He Said, She Said or Ryan Adams – 1989

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Please forgive and indulge me for just a second as I have an admission to make – I find most “pop” music to be little more than musical masturbation. There, I said it. It feels good to get that off my chest.

Unfortunately, I just find that over produced songs made in committee lack depth and have no resonance with me. I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into creating a song that is meant to appeal to the masses, but I’m always left with the feeling of being sold product over art. In other words, I’ve never been a Taylor Swift fan.

So, it comes as a bit of a surprise to find myself enjoying Adams reinterpretation of Swift’s work to the point of having to revaluate my perception of the original. Adams, whose personal life was in tatters during the recording of 1989, has chosen to take all his pain and place it within this album. The results are sparse, and leave little room between Adams heartbreak and the listener’s emotional core. As uncomfortable as it might seem, he may as well be in the room with you having a good cry and you along with him.

“How You Get The Girl” is a good case in point. The Swift arrangement turns a story of heartache into a post break dance party. Adams, at his sorrowful best, changes pronouns and alters the storyline from manipulated woman to confused man full of regrets. Playing them beside each other is a bit like being an understanding friend caught in the middle of divorcing couples.

In the end, you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that Adams 1989 is a record of fun cover songs: it just isn’t. Instead you are witness to a person in search of hope at a relationships end. The complimenting versions of the record are merely proof that we all go about it in different ways.

The Nature of Withdrawal or April 26/15 Playlist

“Beneath The City Of Dreams” – Calexico

I missed out on their advance release when I wasn’t paying attention. Still, a great record I’ll probably talk about soon. Maybe even in the next few hours. They just create such great imagery.

“Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes

Reviewed this on Tuesday and it’s just so damn hard to listen to anything else. It is such an awesome piece of work I’m going to need copies for all my relevant locations.

“Bobby Jean” – Bruce Springsteen

Looked back at this earlier in the week, than I got word that a childhood friend had died; suddenly this song started making me cry. Just the idea that we never really say goodbye before people leave us, and we never have a clue what they meant until that door is forever closed.

“Just Like Anyone” – Aimee Mann

Another song about loss, except this one… well it speaks for itself.

“Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis

Not sure what it is about this song, how it works as both depressing and up lifting at the same time. It pulled me out of a darker mood.

“The Rescue Blues (Live)” – Ryan Adams

Officially the most freakin’ expensive vinyl I own after shipping and duty charges. I wish someone would tell me how much duty I’d have to pay before I finish my order, as good as this record is I had to pay an extra frickin’ charge when UPS showed up at my door!

“I Don’t Want Control Of You” – The New Mendicants

Joe Pernice and Norman Blake were playing in town yesterday, unfortunately I wasn’t able to go, so I drowned my sorrows in their music.

“It Don’t Come Easy” – Ringo Starr

Back in university a friend and I wrote a movie script that featured this song in a very prominent position. It would have been hilarious…

“I Don’t Mind” – Sebadoh

Sebadoh just announced a show and the release of a new single… a cover of a famous Canadian single just because they love us. You can order here.

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“Real Wild Child” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

The first song off her RSD 15 offering Flashback… which rocks in case you were wondering.

“The Witch” – The Sonics

I’ll cover this song and album soon, but wow, I wish I had known about them when I was a teen.

“Ong Ong” – Blur

Off the new Blur album, I’ll have a review for ya by Tuesday.

“Blue Orchid” – The White Stripes

Posted about this album… holy cash grab, and I’m not talking about the record company or artist. Just look for Get Behind Me Satan on e-bay and you’ll understand.

“Limelight” – Rush

The original song before the Sebadoh cover arrives in May.

“Gold” – John Stewart

Sad storytelling at its AM radio best! Took me a while to find as all I had remembered was a couple lines and that Stevie Nicks was doing background vocals.

“Raspberry Beret” – Hindu Love Gods

You’ll understand why they’re included when I put the Blur review out. Besides, it’s a great cover of a great song.

“Spectacular” – Graham Coxon

Graham Coxon takes a most rockin’ riff and turns it into a sing along anthem.

“Black Nite Crash” – Ride

Think I’ll write about this album next week, so it gave me an excuse to add this song.

“Sophisticated Gentleman” – Gabby Glaser

My son used to ‘rock out’ in the backseat as we drove around and this song was playing. I actually sent a quick message to her about it and she wrote back thanking me. Seems odd getting thanks from the person who provided my son and I with the soundtrack to happy memories! Oh yeah Luscious Jackson got back together and have a kids record out, you should check it out here.

“Happy Kid” – Nada Surf

Just a damn good song by a damn good band! After the past week I needed something that would make me smile?

Ryan Adams career defining drop the microphone moment! or Ryan Adams – Live At Carnegie Hall (Limited 6 Vinyl Album Set)

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Writing an album review on an artist that you “really” appreciate is enough to give you a stress headache. You weigh the shows, albums and the amount of time you have spent receiving joy from their art against the artists themselves. Not connecting to their new music in a meaningful way is supposedly a knock on the artist rather than the perception of the reviewer… in other words, the whole process of criticism can at times seem rather… well, ass backwards.

That said if you open up a record and the artist has exceeded your expectations, you’re left with the task of tempering your enthusiasm lest you fall into the column of fan over critic.

Except this isn’t 1994 and I’m not writing for a publication. This is a blog and the pretense of professionalism can be used or tossed aside on my own whim. Besides, ‘professionalism’ and I were never all that comfortable sitting beside each other anyway.

So…

Here I am with six pieces of 180 gram vinyl consisting of 42 songs that cover a whole career, plus a couple of bonus new songs. They begin to spin on the turntable one after the other and I’m lost. The lunch dishes remain dirty, I arrive a couple minutes late to pick up my kids from school and I miss phone calls. Instead I’m in a cozy loveseat with a blanket and road size mug of vanilla tea being reminded of just how great a storyteller Ryan Adams is. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and piano he brings down the house time and time again.

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A couple years back I witnessed a similar performance and walked away thinking of magic and once in a lifetime shows. What is that old adage about lightning? Well apparently Adams has become Spidey’s old nemesis Electro and he controls that flashy shit in the sky. He just pulls the audience in and never lets go.

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The biggest complaint against Adams over the years has been his inconsistent ability to connect with fans on the same level as he did with his first two records and Whiskeytown material. You would never think that a problem when he performs Live At Carnegie Hall. In fact, you don’t think at all, the music washes away thought and your left with nothing but the songs and stories of a man who over the years has learned to command an audience.

To use that tired  cliché – If Adams was standing in a room full of critics, he could simply pull out Live At Carnegie Hall, smile and drop the microphone… it is that damn good!

Playlist #2 March 8, 2015

Another week and another playlist. Hope you enjoy! https://open.spotify.com/user/12178865004/playlist/6JqhrQW7eP0LJ4CLuEx0vX

  1. “Story of My Life” – Social Distortion

Legendary punk bands best known song, just because I was playing Guitar Hero the other day and it reminded me how frickin’ cool they are. I’ll be starting to write about some past Record Store Day finds and Social Distortion will definitely be a part of it. (And rumour is, their first record will be coming out on vinyl for RSD)

  1. “Redemption Song” – Joe Strummer

There is so much more to Strummer than the Clash. Damn I miss him. Streetcore was re-mastered for vinyl back in 2012, and comes highly recommended from this reviewer and many others.

  1. “Help” – The Damned

I love punk covers of classic songs. Either you love the Damned or you never got into punk at any point in your life.

  1. “Secret Agent Man” – Dwight Twilley

Singer / Songwriter almost no one has heard of, yet captures my attention with some great songs… and of course, I love this cover – so there! Actually comes from an album full of covers.

  1. “Blood and Roses” – The Smithereens

Something about the Smithereens and their brand of 80’s power-pop catches me every time I listen. They are just so damned easy to sing along with.

  1. “Get Up” – Bleu

Then you take that power-pop thing into the 2000’s and give it to a guy who loves the studio and with a bit of blending you end up with Bleu. Sure it’s another rock song about staying strong in the face of adversity, but we can all use one of those from time to time.

  1. “I Think We’re Alone Now” – The Rubinoos

Shift back down a gear and we end up with cult fixtures the Rubinoos who are famous for providing the theme for Revenge of the Nerds and taking Avril Lavigne to court for plagiarism.

  1. “September Gurls” – The Bangles

Awesome cover of Big Star, who are the originators of the power-pop genre, the Bangles are just a lot of fun to hear at any time.

  1. “The Great Salt Lake” – Band of Horses

Was gifted to me when I was doing all that “driving.” Was a great companion during hard times. Sometimes a few songs can make all the difference.

  1. “Better Man” – Beth Hart

Another of those ‘musicians musician,’ Beth Hart is well known amongst her peers, but hasn’t found a door big enough to get her past the small venue life. Weird, because every time I hear her I wonder why she isn’t bigger than many stadium playing bands.

  1. “When The Stars Go Blue” – Ryan Adams

One of my favorite tracks off Gold (which I kinda talked about a week or so ago), this is one of those songs that just gets covered a lot. The Coors w/Bono did a pretty good cover… although I’ll still take the original.

  1. “Rocket Man” – Elton John

Or should I say “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time).” I couldn’t resist putting it on here right after Adams seeing as the post from last week featured them both.

  1. “Burnin’ For You” – Blue Oyster Cult

Sometimes when you put on one classic 70’s track, you feel like hearing another. What I always loved about these guys is that they never seemed to fit into a genre proper. They weren’t metal, or prog, or … they were just a band that put out some songs I really liked.

  1. “Second Option” – Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell

I’ve always loved this song, but also found it strange that Cary would collaborate with a vocalist who sounds so similar to what she already had in Whiskeytown. I hear this and I pretty much picture Ryan Adams singing it.

  1. “The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon” – Camper Van Beethoven

This was really my introduction to Camper, who I discovered after Cracker (go figure). Right away I just fell for the quirky characters found in Camper songs and have remained a fan ever since. I was lucky enough to see them together a month back.

  1. “A Long December” – Counting Crows

I don’t know why I consider these guys a guilty pleasure, but I’m a fan. For some very odd reason, every time I hear this song I picture Kermit the Frog singing it. Really, I just think the green muppet himself would do an awesome version.

  1. “Deadwood” – Dirty Pretty Things

I was rather bummed when the Libertines called it a day after only two records… I was cheered up when I heard “Deadwood” blast out my speakers. Good to hear that the Libertines have gotten back together, but I’m not holding my breath over the quality of work that will come out of it. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  1. “Horses” – Gemma Hayes

Something about this song just frickin’ caught me and has never let me go. It was just the kind of song that gets you to buy the record and then the whole back catalogue.

  1. “Need Your Loving Tonight” – Queen

Just because I have been spending a bit of time listening to them recently, I think I’m just about over this phase.

  1. “I’m A Little Airplane” – Jonathan Richman

Just like on that Sesame Street bit, my kids and I would spread are arms out, sing and pretend to fly.

One Happy Night at a Bar – Ryan Adams & Elton John (p.s. Evan turns six on Sunday)

When I first started venturing my way back towards vinyl in the late double zeros, I was walking through snow covered sidewalks in downtown Toronto. My wife sent me out of her hospital room for a couple hours as my worried eyes just wouldn’t allow her a moment to rest. All the concern I was showing was ‘overly concerning’ to her about how much sleep I was getting. As if I was the person who people needed to be worried about. So I decided to wander over to the record store to pick up some music.

I needed to get something that brought back a good memory, something powerful, so I knew what I was hoping to buy. Sure enough, both Heartbreaker and Gold were in stock and I bought them. As I went back into the cold my mind wandered back a few years.

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In 2001, I had been having a very rough year… I had back surgery that saw a couple discs removed from my spine, and the medication I was taking for pain had sent me into a very deep and extreme depression. As I sat in a hospital room of my own, de-toxing from prescription medication, I leaned heavily on music to see me through. Lucinda Williams, The Pernice Brothers, Deathray Davies, Dressy Bessy, Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams were beside me as I spent many an hour contemplating a single orange screw in the ceiling of my room.

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(I know it doesn’t sound happy, but I’ll get there)

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Anyway, shortly after my ‘little vacation’ and of course 9/11, Ryan Adams released Gold, which was a phenomenal record, and in the lead up had done Austin City Limits with Elton John. Anyway, I had a $15.00 ticket to see Ryan Adams on a nice warm October night at Lee’s Palace, a bar where I had seen many a band play before.

So, I walked in and the bar was filled with friends and acquaintances from my university days who were all there to check out this guy who seemed to turn heartbreak into a sweeter kind of sorrow; the kind of pain you can live through.

Anyway, the set began, and the crowd was really into it. Smiles and drinks and laughs and a set that was pulling people together, a community of strangers were having a great time. In the crowd I noticed a local musician(Ron Sexsmith), which was pretty standard for shows here, except that, well, he looked to be more excited than the audience. It was at this point, perhaps about 10 songs into the set, that Adams smiles and introduces his friend – Elton John.

Elton “F’n” John… in Lee’s “F’n” Palace… Sir Elton “F’n” John

The energy level in the bar went through the roof. I honestly can’t say how many concerts I have seen over the years, but nothing compares to the moment when Elton John took the stage. They began to play “La Cienega Just Smiled” with John behind a piano and taking over a good chunk of the vocal duties. Then Ron Sexsmith and a couple other local songwriters took the stage and the gathering blazed into John’s “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time).” With smiles going from ear to ear and every person on stage staring at Elton John; it seemed to me that the knighted one was the only person in the bar to have any semblance of calm.

So the night went on. John would stick around for  “New York, New York” and depart leaving Adams to play two sets of encores that lasted out for another eight songs. By the time we all exited the bar there was a sense of euphoria that I had never felt leaving any concert either before or since. People were happy. I was happy. In the midst of my shittiest year to date, a year when the whole world looked to be falling into chaos, I went to this concert expecting only music and instead found a life affirming spectacle. Lee’s Palace is only a 600 person venue, but that night felt like a friendly get together with a musician I adore and his friend the living legend. It was the kind of night, the kind of memory, that you can cling to as the weather grows colder.

The snow that night kept falling as I walked back to the hospital holding tight to my vinyl. Several hours after visiting hours I was sent home. Of course, I didn’t sleep, but I did spin my albums, as I watched the clock that would give me permission to go back. Two days later, my wife gave birth to my second son, and after a bit of scary, crazy… stuff – things were good. Yeah, life has provided more snowy nights than I care to think about, but little moments like that night (and the birth of my kids) continue to see me through to another spring. Evan turns six on Sunday.

Thanks Ryan & Elton