Sunday, November 13, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: RYAN ADAMS - ASHES & FIRE
Whether you think he's a singular talent who should be allowed to follow his muse, or a spoiled brat who would rather shoot himself in the foot than take advice is another good debate. There's currently a big on-line fight happening over an incident between Adams, Neil Finn and Janis Ian on a TV show in England, and once again, he isn't looking too mature. All this has nothing to do with the songs and albums, but it does point to the confusion fans have felt. The most common phrase heard from listeners is, "it's no Heartbreaker".
I've actually never heard a Ryan Adams album I didn't like, and usually I like them a lot. Often they aren't particularly memorable, and I rarely grab them from the collection. There are no key songs I'd point to that exist on any albums past Heartbreaker, but no junk either. I like the sounds of his ballads, I like the craftsmanship, I like it when he gets rockin' with the Cardinals. I guess that all he's missing are over-the-top excellent ones.
On this new one, it's a non-Cardinals album, which signals singer-songwriter fare. Sure enough, here come the sad ballads, and if Adams really does knock off four a day, he sure can come up with lots of good lines. The title cut is immediately swathed in sorrow from the start, as we find out about a guy who "As he stared past the fire/The hunger to leave, well it gnawed/His poor heart alive." You can't argue with the quality there. Norah Jones turns up on piano and/or vocals on a few cuts, and these are mellow highlights, heart-tugging like all the others.
Like ALL the others. For whatever reason, Adams insists on compiling songs that are too similar. I mean, why can't the Cardinals play on other tracks? Why do they have to be a band you belong to, rather that a band you lead? Why can't you try to chill out? Yes, you're an artist, but at some point each artist has to acknowledge the existence and influence of the audience on their work, whether its considering their wants, or acting a little more respectful on a TV show.