Music Reviews - Ryan Adams: Gold

      Date posted: January 20, 2002

      Lost Highway Records 0881702352

       I have discovered where Tom Cochrane has been hiding the last little while. He’s gone to the 7 � floor of the Skydome Hotel, pushed aside the mini-bar and crawled inside the brain of one, Ryan Adams. He got Ron Sexsmith to crawl in there with him too, adding the exquisite song structure that ol’ Red Rider could never quite muster. The result is Gold, an impossibly good record with absolutely no Can-Con.

       Honestly, there are more than a few tracks on this record where I truly believe I am hearing Tom Cochrane’s voice. I realize this might be enough to scare many of you away, but fear not: Adams is a brilliant songwriter with a unique sound. Maybe I’ve been listening to Canadian classic rock radio for too long, who knows. Adams is a wonderful singer, never more evident at his most intense, honest moments when he sounds nothing like anyone else on the planet.

       Bizarre fact number two about Gold: the record is about three songs too long. This in itself is far from unusual, except for the fact that when you purchase the CD it comes with 5 bonus tracks on a separate disc. I will never understand how these things get decided, but this bonus CD playfully titled Side 4 is indispensible. They are five stunning songs, more roots based than the main record, each as satisfying as any track that made the A-team. From the dark blues of “The Fools We Are As Men” to the lonely cry of “The Bar is a Beautiful Place,” Side 4 might easily stand on its own as a mesmerizing EP.

       As for the main attraction, I could do without “Nobody Girl,” a ten minute Lynyrd Skynyrd-does-Hey-Jude opus and “Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues,” a six minute toss-away bar-band riff. By my count that’s sixteen minutes of music, almost precisely the length of Side 4. I’m no producer, but maybe someone, somewhere along the line could have made a suggestion?

       No matter, it’s all here and available for consumption. For an appetizer try “New York, New York,” the first single-an E-Street Band-esque thumper that really moves. Salad your style? Crunch on “Answering Bell” a melancholy romance featuring Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz on back-up vocals. For the main course you have to taste “When the Stars Go Blue,” as perfect as pop music gets. This gorgeous ballad is the kind of universal music that Billy Holiday, Al Green, and even George Jones would feel comfortable singing. And finally for dessert, the bitter-sweet book-end, “Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd.” What better way to finish a dazzling, complex record than a simple, sarcastic fade out: “yeah. right”

       Adams is the former lead of Whiskeytown, a band whose more aggressive music is also worth seeking out. This is Adams’ second solo effort, aided immeasurably by producer Ethan Johns who plays a number of instruments on each track, and arranges a string section when required. There is massive buzz for this record, fueled by Adams’ recent appearance on Saturday Night Live and on RollingStone’s list of 10 artists to watch for in the year 2002. All of his accolades are deserved, and indeed this is a CD fit for any collection.

Darryl Stenabaugh

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