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Rock - Released September 25, 2001 | Lost Highway Records

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One would think that being Ryan Adams would be a pretty good deal at the time of this album's release; he had a major-label deal, critics were in love with him, he got to date Winona Ryder and Alanis Morissette, Elton John went around telling everyone he was a genius, and his record company gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. But to listen to Gold, Adams' first solo album for his big-league sponsors at Lost Highway, one senses that there are about a dozen other musicians Adams would love to be, and nearly all of them were at their peak in the early to mid-'70s. Adams' final album with Whiskeytown, Pneumonia, made it clear that he was moving beyond the scruffy alt-country of his early work, and Gold documents his current fascination with '70s rock. 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. Of course, everyone has their influences, and Adams seems determined to make the most of them on Gold; it's a far more ambitious album than his solo debut, Heartbreaker. The performances are polished, Ethan Johns' production is at once elegant and admirably restrained, Adams is in strong voice throughout, and several of the songs are superb, especially the swaggering but lovelorn "New York, New York," the spare and lovely "When the Stars Go Blue," and the moody closer, "Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd." But while Gold sounds like a major step forward for Adams in terms of technique, it lacks the heart and soul of Heartbreaker or Pneumonia; the album seems to reflect craft rather than passion, and while it's often splendid craft, the fire that made Whiskeytown's best work so special isn't evident much of the time. Gold sounds like an album that could win Ryan Adams a lot of new fans (especially with listeners whose record collections go back a ways), but longtime fans may be a bit put off by the album's richly crafted surfaces and emotionally hollow core. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 11, 2021 | PaxAm Recording Company

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This is the second album in a trilogy that the singer started with Wednesdays in 2020. Big Colors is the 18th album from Adams, and as he puts it, it is meant to sound like the soundtrack to an imaginary 1980s film, a kind of road movie set between New York and California. After a few run-ins with the law (which upset the release schedule for this trilogy), the Jacksonville native decided to bring a little colour back into his life with this album. But the tones he has chosen are less vivid and more pastel, as evidenced by the layers of dreamlike synths and delicate guitars that infuse these 12 songs. The Smiths' melancholy influence on Ryan Adams - especially the guitarist Johnny Marr – can be heard on tracks like the single Fuck the Rain or the introspective What I Am. Alongside these sombre ballads, other songs display Ryan Adams's rock vigour (Power). Unlike many of his colleagues, the singer did not opt for a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the 1980s. Instead, he brings unfailing sincerity to this homage to a decade he associates with "watercolor painting of neon blue smoke rising up off summer streets in the night". © Nicolas Magenham / Qobuz
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Rock - Released December 11, 2020 | PaxAm Recording Company

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In January 2019, Ryan Adams announced the imminent release of three new albums and even gave away the title of the first two: Big Colors and Wednesdays. The following month, caught in the turmoil of accusations by several women (including Phoebe Bridgers) of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment, he changed his plans, preferring to wait for the media storm to pass. Finally, a few days before Christmas 2020, Adams released Wednesdays... after surprising everyone in 2015 by revisiting Taylor Swift's 1989, the ex-Whiskeytowner would address, two years later, his divorce from Mandy Moore in the touching Prisoner. He has always excelled here: pure and hard introspection with doubts, sorrows, joys and the full range of existential hardware. If Prisoner navigates the waters of a classicism inherited from Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, Wednesdays looks instead towards Neil Young. The beautiful and austere cover of a magnificent painting of La gare du Nord in 1908 by the Dutch impressionist painter Siebe Johannes ten Cate introduces the grey, tormented tone of the record. The explicit opening shot, I'm Sorry and I Love You – very Young-esque in its form – confirms the songwriter's emotional fragility. Obviously, Ryan Adams is following what he hopes is a path to redemption. That's an impression which is only heightened by a few whiffs of gospel intruding here and there in this very refined country-folk world of beautiful workmanship. So much so that, we can say that some of the songs on Wednesdays are among his most inspired and, simply, his most beautiful... © Marc Zisman / Qobuz
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Rock - Released May 4, 2004 | Lost Highway Records

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Like any Ryan Adams album, Love Is Hell comes with a back-story, one that is carefully calculated to construct the enfant terrible's self-myth. Love Is Hell was intended to be the official follow-up to 2001's Gold -- the album that was not a collection of demos (that was 2002's Demolition), or the recorded-but-shelved albums 48 Hours or The Suicide Handbook, or even his alleged song-by-song cover of the Strokes' Is This It. Longtime Smiths fan that he is, Adams teamed up with John Porter -- the man who produced The Smiths, Meat Is Murder, and part of The Queen Is Dead -- with the intention of creating his own mope-rock album, hence the title Love Is Hell. Americana label that it is, Lost Highway balked at releasing a stylized tribute to Mancunian rainy-day bedsit music and didn't release it, encouraging Adams to record a different album, presumably one more in line with the label's taste. In the press and on the web, our hero spread stories about how the label claimed it was "too depressing" and "dark," thereby cultivating the myth that he's a maverick genius, while the label cheerfully countered with the defense that it just knew that our boy could do better. Eventually, a compromise was arranged: Adams kicked out a new album, the self-descriptive Rock N Roll, while releasing the equally self-descriptive Love Is Hell as two EPs, the first hitting the streets the same day as the "official" album, the second arriving a month later. Five months after that, the full-length Love Is Hell, containing both EPs plus "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home" from Rock N Roll, was released, negating the worth of the individual EPs (which were, after all, merely two halves of one album) and likely irritating legions of fans who bought both EPs. While it took longer than necessary to have the whole bloody affair of Love Is Hell released as its own entity, it's hard not to view it as a companion piece to Rock N Roll, particularly because they're two sides of the same coin. In effect, both Rock N Roll and Love Is Hell are tribute albums, each a conscious aping of a style and sound, both designed to showcase how versatile and masterful Adams is. But since he's a synthesist more than a stylist, Adams, for all his bluster, winds up as a Zelig-styled character, taking on the characteristics of the artists he's emulating -- something that can be sonically pleasurable, but far from being the substantive work of mad genius that he relentlessly sells himself as. If Love Is Hell has the edge over Rock N Roll, it's because it's more carefully considered in its production and writing, and he manages to hide his allusions better than he does on Rock, where every title and chord progression plays like an homage. Here, he shoots for the Smiths and winds up in Jeff Buckley territory tempered with a dash of Radiohead circa The Bends. To claim that it is a dark affair is to criticize its milieu more than its substance, because the songs have the form and feel of brooding, atmospheric mope-rock, not the blood and guts of the music. Adams is fairly adept at crafting that mood -- anybody who's such a fan of rock history should be -- sometimes relying more on a blend of attitude and atmosphere instead of songwriting. Such is the fate of a stylized tribute to a style with specific sonic attributes, but Adams also does come up with a clutch of effective songs: the epic sprawl of "Political Scientist," which captures him at his best Buckley; the title track, which is nearly anthemic with its ringing guitars; the understated "World War 24"; the gently propulsive "This House Is Not for Sale," which would fit nicely between a Julian Cope and Morrissey track on a college radio show from the late '80s. "English Girls Approximately" is an effective Bob Dylan and Paul Westerberg fusion, and the closer, "Hotel Chelsea Nights," is one of his best songs, a mildly anthemic soulful anthem with vague overtones of "Purple Rain." Nevertheless, it's telling that the best song here is a cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall." It's a well-done cover but not much of a reinvention -- Adams uses Noel Gallagher's solo acoustic version of the song as a template, replacing strumming with fingerpicked guitars and altering the phrasing slightly -- which is why the song itself shines through so strongly: it resonates how the other songs are intended to, but don't. While it doesn't fatally hurt Love Is Hell, since it is an effective mood piece, it does undercut it, revealing how Adams delivers the sizzle but not the steak. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 17, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Picking up the thread left hanging from 2014's eponymous album -- in retrospect, his 2015 cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 seems even more of a detour -- Ryan Adams winds up diving ever deeper into early-'80s sounds and sensibilities on Prisoner. Such supple sounds are carefully constructed with producer Don Was, a professional who helps Adams articulate the AOR ideals he initially essayed in 2014. Prisoner sounds warm, open, and inviting, its welcoming vibes contradicting how it's an album born out of pain, a record written in the aftermath of Adams' divorce from Mandy Moore. Sadness haunts the corners of Prisoner -- it's there in the very song titles, beginning with the opener "Do You Still Love Me" and running through its aching closer, "We Disappear" -- but it's not a sorrowful record, not with its smooth edges and warm center. All of this is an outgrowth of the aesthetic Adams pioneered in 2014, one that he lent to Jenny Lewis' The Voyager, and the reconstituted soft rock suits him well: it’s a salute to the past and Adams always respected tradition. If the songs on Prisoner follow a conventional path of heartbreak -- a man sorting through the remnants of a broken romance -- the sound helps give the album an identity. Adams largely relies on cinematic classic rock tricks, a move underscored by how "Outbound Train" seems like an answer to Bruce Springsteen's "Downbound Train" -- toward the end of the record he starts to thread in a few spare acoustic confessionals, songs that play like subdued nods to his Americana past -- and that's the charm of Prisoner: it's not a record that wallows in hurt, it's an album that functions as balm for bad times. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 21, 2015 | Columbia

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Sometime in August 2015, Ryan Adams let everybody in on a secret: he'd decided to cover Taylor Swift's 1989 in total. This was not the first album-length cover of Adams' career (he never released his version of the Strokes' Is This It), nor was this his first attempt at 1989. He initially attempted a stark, four-track rendition of the record -- naturally dubbed his Nebraska -- but he wound up settling on "in the style of 'As played by the Smiths'," which was an elegant way of saying Adams' 1989 could easily slide onto a PostModern MTV playlist from 1989-1990 and not ruffle many feathers. Such shimmering sadness is Adams' default mope mode, neatly showcased on Love Is Hell (co-produced by John Porter, who helmed the first Smiths records), and this is certainly a cousin. Sharp guy that he is, Adams realizes the bulk of the record can't all be brokenhearted strums, so not all of 1989 glimmers in a flat black pool. "All You Had to Do Was Stay" surges to a Modern Rock pulse, but he cheekily inverts the exuberance of "Shake It Off," strips the T'Pau and Chvrches out of "Out of the Woods," and softens the steely "Blank Space," thereby turning the first three singles into laments. Nevertheless, there's no disguising how Ryan Adams flips Taylor Swift's 1989 upside-down, turning a moment of triumph into bedsit introspection, a concept that is undoubtedly theoretically interesting, but the record works because Adams doesn't play this as a stunt. He's as canny a producer as he is a conceptualist, coaxing forgotten college rock sounds out of his Pax-Am Studios and treating Swift's originals as text to be interpreted, a move that neither saves nor strengthens the originals but rather highlights the skill of Taylor the songwriter and Adams the musician. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 10, 2011 | Columbia

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Rock - Released June 25, 2007 | Lost Highway Records

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Easy Tiger has a "slow it down there, pal" undertone to its title -- and who needs a word of caution other than Ryan Adams himself, who notoriously spread himself far and wide in the years following his 2000 breakthrough Heartbreaker. After celebrating his 30th birthday with a flurry of albums in one year, Adams decided to pull back, hunker down, and craft one solid album that deliberately plays to his strength. As such, Easy Tiger could easily be seen as the album that many of his fans have wanted to hear since Heartbreaker, a record that is tight and grounded in country-rock. Easy Tiger is focused, but so have been some of the other thematic albums Adams has delivered with such gusto -- when he tried to run with the Strokes on Rock N Roll, mimicked the Smiths and Jeff Buckley on Love Is Hell, even turned out a full-on country album in Jacksonville City Nights, complete with knowing retro cover art, he stayed true to his concept -- but the cumulative effect of the records was to make him seem scattered, even if the records could work on their own merits. With each album since the wannabe blockbuster of 2001's Gold, his restlessness has seemed not diverse but reckless, so even his good albums seemed to contribute to the mess. Easy Tiger intends to break this perception by being concise, right down to how every one but one of these tight 13 songs clock in somewhere between the two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half minute mark. For somebody as doggedly conceptual as Adams, this is surely a deliberate move, one designed to shore up support among supporters (no matter if they're fans or critics), which Easy Tiger very well might. Surely, it is a welcoming album in many ways, partially due to the relaxed Deadhead vibe Adams strikes up with his band the Cardinals, reminiscent of 2005's fine Cold Roses. But if that CD sprawled, this one is succinct, as Adams flits through country-rockers and weepers -- plus the occasional rock detour, like anthemic '80s arena rocker "Halloween Head" or the spacy "The Sun Also Sets," a dead ringer for Grant Lee Phillips -- containing not an ounce of fat. Adams benefits from the brevity, most notably on the sweetly melancholy "Everybody Knows," the straight-up country of "Tears of Gold," or on "Two," which mines new material out of the timeworn "two become one" conceit. Here, his songs don't stick around longer than necessary, so they linger longer in memory, but the relentless onward march of Easy Tiger also gives the performances an efficiency bordering on disinterest, which is its Achilles' heel. As fine as some of the songs are, as welcoming as the overall feel of the record is, it seems a bit like Adams is giving his fans (and label) "Ryan Adams by numbers," hitting all the marks but without passion. This is when his craft learned from incessant writing kicks in -- he can fashion these tunes into something sturdy and appealing -- but it also highlights how he can turn out a tune as lazily as he relies on casual profanity to his detriment. Ultimately, these flaws are minor, since Easy Tiger delivers what it promises: the most Ryan Adamsy Ryan Adams record since his first. For some fans, it's exactly what they've been waiting for, for others it'll be entirely too tidy, but don't worry -- if Adams has proven to be anything it's reliably messy, and he's sure to get ragged again somewhere down the road (and based on his past record, safe money is on October 2007). © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 9, 2014 | Columbia

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Even the most prolific artists need a break and so it was with Ryan Adams. After a great burst of creativity that resulted in four albums' worth of material in two years -- Orion plus the double-LP III/IV in 2010, followed by Ashes & Fire in 2011 –- Adams took a three-year hiatus, dabbling in side projects and productions, breaking up his longtime backing band the Cardinals, and eventually re-emerging in 2014 with a self-titled album. The old canard says an eponymous album released well into a career suggests a rebirth, and that's somewhat true of Ryan Adams, which largely ditches the Dead obsessions, ragged country-rock, and occasional noise squall for precision-tuned audio straight out of 1981. He still finds space for the spare "My Wrecking Ball," an intimate piece of acoustica that recalls the spartan Heartbreaker, but not unlike Jenny Lewis' The Voyager, which Adams also produced, craft is the order of the day here, from the expertly carved bones of the songs to the fathomless shimmer of the album's surface. Unlike Love Is Hell, which wallowed in murk, or the self-styled dazzle of Gold, Ryan Adams is designed for comfort, placing as much import on the rolling aural waves as what lays within a song. This suppleness is quite alluring: Ryan Adams is a record that can slip into the background, providing the soundtrack to anything from heartbreak to a lazy Sunday morning. If Ryan Adams was merely sonic candy, it would've been enough, but this is also one of Adams' cannily constructed records, one that runs deliberately lean. Whenever the soft shimmer of his Yacht Rock resurrection yields, it's to draw attention to his vulnerability: "My Wrecking Ball" and the Springsteen rockabilly homage "I Just Might," the bittersweet twilight coda "Let Go," all seem stronger because they're departures from the purposeful polish. These songs puncture the gloss, so they make the greatest first impression, but that glimmer remains the reason to get lost within Ryan Adams: his blend of song and studio craft turns this eponymous album into the equivalent of a substantive, new millennial version of the Eagles' Long Run. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 28, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

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Rock - Released November 4, 2003 | Lost Highway Records

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Ryan Adams is the male Courtney Love -- a hard-working hustler with impeccable taste who talks such a good game that it deliberately overshadows his music. Of course, Adams differs from Courtney in many crucial ways. For one, he's a workaholic, recording and releasing more albums than he should, which also points out that, unlike Love, he doesn't need a collaborator to help shove his songs over the goal. But the crucial similarity is that they're both students of rock history, conscious of what accounts for good taste within rock crit land, from 1973 to 2003. They don't just know the canon -- they want to be part of the canon, to the extent that it seems that they want to be the artist that all rock history has inextricably pointed to (or to paraphrase the far more eloquent Morrissey, they want to be the end of the family line). Which is why it rankles Adams when he's pigeonholed as an alt-country singer/songwriter (he's right -- he hasn't been alt-country since he left Whiskeytown) when Jack White steals his spotlight by doing a related, but not similar, spin on roots rock: he's so clearly the Important Artist of the Decade that he needs to pull the spotlight back on himself whenever it's shining somewhere else. With Gold in the fall of 2001, the wind was at his back -- his enfant terrible schtick was still relatively fresh, "New York, New York" became a post-9/11 anthem, and the music was eclectic enough to break him out of the alt-country ghetto, even as it was rootsy enough to still play to that core audience. By 2003, things were getting a little dicey for Adams, partially because he wouldn't shut up -- either to the press or on his online blog; he said many things to both, the most noteworthy being a bizarre pseudo-feud with the White Stripes, where he yo-yoed between calling Jack White a genius and kid's stuff -- and partially because he had diarrhea of the recording studio, cutting more stuff than Lost Highway could possibly release, particularly because he was moving further away from the label's core alt-country audience. They released the demos collection Demolition in 2002 but balked at Love Is Hell, his mope-rock tribute recorded with Smiths producer John Porter, but after some discussion, it was decided that Love Is Hell would surface as a pair of EPs, while Lost Highway would get a big, shiny new rock & roll record. Wearing his intentions on his sleeve in a nearly cynical manner, Adams called the album Rock N Roll, though in a fit of rebellious piss and vinegar, the artwork has it displayed as a mirror image: Llor n Kcor, which isn't quite Efil4zaggin, but the spirit is nonetheless appreciated. The title is so simple it belies the fact that this is a bit of a concept album on Adams' part, a conscious attempt to better the Strokes and the White Stripes at their own game while he performs a similar synthesis of glam rock and Paul Westerberg while dabbling in the new new wave of new wave spearheaded by Interpol to prove that he can do the arty thing too (though that proof is reserved for the Jeff Buckley-aping Love Is Hell). It's not just that the sound echoes bands from the past and future; the titles consciously reference other songs: "Wish You Were Here," "So Alive," "Rock N Roll," and "Boys" borrow titles from Pink Floyd, Love and Rockets, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles/Shirelles, respectively; "The Drugs Not Working" reworks the Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work," "She's Lost Total Control" is a play on Joy Division's "She's Lost Control," "1974" harks back to the Stooges' "1969" and "1970," "This Is It" is an answer song to the Strokes' "Is This It," and "Note to Self: Don't Die" apes Norm MacDonald's catch phrase. These songs don't necessarily sound like the songs they reference, but there sure are a lot of deliberate allusions to other styles and bands: tunes that sound a bit like the Strokes, songs that sound like Westerberg, tracks patterned after Interpol but sounding like U2, and the glam songs that are meant to sound like T. Rex or the New York Dolls but come out as Stone Temple Pilots. While some of the material suggests that the record was written in a hurry -- instead of lyrics, "Wish You Were Here" sounds like a transcript of Tourette's syndrome -- many songs exhibit considerable studiocraft and songcraft, a reflection of Adams' exceptional taste and skill as a musician. But while some of the songs are undeniably catchy, they're essentially the sound of somebody responding to his influences and peers, sometimes in an alluring way, but not quite carving out a personal, idiosyncratic vision. That said, it's not a bad listen at all, particularly when Adams gets caught up in the sound of it all and sounds consumed by passion instead of mimicking it -- for reference's sake: "This Is It," "1974," "Luminol," and "Burning Photographs." © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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29

Rock - Released January 10, 2006 | Lost Highway Records

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Heaven knows why Ryan Adams decided to release three albums in the calendar year of 2005. He's always been prolific to a fault, boasting about completed unreleased albums when his latest work was just seeing the light of day, but he never saturated the market with new material the way he did in 2005, when it seemed he was trying to break Robert Pollard's record for most music released within a year. Grinding out three albums in a year is a marathon, not just for Adams but for any of his listeners, and by the time he got to the third album, 29, in the waning weeks of December, he seemed like a winded long-distance runner struggling to cross the finish line: completing the task was more important than doing it well. There's little question that 29 is the weakest of the three records Adams released in 2005, lacking not just the country-rock sprawl of Cold Roses but the targeted neo-classicist country that made Jacksonville City Nights so appealing. Which isn't to say that 29 doesn't have its own feel, since it certainly does. After opening with the title track's straight-up rewrite of the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'," it slides into a series of quiet, languid late-night confessionals that all barely register above a murmur. It's like Love Is Hell transported to a folk/country setting, then stripped not only of its sonic texture but also its songwriting skeleton. Apart from "29" and to a lesser extent "Carolina Rain" and "The Sadness," these songs meander with no direction; they have a ragged, nearly improvised feel, as if Adams spilled out the words just as the tape started to roll. Now plenty of great songs have been written exactly in that fashion, but they never feel as if they were made that way -- or if they do, they get by on a sense of kinetic energy. With the aforementioned exceptions, the songs on 29 never have energy and they always feel incomplete, lacking either a center or a sense of momentum, nor ever conjuring the alluringly weary melancholia that carried Love Is Hell. Instead, it's the first time Adams has sounded completely worn out and spent, bereaved of either the craft or hucksterism at the core of his work. He would have been better off ending 2005 with just two albums to his credit and letting 29 co-exist in the vaults alongside The Suicide Handbook and his other completed, unreleased records, since having this in circulation adds a sour finish to what was otherwise a good year for him. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Lost Highway Records

On more than one occasion, Ryan Adams has played solo acoustic gigs that consisted almost entirely of songs he wrote the afternoon of the show, and after his 2001 album, Gold, finally gave him an audience outside the small but rabidly enthusiastic alt-country scene, the very prolific Adams seemed to waste no time laying down as many songs as he possibly could. If one believes what one reads in New Musical Express, Adams cut about four albums' worth of material during sessions with various musicians and producers within the space of a year (not even counting the much talked about but to date unheard four-track recordings of blues versions of all the songs from the Strokes' debut disc, Is This It). Sensibly enough, Adams and his record company decided that releasing such a huge flood of material wasn't in the best interest of either artist or label, and instead Adams cherry-picked these sessions into a 13-track collection, Demolition. Appropriately enough, Demolition sounds less like "the third Ryan Adams album" than a collection of stray tunes -- some of which are very good, especially the lazy summer vibe of "Tennessee Sucks," the up-tempo acoustic twang of "Chin Up, Cheer Up," the winsome "Cry on Demand," and the heading-off-the-rails rocker "Starting to Hurt." But more than a few of the other songs on the album sound like rough drafts rather than completed works, and Demolition seems to lack a strong thematic or structural center. In short, Demolition sounds like a bunch of demos, which of course is just what it is, and while it preserves a few strong tunes and offers an insight into Adams' creative process, it also makes clear that even the rising wunderkind of Americana can benefit from a bit of judicious editing and polishing. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Lost Highway Records

One would think that being Ryan Adams would be a pretty good deal at the time of this album's release; he had a major-label deal, critics were in love with him, he got to date Winona Ryder and Alanis Morissette, Elton John went around telling everyone he was a genius, and his record company gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. But to listen to Gold, Adams' first solo album for his big-league sponsors at Lost Highway, one senses that there are about a dozen other musicians Adams would love to be, and nearly all of them were at their peak in the early to mid-'70s. Adams' final album with Whiskeytown, Pneumonia, made it clear that he was moving beyond the scruffy alt-country of his early work, and Gold documents his current fascination with '70s rock. 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. Of course, everyone has their influences, and Adams seems determined to make the most of them on Gold; it's a far more ambitious album than his solo debut, Heartbreaker. The performances are polished, Ethan Johns' production is at once elegant and admirably restrained, Adams is in strong voice throughout, and several of the songs are superb, especially the swaggering but lovelorn "New York, New York," the spare and lovely "When the Stars Go Blue," and the moody closer, "Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd." But while Gold sounds like a major step forward for Adams in terms of technique, it lacks the heart and soul of Heartbreaker or Pneumonia; the album seems to reflect craft rather than passion, and while it's often splendid craft, the fire that made Whiskeytown's best work so special isn't evident much of the time. Gold sounds like an album that could win Ryan Adams a lot of new fans (especially with listeners whose record collections go back a ways), but longtime fans may be a bit put off by the album's richly crafted surfaces and emotionally hollow core. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 17, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

Picking up the thread left hanging from 2014's eponymous album -- in retrospect, his 2015 cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 seems even more of a detour -- Ryan Adams winds up diving ever deeper into early-'80s sounds and sensibilities on Prisoner. Such supple sounds are carefully constructed with producer Don Was, a professional who helps Adams articulate the AOR ideals he initially essayed in 2014. Prisoner sounds warm, open, and inviting, its welcoming vibes contradicting how it's an album born out of pain, a record written in the aftermath of Adams' divorce from Mandy Moore. Sadness haunts the corners of Prisoner -- it's there in the very song titles, beginning with the opener "Do You Still Love Me" and running through its aching closer, "We Disappear" -- but it's not a sorrowful record, not with its smooth edges and warm center. All of this is an outgrowth of the aesthetic Adams pioneered in 2014, one that he lent to Jenny Lewis' The Voyager, and the reconstituted soft rock suits him well: it’s a salute to the past and Adams always respected tradition. If the songs on Prisoner follow a conventional path of heartbreak -- a man sorting through the remnants of a broken romance -- the sound helps give the album an identity. Adams largely relies on cinematic classic rock tricks, a move underscored by how "Outbound Train" seems like an answer to Bruce Springsteen's "Downbound Train" -- toward the end of the record he starts to thread in a few spare acoustic confessionals, songs that play like subdued nods to his Americana past -- and that's the charm of Prisoner: it's not a record that wallows in hurt, it's an album that functions as balm for bad times. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 5, 2018 | gOLDfISh reCORds

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 23, 2021 | PaxAm Recording Company

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Pop - Released February 21, 2013 | Pax Am Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Lost Highway Records

Released in the Australasian market about a month after the American appearance of the Follow the Lights EP, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals' Everybody Knows EP is simply Follow the Lights with the track "Everybody Knows" from Easy Tiger stuck on the front. That means the disc now has eight instead of seven tracks and runs 33:39, which would constitute a full-length CD for a lot of bands. The core of the collection is still the four new songs -- "Follow the Lights," "My Love for You Is Real," "Blue Hotel," and "Down in a Hole" -- and it's a melancholy batch, filled out by new versions of three old songs, "This Is It" from Rock N Roll, "If I Am a Stranger" from Cold Roses, and "Dear John" from Jacksonville City Nights. It may be that the Far East branches of Adams' record label, Lost Highway, felt that the short disc served as a good introduction to Adams in a region where he is not as well known but has considerable potential, and that is true as long as the version of the artist likely to appeal Down Under is his most low-key, despairing one. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 28, 2017 | Blue Note (BLU)

Artist

Ryan Adams in the magazine