CD Review of Rock N Roll by Ryan Adams

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Rock N Roll
starstarstarstarstar Label: Lost Highway
Released: 2003
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Ryan Adams’ new release Rock N Roll delivers punch, crunch and a dynamic element missing in today’s world of rock: true heart and soul. Stripped down instrumentally and thoughtfully written, Adams shines as a modern-day Dylan, spinning stories that range from songs of encouragement with “So Alive” to downright depression on the title track “Rock N Roll.” Guitars growl and jangle, effects and keys are used sparingly, and in the end, Adams leaves the listener with a rock and roll gem.

“Let me sing a song for you that’s never been sung before,” Adams urges as the opening line of “This Is It.” He surges into a Stoneish groove with “1974,” a fitting enough tribute considering how much Adam’s voice sounds like Jagger’s rough and bluesy rasp. The hallmark of the great early Stones’ records was how hard they tried to capture the feel and grit of the old blues artists they idolized, all the while bringing them to the next level through their own originality. Similarly, Adams remains true to his influences while experimenting with studio techniques. Case in point is “Luminol,” a trippy pop song that is one part Flickerstick and one part White Stripes. Later, on “Wish You Were Here” Adam’s crafts a song about loneliness and confusion by opening simply, then driving the song with a brit-pop chorus.

Rock N Roll’s finest tracks are placed solidly in the middle of the album. Firing off chunky power chords, Adams fights his way through “Note To Self: Don’t Die,” only to melt into the soft piano ballad, “Rock N Roll,” in which Adam’s sings, “Everyone’s cool playing rock n’ roll, I don’t feel cool, feel cool at all.” The psychedelic ending of “Rock N Roll” then gives way to the poppy chord progression of “Anybody Want to Take Me Home.” The album goes on to end as it begins, strong and stripped down, merging equal parts Byrds, Dylan, Beatles, Who and Stones with a little lyrical Springsteen for flavor.

Rock N Roll is an album so good, you’ll want to go back and buy the back catalogue (just like me!)

~Joe Del Re