteen minutes. "The Sadness" treats depression as a bull to be wrangled and massacred. Sure, I listen to him when I want to walk through the city feeling melodramatic. But I also find plenty of irony in the songs should I want to step out of my sad little box.

I reason, Earth is short -

And Anguish - absolute -

And many hurt,

But, what of that?

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I never know what to make of Ryan Adams. I'm always glad of the special moments he comes out with, and I wonder whether for some reason the way he functions best as a songwriter is to work fast and not look back much. Songwriters work in very different ways; I'm not sure you can apply the same rules to all of them. It may well be that Ryan Adams just feels that he can't really work with the current set of expectations for a singer-songwriter in the music business, which tends to expect a very consistent album every two years or so. So far as I can tell from looking back, forty years ago the expectation would have been for a much higher work rate; albums at least every year. For people who obsess over little details this obviously works quite well, but I imagine that for others it can be stifling. I wonder whether Dylan would have been so ludicrously productive in 64/5/6 if he'd have had the pressure to cull songs such as 'Motorpyscho Nightmare', 'Outlaw Blues' or 'Temporary Like Achilles' (which are great if you love the man as I do, but they're hardly classics). The fact is that he was on a roll and was able to go with it, and I wonder whether Adams feels the same need for continual movement.

The main difference is that Mr Adams has about 1/8 of Mr Dylan's talent. But although I think he comes out with some drivel, I respect him for continuing to work in the style that he feels most comfortable with, despite the risk of critical mauling it carries. Unless, of course, he's just trying to milk as much from record sales as he can...

Edited by stu
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So, last night Ryan played close to an hour's worth of new material-- at least I ASSUME it was new material, as I didn't recognize any of it, save for one Gram Parsons cover. The first bit of the show was dominated by Jacksonville City Nights, with a few songs from Cold Roses and Heartbreaker thrown in, and, stylistically, the new stuff didn't sound any different from the older stuff.

But it sounds like we may never get to hear it, as Adams said that all three of his new albums have been rejected by the label.

Also, it was the worst concert ever.

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

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I don't know. I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the Over the Rhine show we both attended last year. At least it was less predictable. ;)

So, after a nice opening set by Cardinals guitarist Neal Casal, Adams waited nearly 45 minutes before taking the stage. This created a bit of hostility in the crowd (as a rule, Knoxville audiences suck -- just ask Ira Kaplan, who told us at the last Yo La Tengo show that he'd never come back) and, because of a curfew, it also meant that he had to cut his show short. His recent concerts have included two sets and been in the 2+ hour range. We got half a show.

It was especially frustrating because when he and the Cardinals really got going, it was pretty great. With "What Sin" I thought the show had turned a corner. Adams pulled out some of the most beautiful guitar tones I'd ever heard on that song -- loud, clean, crunches of guitar. But he went straight from there to two more covers, then he looked at his watch and walked off stage.

Here's the set list:

Trains

Please Do Not Let Me Go

The End

A Kiss Before I Go

Blue Hotel

Silver Bullets

Let It Ride

Shakedown on 9th Street >

Franklin's Tower (The Grateful Dead)

Don't Get Sentimental On Me

"Promises"

Lost Satelite (Neal Casal)

Games

Peaceful Valley >

What Sin

A Song For You (Gram Parsons - Neal Singing)

He's Gone (The Grateful Dead)

Edited by Darren H
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Ha. He was just using the old "Sorry, folks. You've got one of those antediluvian blue laws, so I can't play any more" runaround.

I saw The Fiery Furnaces in a small art gallery, and after they abruptly cut their show short Eleanor, the lead singer, found an acquaintance in the audience who was standing right in front of me and told her we were the worst audience they'd ever played before. I felt indicted.

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I was wondering about the curfew comments too, Darren. I've never heard of such an ordinance in Knoxville, and I've been to many concerts in town that did indeed last far longer than that one did-- not just at Blue Cat's, but even at the Tennessee Theater.

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

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