1 of 1 thought this review was well written
I won't go into too much detail into Ryan Adam's career, as the bio on here does that very well. He was the illustrious genius behind the band "Whiskeytown", and after the demise of that he has gone onto a fairly successful solo career. Now what really sets him apart from a lot of artists out there is his element of surprise, and his way of constantly changing the genre of music on each and every album.
Of course, with all that experimenting comes drawbacks. His alt-country (and sraight up country) releases have been very solid and easy to listen to. Then there were albums like "Love is Hell" which had me thinking Bryan Adams, not so much Ryan Adams (not that I am complaining)...and the Wonderwall cover was remarkable, and let's not forget however there was "Rock n' Roll" , which really showed that perhaps he should stick to what he is good at, and that is very simply either country or writing sad, beautiful tunes that match his voice perfectly.
I am no fan of country whatsoever...but his form has made it acceptable to me.
In 2005, Adams accomplished the rare feat of releasing 3 albums in the span of the year. I personally was quite excited for this seeing as I am rather impatient and cannot stand waiting a few years for an album of my favorite artists to come out. Excited, yet skeptical I was, because with that much material being released in the span of a year it becomes a bit of a quality over quantity issue. With so much being spewed out, was enough time and care actually put into each individual record? Well...for the most part the answer to that is yes. "Cold Roses" was a great record, though the length bogged it down and made it hard to listen to in it's entirety. Returning to his roots though was a smart idea, and it continued with the second release of 2005 named "Jacksonville City Nights". Once again, it wasn't dissappointing, though it wasn't exactly amazing either. But again, it's the only form of country music I can truly stand.
Now that leaves the last album of 2005, named "29". His approach on this one was interesting...29 standing for each year of his 20s, and each track representing a different year of his 20s. It's a great concept, and I was looking forward to a very deep, heartfelt album that would dwell on both the good and bad times of this near-decade of life. It was the first of the three 2005 albums to be recorded, but released last...and I think it was a very appropriate gesture.
How were the 20's for Mister Adams? Well, judging by the dark tone of this album, it must not have been too happy. Even the dark album cover gives the listener the hint that this musical journey might not be quite as upbeat as the previous two albums of the year. A swirling color collage of dark blues and greens and black...and a nice little picture of the grim reaper himself with a hoarde of dark figures behind him. A creepy set up for what is to come.
Well to start off, the album really doesn't sound that dark at all. He Terrantino's it up here, starting with the track based on his final year of the 29s...the title track. A Grateful Dead esque rock song, and not a bad song at all. But my how it is misleading...misleading indeed.
The next track, titled "Strawberry Wine" is a lot more soothing and calm, but does not yet quite hit that somber tone. It's a more folk-based song, using primarily the same few chords the entire length of the song (and it is quite the lengthy song) and weaving a story throughout. Very nice work.
However, the strength of this album lies in the majority of what's to come. The mood shifts drastically into depression, and the album suddenly goes from relatively easy going to downright dark and depressing. Suddenly, I felt the temperature around me drop, as I thought death itself was in the room with me... the music is spine-tingling...and cold. "Night Birds" begins this transformation. Primarily a piano ballad, with the introduction of some spaced out reverb later on. A great lead up to what I believe is the best song on the album..."Blue Sky Blues". Once again, another piano ballad...with just the lovely notes and Ryan's soft spoken voice fitting into the music perfectly. A very slow-tempo track, and can't be summed up any better than with the words "absolutely gorgeous"...especially as the strings introduce themselves and his voice soars over it all in the dramatic chorus..in which he croans the words:
"I can't fight your blues
cause I know I'll lose what's left of my mind
I can't win, but for you I will try
My baby blue."
It's one of those songs that truly gives you goosebumps when you are in the right mood for it. And the string-piano outro is one to remember.
It might seem difficult to catch your breath, and break back into reality after the mellow tunes that put the listener into an alternative reality, but Ryan Adams breaks away from that with a drastic change in pace. "Carolina Rain" sounds like something that should've been on his country albums. It's out of place, but is still a great track, and had it been on Cold Roses or Jacksonville City Nights, would have been a standout track. However, as it is...it's out of place.
After that, it's right back into the piano balladry with "Starlite Diner", a song with obvious references to death. Death is a common theme throughout the album in fact, but especially on this song. Once again, just his voice and some piano. Still as beautifully done as it was on both "Night Birds" and "Blue Sky Blues".
The downtime comes to a close with the song "The Sadness"...a song that sounds very..well...Spanish. Spanish sounding guitars, and a song that may actually make you want to get up and dance. He sure does try to experiment a lot, and the end result here is probably the weakest track on the album, while not entirely bad.
And back into the darkness we go...":Elizabeth, You Were Born to play that part", another piano ballad starting with the heartfelt lyrics:
I'd do anything
Tear myself in two
just to hear you breathe"
Another one of those raw songs that will just make time stop when it comes on..and another amazing atmospheric chorus rising with Adams singing with the sound of sadness deeply imbedded into the tone singing:
"Wherever you are I hope you're happy now
I'm caught in a dream and I can't get out
I'm caught in a dream, I'm caught in an endless dream
Wherever you are, I hope you're happy now
Caught in a dream, caught in an endless dream
and I'm not strong enough to let you go
and I've tried everything, but that Elizabeth"
This then leads into a beautiful outro of acoustic guitar and a nice lead guitar added in with a dramatic and sad effect...and the piano kicks in well. This goes on for a few minutes instrumentally until the track ends. It's so emotional, and you can feel the longing in his voice.
And thus, there is "Voices"...just Adams and his guitar this time around. A very dark song referencing to the biblical figure Elijah, the one who can bring people back to life... It's a great track, and a great closer, referencing to death once more. With this, it's obvious he was going through a hard time in his life.
After hearing this album, it shows a side of Adams I didn't know existed..well at least not to this extent. It's Damien Rice, only more depressing. It really makes me think his 20s were a very dark time for him, and he pours his every emotion into this album. There is no question this album will be overlooked, and possibly forgotten amongst his fabulous back catalog. But to me, this is his best work, this is his defining moment. This is the album that might seem as a cry for help, but he uses his emotion to write the most fitting songs for the mood and bring the listener to the brink of tears. It takes away any sense of reality I may have when I listen to it on a long nighttime drive. Ryan Adam's has delivered, now if only those few outcast tracks in there didn;t interfere, I would have to consider this a masterpiece. I just hope that it's not too sad for everyone.