Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

7 09 2014

ryan adamsOpening with the first single Gimme Something Good, this self-titled album is the 14th by Ryan Adams, and it’s already shaping up to be my favourite Ryan Adams album since 2004’s Love Is Hell.

The album has a late 70s Bruce Springsteen/ Tom Petty feel to it. I think it’s safe to say that this is a classic rock influenced album.

Heartbreaker Benmont Tench provides the organ and piano so no surprise that there are nods to the classic Tom Petty Damn the Torpedoes sound

The sparse instrumentation on the intro to Kim is a joy to hear – just guitar, vocals and a distant keyboard before the full band kicks in.

“I watched you walk away, to be with him, Kim”

The production also harks to a bygone era – instruments panned sharply left or right, dry reverb-free drums. This album could have been released in 1979 and would not have sounded out of time.

Am I Safe is an acoustic driven but lyrically edgy track with some wonderful Johnny Marr’esque riffing. And maybe a hint of Fleetwood Mac in the backing vocals. A definite highlight of the album.

“All these things keep runnin’ through my mind”

My Wrecking Ball is a Springsteen like title, and a Springsteen like lyric (it’s all about cars and girls, right?). A stripped back arrangement highlights Ryan’s wonderfully gritty vocals.

Stay With Me ups the tempo and has a powerful, top drawer chorus (the guitar riff underpinning the build up sends shivers).

Feels Like Fire is a great driving song – perfectly build for the long drives on the freeway! I Just Might grows from a chugging guitar and vocals intro as the band creeps in. I love the way the lyrics mirror the playing – as Ryan sings that he doesn’t want to lose control, the mood shifts up a gear.

Tired of Giving Up feels strangely uplifting, even with it’s downbeat lyrics. Album closer Let Go is short, sharp and to the point, not overstaying it’s welcome. Just as it hits you, the song is over.

This is probably the most focussed Ryan Adams album for a long time, and all the better for it.

Buy Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams on Amazon UK

Buy Ryan Adams – Love is Hell on Amazon UK

You might also like this deluxe edition of the classic Damn the Torpedoes album from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare

26 10 2013

Jonathan Wilson "Fanfare"It’s been a week of Wilson’s for me – a wonderful Steven Wilson gig at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday, and a new album from Jonathan Wilson this week.

The two Wilson’s were previously musically poles apart, with Jonathan’s 2011 album Gentle Spirit being a gentle updating of the LA / Laurel Canyon sound, there is now some common ground as the new album from the Wilson of the Jonathan variety has a more progressive feel, with echoes of ELO and Pink Floyd, particularly on the title track.

Fanfare has a much richer palette than Jonathan’s debut album, and this makes for a more rewarding listening experience.  The big drums, aching 70s strings, Fender Rhodes, sax and Floydian vocal line of the title track set the mood for the whole album, which if released in 1977 would have surely been a staple of FM radio for many years.

It’s that wonderful classic rock sound that I love, but with the clarity of 2013 recording techniques (albeit still analog recording). If you don’t immediately buy the album after hearing the stream of Fanfare above, then I will be deeply disappointed in you.

Her hair is Growing Long is a beautiful song, with Danny Thompson’esque bass, intricate guitar lines and harmonics, underpinned by deep pulsing strings, building to a heavily percussive ending.

Dear Friend has some of the best guitar work on the album, and a real live feel to the track, especially the bass / drum interplay in the song’s mid-section, and bears comparison at times to the other Wilson’s recent work in its experimentation with jazz rock structures.

The variety of styles explored on Fanfare is one of the album’s great strengths, and a case in point is Future Vision, featuring former Fleet Foxes member Josh Tillman, who delivers exquisite harmonies.

Starting off almost like a country song, Future Vision is one of my favourite tracks on the album, in no way influenced (coughs) by the fact that it mutates mid-way through into an almost mid-period Steely Dan sounding piece.

Another standout track is Cecil Taylor, which features David Crosby and Graham Nash, so you know the harmonies are going to be pitch-perfect.

“Completely alone, I remember the story
We all see the thunderbolt – we all feel the glory”

Phased vocals, simple percussion and layered picked acoustic guitar give the vocals a real space to breathe.

Illumination has shades of Neil Young, with a deep grungy groove, and a hint of Around The World In A Day era Prince psychedelia thrown in for good measure.

The crystal-clear mix and excellent instrument separation on Desert Trip highlights Jonathan’s production skills. Some fine backing vocals from Jackson Browne and Josh Tillman beef up the latter stages of this trip.

Jonathan Wilson

New Mexico conjures up a dusty, barren desert landscape, and features LA musician Omar Velasco on backing vocals.

“I couldn’t let you into my mind, I couldn’t get you out of my mind”

Lovestrong features some fine piano work from Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Ryan Adams, Stevie Nicks) and a guitar solo from Jonathan that David Gilmour would surely be proud to serve up.

Album closer All The Way Down reminds me a little of my favourite Ryan Adams album, Love is Hell, specifically the powerful tracks Political Scientist and The Shadowlands.

Snatches of abstract radio chatter and background noise seep through the strings, piano and guitar that follows the loping beat.

Fanfare is one of those classic albums that just begs to be played late at night, with the lights dimmed, and no distractions – put down your iPhone for an hour, and turn the music up loud.

All The Way Down is the perfect ending to what is already shaping up to be one of my favourite albums of 2013.

Buy the album on Amazon UK

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