Love Is Hell is one of many chapters in the story of Adams’s dealings with his record label. Adams had recorded this Smiths-y follow up to Gold and turned it in to Lost Highway, who decided that it wasn’t commercial enough and sent him back to the studio where he cranked out the Strokes-influenced Rock N Roll in two weeks. Lost Highway agreed to release Love Is Hell in the form of two CD’s and a very rare 2 10″ records version. Eventually, Lost Highway created a full-length CD version encapsulating the two EP’s and adding a bonus track (an unedited version of “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home” which ended up on Rock N Roll with a fade out and in).
These days, copies of the original 2 10″ record version of Love Is Hell goes for many hundreds of dollars, and if you are a collector of Ryan Adams on vinyl (as I am), the omission of this release in your collection is a painful one. We had a glimmer of hope back in 2011, when Lost Highway announced as part of their 10th Anniversary that they were doing some special vinyl releases– some of which hadn’t been available on vinyl before. In the initial announcement, Lost Highway listed a 2 LP Gold (which restored the “side 4″ tracks making it the original vision of Adams) as well as Love Is Hell, Rock N Roll and Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia among other releases. Of these releases, only the 2 LP Gold saw the light of day from the Ryan-related releases. As you can see from the first link in this paragraph, only Gold is listed in the Anniversary releases. No reason was given as to why Lost Highway pulled the others, but I think it might be the very public dismissal of any vinyl releases on Lost Highway by Adams– he is kind of a purist when it comes to vinyl, and none of the vinyl releases have been mastered from analog.
That’s why I was so shocked to see Love Is Hell in the Music Direct catalog, with the Silver Label strip emblazoned across the cover. MoFi’s Silver Label line is apparently their discount line. In the catalog, they say, “Pressed on standard-weight audiophile-quality vinyl at RTI”– so this means it isn’t 180g. The other question is what the release comprises. The catalog mentions that the release used to be two EP’s suggesting that they are rolling the two releases together. Wikipedia lists the running time of the 1 CD version as being 68:01. That would make this release at least 2 LP’s.
At this time, Mobile Fidelity is not listing the release on their website, so this catalog is the only reference to this release. There is a thread over in the Kevin Hoffman forums about the titles announced in this catalog that I’ve contributed to and I’ll keep an eye on. If any other information develops about the release, I’ll update this article.
11/21 Update: I received a response from MoFi on their Facebook account, and the provided the tracklist and some other details! This release will be three LPs, with the third LP made up of the Japanese bonus tracks! They don’t have a release date, yet. But, what an amazing compilation! I’d love to see a Mobile Fidelity release of Rock N Roll with all of the import B-Sides.
Mofi 3-040 Ryan Adams / Love Is Hell
Political Scientist – 4:33
Afraid Not Scared – 4:13
This House Is Not for Sale – 3:53
Anybody Wanna Take Me Home – 5:31
Love Is Hell – 3:19
Wonderwall – 4:09
The Shadowlands – 5:18
World War 24 – 4:17
Avalanche – 5:09
My Blue Manhattan – 2:23
Please Do Not Let Me Go – 3:37
City Rain, City Streets – 3:49
I See Monsters – 3:57
English Girls Approximately – 5:42
Thank You – 2:52
Hotel Chelsea Nights – 5:10
17 Halloween – 3:52
18 Caterwaul – 5:42
19 Fuck the Universe – 7:29
20 Twice As Bad As Love – 4:15
21 Father’s Son – 3:37
22 Gimme Sunshine – 3:55
23 Black Clouds – 4:48
I make no apologies for being a Ryan Adams fan of the first order, nor do I apologize for feverishly collecting as much as I can of his recorded output– including the PaxAm Records releases. I have most of them and they are wonderfully well done and always targeted at the vinyl fans as Ryan himself is a collector.
This week a picture of a vinyl boxset titled Live After Deaf was posted to Ryan’s Facebook page by the dutiful Val (who runs his social media outlets) with “Live After Deaf. Friday. This will not be repressed.” This was followed on Wednesday with some more information: “144 tracks of live acoustic Ryan spread across 15 vinyl discs…with a download card featuring all 144 tracks PLUS an additional 74 digital-only bonus tracks (yup, that’s a total of 218 tracks) all in a heavyweight cloth box. Super Duper limited numbers available ONLY at http://paxamrecords.com/ beginning 1:30 p.m. EST on Friday, June 15.” We also found out that this limited release would only be $130 plus shipping (which would be pretty steep considering it apparently weighs in at 13 pounds!).
The title is obviously a reference to his bout with Ménière’s disease which temporarily derailed his music output back in 2009. Ever the heavy metal fan, the title might also be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Iron Maiden live album Live After Death. We still weren’t sure what this box would contain. 15 LP’s certainly didn’t make a very encompassing live box set– was it just one performance of every song he performed during the extensive Ashes and Fire tour? All we could do is sign into the site on Friday to see what it would be.
On Friday, unfortunately, the folks at KungFu (the people who host his website and merchandise site) were not expecting the heavy traffic at 1:30PM. I signed in an hour before to make sure that my account information was still accessible. At 1:30PM the website became unresponsive. Looking at the posts on Facebook, they were scrambling to address the issue and an hour or so later the posted a resigned message that they would work over the weekend and try it again on Monday, June 18th at 4PM EDT.
In the meantime the rabid fans over at ryanadamsarchive dug up some details on the boxset (this is the thread that contains it). A poster who goes by “Cowboycat” somehow found a picture of what I assume is the back of the box with all of the tracks.
The boxset is a compendium of the 2011 solo acoustic “Acoustic Nightmare” European shows, with each LP representing one show on the 15-date run. For each show to fit on an LP, Ryan had to edit the shows down to select songs, and possibly no inter-song banter that he’s known for. Another poster on the ryanadamsarchive board who goes by the handle hobbsy took the setlist database and showed what songs were and weren’t played for each show. Here’s the tracklist (thanks to hobbsy):
LP1: Cork Opera House, Ireland (7th June 2011)
01 Dirty Rain
03 Blue Hotel
04 Carolina Rain
05 Crossed Out Name
06 Dear Chicago
07 Ashes And Fire
09 Withering Heights
11 Please Do Not Let Me Go
LP2: Dublin Olympia Theatre, Ireland (8th June 2011)
01 Oh My Sweet Carolina
02 Everybody Knows
03 Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
04 New York, New York
05 In My Time Of Need
06 16 Days
07 Strawberry Wine
LP3: Stockholm Cirkus, Sweden (10th June 2011)
02 Please Do Not Let Me Go
03 Call Me On Your Way Back Home
04 Invisible Riverside
05 Dear Chicago
06 16 Days
08 Come Pick Me Up
11 Houses On The Hill
LP4: Oslo Foleteatret, Norway (11th June 2011)
01 Oh My Sweet Carolina
02 Don’t Fail Me Now
03 Let It Ride
05 The Rescue Blues
06 Dancing With The Woman At The Bar
07 If I Am A Stranger
08 Sylvia Plath
LP5: Malmo Concert House, Sweden (13th June 2011)
02 Damn Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
03 My Winding Wheel
04 Let It Ride
06 Cannonball Days
07 Star Sign
08 Chains Of Love
09 Lucky Now
10 Come Home
LP6: Copenhagen Kocerhauset, Denmark (14th June 2011)
01 Carolina Rain
02 Invisible Riverside
03 Jacksonville Skyline
04 This House Is Not For Sale
06 New York, New York
07 Sweet Illusions
09 Sylvia Plath
10 Do I Wait
LP7: Lisbon Aula Magna, Portugal (16th June 2011)
01 Don’t Fail Me Now
02 If I Am A Stranger
03 Invisible Riverside
04 200 More Miles
05 This House Is Not For Sale
06 English Girls Approximately
07 Strawberry Wine
08 I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say
LP8: Porto Teatro Sa Da Bandeira, Portugal (17th June 2011)
01 Off Broadway
02 Sylvia Plath
03 Carolina Rain
05 Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
06 Sweet Illusions
08 Dancing With The Women At The Bar
LP9: London Barbican Night 1, UK (19th June 2011)
01 Oh My Sweet Carolina
02 Why Do They Leave?
03 Let It Ride
04 Carolina Rain
05 The Rescue Blues
06 In My Time Of Need
07 Bartering Lines
08 Come Pick Me Up
LP10: London Barbican Night 2, UK (20th June 2011)
01 To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
02 Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)
03 Everybody Knows
04 My Winding Wheel
05 Invisible Riverside
06 Ashes And Fire
08 English Girls Approximately
LP11: Brighton Dome, UK (22nd June 2011)
01 Bartering Lines
02 Why Do They Leave?
03 The Rescue Blues
04 Let It Ride
05 Everybody Knows
07 Jacksonville Skyline
08 Houses On The Hill
09 Come Pick Me Up
10 Strawberry Wine
LP12: Manchester Bridgewater Hall, UK (23rd June 2011)
01 Blue Hotel
02 Save Me
03 Carolina Rain
04 Sweet Lil’ Gal
06 To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
07 This House Is Not For Sale
08 New York, New York
10 Why Do They Leave?
LP13: Glasgow Academy, UK (25th June 2011)
01 Please Do Not Let Me Go
02 My Winding Wheel
03 Sweet Illusions
04 To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
05 16 Days
06 Sylvia Plath
07 Come Pick Me Up
08 English Girls Approximately
LP14: Oxford New Theatre, UK (26th June 2011)
01 Why Do They Leave?
02 Carolina Rain
03 Sweet Lil’ Gal
04 Everybody Knows
06 My Winding Wheel
07 I See Monsters
08 Come Pick Me Up
09 Strawberry Wine
LP15: Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Netherlands (28th June 2011)
01 Oh My Sweet Carolina
02 To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
03 Carolina Rain
05 Let It Ride
06 Bartering Lines
07 New York, New York
08 I See Monsters
It looks like a wonderful release, and Ryan’s solo acoustic shows have been really beautiful. Of course, people are hoping for a volume 2 that would include U.S. shows. It would be great to get those metal covers on vinyl (Ratt, “Round and Round” FTW).
Neal Casal is a musician who you discover when you start digging into his career, has a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-esque connection to other musicians. The fact is that Casal’s personal mantra is to live a life of creativity, and he achieves this in spades through his own extensive solo career with 11 albums dating back to 1994, sideman work in countless recording sessions and stints in other bands including high-profile runs in Ryan Adams‘ Cardinals and currently Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood (which has an album coming out this year) as well as a blossoming photography career. Casal’s latest solo record Sweeten the Distance will be released on Royal Potato Family on April 10th. Neal was a generous interviewee, and I came away from the conversation very inspired about my own music collecting, performing and photography.
When I called Neal, he was in busy painting a bedroom. He had to turn down the music he was playing to hear me. After introducing myself, I opened by asking him about his ties to the resurgence of the “Laurel Canyon” scene that started around some jam sessions at Jonathan Wilson‘s house.
Yeah, I have a few of those connections for sure… Wilson is a friend of mine, yeah, we’ve played music a bunch, been around his studio and seen a lot. We’re all part of the same music scene really.
I played on Mark Olson’s solo record Many Colored Kite, I was asked to play bass on the Gary Louris solo record Vagabonds by Chris Robinson who produced it, but I couldn’t because I was in the Cardinals at the time and we were getting ready to go on a long tour for Easy Tiger. But, I also play some bass on the new Jayhawks record.
A great record– I’m so happy they are back together.
Yeah, I was a long-time Jayhawks fan– back in the early-90’s I used to see them play all the time. I loved them, they were a big band for me. So, I was really lucky to get to know those guys and to play with them a bit.
Let’s talk a little bit about your record collection, I assume you’re into vinyl?
I’m definitely into vinyl. I have a whole living room full of vinyl and I buy stuff all the time. I played in L.A. last night, actually, and there is a great record shop called Origami Vinyl and I bought the Michael ChapmanRainmaker reissue, which was his first album for the Harvest label in ‘69– amazing sort of skewed English folk with some Rock elements in it.
I listen to vinyl all day long, I buy vinyl all the time– I don’t even know where it begins and ends, you know?
Was vinyl a resurgence for you, or were you into it all along?
I started collecting vinyl well over 20 years ago and it just never stopped– it never died for me. I never let go of my collection or anything like that. It’s cool that vinyl is at an all-time high with all of the reissues and attention to detail– it’s amazing. And, now that I’m in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood the vinyl obsession goes even further. Chris is an avid music listener and he and I get along so well musically and in every town we play– we are in the record shops. So, last year touring around the country we were spending our paychecks on stacks of vinyl. It was great!
Did you end up shipping the records back or did you bring them on the bus?
Oh, they were on the bus! There was no where to even sleep in my bunk! It was just so full of records.
So, yeah, I’m listening to records all the time– in fact, I was listening to Captain Beefheart on the turntable and painting a room as you called.
Which Captain Beefheart record was it?
I was listening to a record called The Spotlight Kid. It isn’t exactly my favorite, but that was what I was listening to just now.
In your collecting do you tend to focus on any particular genre, or are you a completist in anything?
I’m not really a completist, although at the moment I’m trying to find every single Robbie Basho record there is. Robbie Basho was an acoustic guitar player in the John Fahey tradition or style who made records in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I’m currently obsessed with him and would like to get all of his records, actually.
I’m only just recently getting into John Fahey. I feel like I’m kind of late to the party.
John Faheywas amazing– he had his own record label called Takoma Records and Robbie Basho was on Takoma for a while. He wasn’t like Fahey, but he was kind of in that vein. Completing my Robbie Basho collection is hard, though because some of them are really rare– they’re quite expensive now.
Some of the Fahey records are getting reissued, so maybe some of Basho’s stuff might get reissued, too.
Yeah, exactly. For a while I wanted to complete my Incredible String Band collection, which I finally did, which is cool. But, it isn’t really about being a completist as it is about finding cool stuff and discovering what new music you can, you know?
When CD’s came out in the 80’s I jumped on that bandwagon– so most of my collection until the last decade or so was made up of that– I have thousands of CD’s…
Oh, we we’re all on that one, you know– me too, believe me. My CD collection is now– I got rid of almost all of the cases, and I just put them all in books. So I still have most of my CD collection and I have stacks of CD books as well, so…
Yeah, I’ve always had a turntable and my vinyl, but during the CD years I’d only pick up vinyl when there was something I wanted that was only available on vinyl– like maybe a remix or something and it has only been in the last decade or so that I started getting back into vinyl, and really in the last three years I’ve tripled my collection of vinyl. Thankfully, the majority of people still don’t seem to think that vinyl is a going concern, so you can still find good deals on some pieces. It seems like I’m spending a lot of time replacing albums from the 90’s that I originally bought on CD.
Yeah, CD’s as a format you can just see is just not very timeless, you know what I mean? CD’s are not wearing well as we move down the years. That’s a problem– the artwork doesn’t last, it looks like shit, they look horrible in your house– they don’t display well. They sound weird, too– they skip and they get all fucked up. They’re still around, of course, but they are just not a timeless medium. It’s amazing to see that with vinyl, they got it right the first time.
I recorded my last two records digitally, and that’s fine. I think that recording digitally isn’t particularly a problem if you do it right. I work with really great people who know what they’re doing with all of that stuff. But, I still like to work on tape as well. Recording digitally is a fact of life that I totally accept, and digitally recorded records can be mastered to vinyl beautifully.
Sweeten the Distance will be on vinyl, and the last Hazy Malaze record Connections is available on vinyl, too, right?
Yeah, actually all three Hazy Malaze records are available on vinyl. The first Hazy Malaze record was recorded on tape and mastered to vinyl– so that is a record that is completely analog which was really cool.
Speaking of Hazy Malaze, the two other members Dan Fadel and Jeff Hill are the rhythm section of the new record. They have played on my last three solo records records in addition to the three Hazy Malaze records which we all co-write together. Those two guys are are such a huge part of my musical life. they’re a team and we’ve done so much musical work together.
Also, two of my albums from the 90’s are coming out on vinyl as well.
The reissues that Fargo did?
Yeah, and they did a really great job with those. But, I’m most excited with Sweeten the Distance. Thom Monahan, the guy who produced it was a big key to the sound. He is such a great producer and he works with so many people: Vetiver, Fruit Bats, and he did the Chris Robinson Brotherhood record we just finished, and he also co-produced that Gary Louris record Vagabonds with Chris Robinson. And, Thom also worked with Jonathan Wilson on his album Gentle Spirit. So, you can see how all of these roads cross with this circle of friends we have going on here.
Yeah, I first heard about Jonathan Wilson about the time I started getting into Dawes and heard about the get togethers he was having at his place in Laurel Canyon.
Yeah that was fun. That is where I met Jonathan and those guys– a really good scene. Jonathan was also really good friends with Jonathan Rice who is in Jenny and Johnny– have you heard their record?
Actually, no. I’m more familiar with Rice’s solo stuff.
Jonathan Rice has done two solo records, but his girlfriend is Jenny Lewis who was in Rilo Kiley and they are in Jenny and Johnny together. I used to play with Jonathan Rice many years ago– so this scene just kind of came together from people who knew each other. And, there is another guy name Farmer Dave Scher who is in Beachwood Sparks.
And, you toured with Beachwood Sparks, right?
Yeah, and they just make a new record with Thom Monahan that I play on as well. Crossing streams, you know.
There must be something in the water up there– it’s almost a corollary to the 70’s Laurel Canyon scene– Jackson Browne working with the Eagles, the Eagles working with Linda Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt working with Neil Young and James Taylor…
Yeah, it’s people around– all in the same place doing stuff– people with songs– and it’s a good idea to get together. I don’t think anyone really thought about it, but when you look back on it, you’re like, “wow, we really did a lot of stuff together.” No one set out saying, “we’re going to make a new Laurel Canyon scene.” That would have been incredibly pretentious. It just started to happen.
When you get ready to work on your solo stuff, do you find yourself maybe water-shedding with your records?
Well, actually, I try to get away from my records, actually. So that it’s not so much like I’m trying to cop another thing, you know? For me, the record collection is useful as a subliminal influence. In my off-time I’m listening to records constantly, and I’m just absorbing stuff. But, when it comes time to really write or really record– that’s when I put the records away. Try not to make any direct references. I used to do it when I was younger– bring a record to the studio when you’re making a record and you tell the producer, “I want the record to sound like this.” That’s just stupid, it never really works. To try to cop something directly is not a good idea– you just need to do your own thing– you have to look for your own voice. My 60’s and 70’s influences come across strongly in my music, I admit– but I don’t sit around with Thom Monahan playing Jackson Browne records trying to replicate them. The fabric of who I am as a musician comes from my record collection, but it is absorbed in a much different way– a much more subtle or internal way. That said, when I worked on the Chris Robinson Brotherhood album, we did have a turntable in the recording studio– in the live room– and everyone brought in records, but that was just so we could listen to records on break and have fun.
How long had you been working on the songs on Sweeten the Distance? I know that you had an album out in 2009…
I started working on songs right after Roots and Wings, which was my last album. Just over the last two or three years. I’m just always working on music.
Looking at your career, I’m impressed at how capably you jump between your own music and helping other people with theirs.
I love doing a bit of both– it keeps things fresh. I love working with other people and I bring a little that back to my own music. Sometimes working on my own stuff can get to be a little isolating, so I love to be a guitar player for other people or bring in some harmony vocals. I just want to be playing music all the time. I like it to be an open thing. It doesn’t have to be just my music– it can be someone else’s as long as it is really good! I have so many friends that it just makes sense to go play with them. There are no rules that I should just do my stuff– I just want to do– I just want to do stuff and I want to be involved.
You do seem pretty adaptable– when I compare the music of the Cardinals, for example, to your music I don’t think that they are necessarily very similar.
Well what the Cardinals did and what I do fall under the broad umbrella of American music. Playing with Ryan was an amazing experience. He is so unbelievably talented, and such an absolute great songwriter that I was influenced by him. Again, though, not so directly, but more like raising the bar in terms of quality of songwriting and song quality in general and the desire to be great. But, I didn’t come out of that experience sounding more like Ryan. Before I had joined him, I had already been making my own records and had my own style. Part of the reason he wanted me to join his band was because I had my own style.
I read a comment that you made about how your photographs are in essence the songs that you couldn’t or haven’t written yet. It’s an idea that really intrigues me as an amateur photographer and musician myself– the idea that two different art forms could be tied together.
It’s all part of one creative flow for me. Taking photographs is like what we talked about– it’s like playing with other people. Instead of just making my own songs, I play guitar with other people, and in addition to playing guitar with other people, I take photographs of those people. It’s the way to make life creative– a creative flow 24/7– all the time. You can’t play music constantly– so when I take a break from that, I pick up a camera. It’s interesting that my photographs end up looking like my music sounds. The same aesthetic that I have in one thing, I bring to another– and that’s very interesting to see. Like I might use space photographically the same way I do musically. You bring your personality into whatever you do, so things can kind of look and sound the same way. It’s not the medium– it’s YOU. In some of my music there is a kind of quiet aspect to things and I find myself doing that with a camera as well. I’m reaching for the same thing photographically as I am musically. I think that maybe my photographs are more diverse than my music, but there is a certain melancholy or introspection and that is a part of my personality that I’m working out and I do that with photographs as well. What is my psyche pushing me towards? That is one my my main revelations in my pursuit of photography.
My pursuit of photography started out as a way for me to document what I was doing– I was on tour constantly and I was losing track of time– I was never ever home– nor did I want to be at home at that time. But, being on tour can be really tedious. Not boring– but you don’t have control over your day. So, I started taking photographs to pass the time, but also so I could remember where I’d been. When you are on tour that much, I noticed that it was difficult to keep everything straight. So, I started taking photographs to make being on the road more tolerable. Also, to bring more creativity to being on tour– otherwise you end up in hotel rooms and coffee shops all day, and I can’t handle that. Then, it became a passion when I realized that I had a knack for it. That is what photography has done for me– It has make my life so much bigger than just music. (chuckles) I’m just trying to have a rich experience here!
What is on your vinyl wish list?
Let me look at my phone… I always have a running list of stuff. There’s so much…
Steve Hillage – Fish Rising : Chris Robinson played me that record…
The Collins Sisters – Anthems in Eden
“The Wicker Man” Soundtrack
Dr. Strangely Strange Records
Any Roy Harper records I can find
Robert Nighthawk – Bricks in my Pillow
John Martyn – The Tumbler
Robin Williamson (from ISB) – Myrrh – Really rare, I don’t think I’ll ever see it.
Neal, I really want to thank you for your time, this was a great conversation! I should let you get back to painting your room!
Actually, this is perfect timing– I was painting while we were talking and I’m now done!
Here we are in the final month of 2011 and it is time for the Top lists. I started this last year for the first time, and I think it was a pretty good exercise. 2011 for me personally was a time of change– I was laid off from a job I had for over 13 years and spent most of 2011 unemployed. As I write this, I’m happily employed, though I’m having to deal with the fallout of being unemployed for so long.
If it wasn’t for the friends and contacts I made through this blog, the time I spent unemployed would have been unbearable. As people found out about my family’s situation, they reached out with concern, help and well-wishes. Frankly, writing for this blog and the other places I sometimes contribute gave me a much-needed distraction as I experienced first-hand the employment conditions and lack of hiring in the U.S. It seems like things are turning around, but we are far from recovery, I’m afraid.
So, I look at this list of albums as being kind of a soundtrack for my unemployment– sometimes expressing hope, sometimes expressing despair, but 2011 was a good year for music. As 2012 brings new hope and opportunity for me, I look forward to bringing my music blog into its sixth year.
While there were a lot of notable releases in 2011, these are the ones that spent the most time in rotation for me– had more staying power.
1. Hiss Golden Messenger – Poor Moon – M.C. Taylor’s post Court & Spark band makes my list for the second year running– Poor Moon is a full-band companion-piece to last year’s Bad Debt in that they share a few songs. You can read my summary and review here. Mike’s in the running for 2012, too, as he has started work on his next album already!
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver – Like last year’s The Suburbs from Arcade Fire, this is an album that will make a lot of 2011 “Top” lists. Already the album has been nominated for a few Grammys. I was not a fan of the first album from Justin Vernon, but this album quickly has found a seat in my regular rotation and gets played often at my house. The fact that it shares common DNA with the brilliant album from Eau Claire-Minneapolis supergroup GAYNGS helps, too.
3. Pieta Brown – Mercury – With a boost of moral support from her new label home Red House Records and continued support from her musical family and friends, Pieta Brown has created what is her best recorded statement to date. I wrote a review of Mercury for Little Village here.
4. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire – In some regards this album can be heralded as the triumphant return for Ryan Adams whose last new studio effort was 2008′s swansong for Lost Highway as a label and The Cardinals as a band, Cardinology. Life has changed pretty dramatically for Ryan who seems to have embraced his life and career with new perspective. Ashes & Fire is a return to the simpler sound of Easy Tiger– arguably a sound he has refined and polished. For a guy whose love of metal and punk are public record, he has the ability to make some of the most beautiful folk-rock-country songs this side of Neil Young. He is on a sold-out solo acoustic tour at the moment as he re-familiarizes himself with his legacy and live performing in general. I hope he gets the itch to bring a band on the road with him in the near future.
5. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong – Dawes is back and their sophomore release is even more confident than their first album, Taylor Goldsmith is embracing his role as lead guitarist and this album features some very polished guitarwork. In 2011 we saw more of the indie space contributing videos to VH1′s Top 20 and Dawes spent a week or two with “Time Spent in Los Angeles.” I think that the almost-universal embrace of Dawes’ own spin on 70′s singer-songwriter classic rock is showing that people are looking for strong melodies and honesty in the face of mostly manufactured pop music. The songs for Nothing Is Wrong got a lot of mileage on the road, many songs were familiar to dedicated fans like me, it will be interesting to see what the next songs will be like. I don’t expect any dramatic change in the band, but I would like to see some envelope pushing– maybe a change in production.
6. Kelly Pardekooper – Yonder – Kelly cut his songwriting teeth here in Eastern Iowa writing and recording his first five albums while he lived here. A brief jump to Wisconsin and a permanent displacement to the yonder of L.A. seemed to silence the songwriter, but after some recognition by the new tastemakers that assemble soundtracks for TV shows he was kickstarted to record his most Iowa-sounding release to date with Bo Ramsey and a band of Backslider regulars. Relased in the fourth quarter of 2011, I’m hoping the album gets some legs in 2012 before returning to the lockers.
7. Canasta – The Fakeout The Tease and the Breather – Technically this release from Chicago band Canasta came out late in 2010, but I heard it in February when they made a stop in Iowa City. This quote from my article for Little Village says it all, “There nestled in the extensive list of influences is what appears to be the nearly 30 years of my record collection. While this list seems impossibly diverse on paper, the thing that unifies all of these artists is a strong knack for melody and composition that Canasta brings in spades.” Watch their great video for “Mexico City” here.
8. Chicago Odense Ensemble – self-titled – This album– a meeting of members of Tortoise and Isotope 217 and Causa Sui– had been announced for months before it was eventually released this year by French label AdLuna. A sliced and diced approach to assembling a record from hours of improvisational recording by the group a la In A Silent Way resulted in a beautiful record with gorgeous packaging to match. You can read my article about the release here.
9. Kerosene Circuit – self titled EP – This was an EP that really reached out of the stereo and shook me. Rockin’, diesel-powered bar chords. You can read my review for Little Village here.
10. The 4onthefloor – 4×4 – Minneapolis stompin’ bar-blues band The 4onthefloor may seem on paper to be tied to a schtick with each member of the band playing a kickdrum on stage, but the formula of 4/4 time heavy blues is one that works. Lead singer Gabe Douglas transforms to the on-stage personae of the possessed while riding the chugging rhythm provided by the rest of the band. The album captures a lot of this live energy, but catch them live if you can.
This afternoon Ryan Adams posted the link to the preorder for his upcoming release Ashes & Fire to Facebook which is due out on October 11th on PaxAm Records through a distribution arrangement with Capitol Records. The album was recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles and produced by Glyn Johns who produced albums from the likes of The Who, The Clash and The Rolling Stones among many others. Glyn happens to be the father of Ethan Johns who worked on Adams’ Heartbreaker, Gold and 29. The album has garnered a substantial amount of buzz since it is his first studio album of new material since Cardinology in 2008– although he did some housecleaning by releasing some archival material in the form of his Metal Space Opera Orion and III/IV, a collection of songs recorded around Easy Tiger in addition to some 7″es and some digital releases.
Ryan solicited help on the album with some keyboards by Heartbreaker Benmont Tench (what albums is he not on these days?) and some vocals from Norah Jones on several tracks (she provided the guest vocals on “Dear John” for him previously).
Along with the link to access the pre-orders, Ryan posted a bandcamp link to “Lucky Now” which is also a free download with the pre-order. Everyone who pre-orders will get a digital download of the album the day of the release by accessing their online account created at order time.
There are four pre-order options for Ashes & Fire. CD and vinyl ($12.99 and $20.00 respectively) and a Deluxe Bundle which can either be CD ($40) or vinyl ($50) and a Deluxe Bundle with a teeshirt ($50 for CD, $60 for vinyl). The extra goodies for the Deluxe Bundles includes a flexidisc of unreleased track “Darkness” as a 3D Lenticular Photo of Ryan Adams, a Booklet of expanded album artwork including 3D photos, A pair of Ryan Adams 3D Glasses and PAX-AM Bucks (To be redeemed toward future paxamrecords.com store purchases).
We’re just past the Ides of March and although he has historically exclaimed “Et Tu, Internets?” this month has brought us a bunch of new Ryan Adams news. The last time we heard from our hero, he had fired up his PaxAm imprint and released two albums that had been hiding in his archives– his Metal Space Opera Orionand Cardinals III/IV which was two albums worth of Easy Tiger-Era recordings with The Cardinals.
To accomplish his desired DIY apprach, he assembled a staff to handle the shipping and orders that were done via the PaxAm website. In the case of Orion things went pretty well, but apparently folks were having issues with delivery of the III/IV album that were placed on the PaxAm site and went to the internet boards to bitch about it. The fact of the matter is that there was an accident involving the guy who was handling the orders and things got delayed and people complained loudly and frequently as is the manner of some.
Fed up, Ryan responded on the boards:
All future Pax-Am releases are cancelled and I don’t have any plans to continue anymore merch. Maybe I will sell the rights to someone else and let them make this stuff. All I know is I am not going to do it. I don’t believe we did a bad job…. The truth is both releases cost a boat load to manufacture and so many good people who I enjoy working with are involved in a hands-on way, all the way down to the manufacturing, that I seriously doubt the vinyl made any money back. It was about the tunes and doing it right and making quality vinyl. We took time to do it right. Clearly I was 100 percent wrong that this was a good idea and I am really glad I tried but am totally done. Sorry if that sounds passive aggressive or something but I am just being real. I over it and over blogging and I had to borrow this very computer to even write this crap. Blah.
And with that he went into radio silence, but clearly this wasn’t the end of the story as we have now heard about a Record Store Day 4-song, 2 colored vinyl 7″ single EP of Cardinology-era previously-unreleased tracks called Class Mythology that will be a limited edition of 2500 copies with a picture sleeve, poster and sticker and will be on PaxAm Records! It is confirmed from his Facebook page with a mock-up of a single. The distributor for this record is going to be Junketboy who has a history of doing small-run releases like this. So, it would appear that he is delivering on the idea of letting someone else press the records. Hopefully he is getting his say on the quality of the records as his desire to get the mastering right had delayed releases in the past. In the same post where he bows out of pressing records, he also comments on the Lost Highway vinyl and in particular the new 10th Anniversary clear vinyl releases:
I was simply signed to Universal/ Lost Highway as an artist and had no say in the quality of the product. I was appalled they ever released ANY of my albums on vinyl since NONE were mastered for vinyl including the clear GOLD thing. I still have the original ones and they sound like ass. THAT is my personal opinion and I don’t care. Sorry. I like mastered vinyl.
I picked up the 2 LP clear vinyl version of Gold recently, and I don’t think it sounds “like ass” but there are a couple of spots where there are some clicks present, so there is a bit of a QC problem. I was particularly interested in this release as it included the “Side 4″ bonus tracks that were only available on the first 150,000 CD pressings of Gold. This release fixes that sin.
So, with this RSD release, there is some hope for the future of other archive releases– in particular, folks are really anxious to get to hear Blackhole, which is another release that apparently did not leak to bootlegging. There is photographic evidence around the time he was working on the III/IV ramp-up that it had been mastered to vinyl, so perhaps we are close to this actually coming out if he’s working with a distributor.
On top of this great news, it was announced in an e-mail from the PaxAm site that Ryan is working with legendary producer Glyn Johns on his first album of new material since 2008. Johns is credited with some of Rock’s great albums including Who’s Next, The Stones Sticky Fingers, and Clapton’s Slowhand. Clearly keeping the trust in the family, Johns’ son Ethan produced Heartbreaker, Gold and 24 for Adams.
The question would be how he’s going to release this album– he is not on a label at the moment other than PaxAm– and he used TVT/The Orchard to distribute III/IV to stores and online. So, potentially, the new album could still be on PaxAm. Really, the only issues were the orders placed on the PaxAm website, so that is probably solved by not doing preorders by himself.
While we ponder the always-unpredictable career of Ryan Adams, on Monday he announced a tour of Europe starting in June that will be just him with an acoustic guitar playing new songs he wrote over the winter. “I’d like to play them for whoever wants to hear them,” he posted to Facebook, “Please don’t yell at me,” These are the songs that evidently moved his wife Mandy Moore to tweet, “been listening to my hubby write insanely beautiful music over the past few weeks. blows my mind at how easy he makes it look. the nerve! ”
This will be the first organized tour since Adams announced in early 2009 that he was leaving the Cardinals following a very extensive tour in support of Cardinology. This announcement was for a few reasons, but likely primarily related to his affliction with Ménière’s disease that caused severe vertigo among other afflictions. He’s clearly easing back into touring since this tour will be solo acoustic. I’m not alone in hoping that he brings this tour to the US.
Here are the European tour dates (from his Facebook post):
Friday, June 10, 2011 Stockholm, Sweden Cirkus
Saturday, June 11, 2011 Oslo, Norway Folketeatret
Monday, June 13, 2011 Malmö, Sweden The Consert House
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 Copenhagen, Denmark Koncerhauset
Thursday, June 16, 2011 Lisbon, Portugal Aula Magna
Friday, June 17, 2011 Porto, Portugal Teatro Sa Da Bandeira
Monday, June 20, 2011 London, UK Barbican
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Brighton, UK Dome
Thursday, June 23, 2011 Manchester, UK Bridgewater Hall
Saturday, June 25, 2011 Glasgow, UK Academy
Sunday, June 26, 2011 Oxford, UK Oxford New Theatre
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Amsterdam, Holland Concertgebouw
Since I just finished my Top 20 of 2010, it has me looking towards 2011 and the releases that are rumored, speculated or actually announced. Here are some releases I’m looking forward to (in no particular order).
The Second Dawes Album (May 2011) – I wrote an article about this release and speculation about what tracks are going to be on it. The firstDawes album- North Hills was released in 2009 and has had pretty strong legs as far as carrying the band to national recognition. The songs that Dawes is playing on the road are as good as the ones on their debut, in my opinion. The album is already recorded and ready for release, but won’t see release until May of 2011, as it is waiting on…
The Middle Brother Album - (3/1/2011) I wrote about this “supergroup” made up of members of Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes here. For Christmas, the band made the track “Me Me Me” available as a free download if you signed up for their mailing list. Middle Brother are planning a tour with all three bands in the spring which should be one of the big indie tours of the year. I have already pre-ordered the vinyl, which will come with a bonus 10″ record with four songs from the sessions that didn’t make the final LP.
Chicago Odense Ensemble- (Spring 2011) – Chicago Odense Ensemble is another “supergroup” with members of Tortoise, Chicago Underground Collective and Causa Sui. The basis of this record was recorded when the members of Causa Sui were in Chicago in 2008. The sessions, which were largely improvisational in nature, were recorded and brought back to Odense by Causa Sui member Jonas Munk and edited into the resulting tracks on the album. I’ve had a chance to listen to a pre-release of this, and agree with the early reviews and press about the album in the references to late-60′s Miles Davis In A Silent Way era work.
Eleventh Dream Day – Riot Now – (3/15/2011) – When Doug McCombs played The Blue Moose in March of 2010 with David Daniell, I got a chance to talk to Doug about what was coming up for him. At that time he mentioned that Eleventh Dream Day was going to do a residency at the Hideout in May where the band was going to work out new songs for an upcoming release. Well, they did the residency, and their first new album since 2006 titled Riot Now is coming out on 3/15!
Kelly Pardekooper – untitled as yet – Former Iowan, currently Californian, Kelly has announced that he is going to start working with Bo Ramsey on his next album, which would be his first since 2007′s Brand New Bag, which is still one of my all-time favorite Iowa-related releases.
Ryan Adams – Blackhole – Another album in the extensive archives for Ryan Adams.Blackhole was started before he left Lost Highway (over Christmas 2005) and except for “Tomorrowland” and “Disco Queen” which came out as the third release of his aborted Digital Singles series in 2009, these are all songs that have not been leaked elsewhere. Based on posts on Facebook, Blackhole is actually completed– he did some recording with Jamie Candiloro earlier this year, and if we are to believe a picture he posted of him holding a record, also mastered for vinyl. Those posts were done before the May release of his metal album Orion. December brought another vault release Cardinals III/IV, which was distributed by Orchard/TVT which gave the release much more widespread availability than his own PaxAm website would. He posted to Facebook that Blackhole is “basically Love is Hell Part 3” with “lots of shimmery guitar love.” Certainly the two tracks already available sound a lot like his Smiths-leanings than his Grateful Dead-leanings and I welcome more rock from Ryan. Posts from this week on the archive have people freaking out that PaxAm’s online store is down and there was a now-deleted comment on Facebook that he was sick of dealing with customer service issues with the online store. I’d say there is a very good chance that we see Blackhole released this year since it seems to be mastered already, and it will probably get the same distribution as III/IV.
DJ Shadow – untitled as yet (Spring 2011?) The long-awaited follow up to DJ Shadow’s 2006 Hyphy-influenced release The Outsider is likely to be completed before Shadow ventures out for another tour in May, per comments made on a video about the “Live from the Shadowsphere” tour. Based on the live performances of “I Gotta Rock” and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vinyl single release of “Def Surrounds Us” and “I’ve Been Trying” we see a sort of return to form for Shadow. He stated in an interview that this release would not be as focused on collaborations as The Outsider was.
Lady Gaga – Born This Way – (5/23/2011) – I make it no secret that I’m a fan of Gaga, The Fame and The Fame Monster were both really strong releases. I’m not going to debate that it wasn’t territory that had been covered before in pop music. The leadoff single of “Born This Way” will be released on 2/13. Based on what I’ve seen so far of new songs on her current tour, we’re seeing some of her rock leaning material. The song “You and I” is constantly compared to Elton John and it is clear he is an influence. Notably, the new tour will have The Scissor Sisters as supporting act– they worked with John on a track on their last album.
Bermuda Report – untitled as yet (date TBA) – Bermuda Report is a new band from Abbie Sawyer formerly of The Diplomats of Solid Sound. She and her band jreleased a freely-downloadable EP of songs worth checking out in December– jazzy and bluesy. You can read my review with The Little Village. Abbie says that they will be heading back into the studio soon for a full album release this year.
The revamped store was kicked off with some leftover tour merchandise from the Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29 era. Mostly teeshirts, but there was a neon rose watch available, too! There was a limited number of the “Oblivion” pink 7″es available as well. Currently on the site is the promised re-press of Orion that is not in the first pressing chrome gatefold sleeve and is probably not clear vinyl. They are promising some new merchandise to come as well!
The other big news is the next release from the archives– a 2 LP release of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals III/IV. The sessions for Easy Tiger in 2007 produced something in the order of 60 tracks recorded over a marathon six months at the infamous Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Easy Tiger was the release that followed the 2005 trifecta of Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29.
The reason this release is called III/IV is because it chronologically follows Cold Roses which can be considered I/II. On a Facebook post from 7/15, Ryan said,
“It’s a double and was originally going to be III as in the Cardinals third album. Then we made IV and then lots of things happened and Easy Tiger came out so it got shelved. In the spirit of honoring these albums as they were intended- when looking back on the sessions it was decided in the last few days of them by the band that we were going to release it as a double record. I believe the thinking was ( by the powers that be and by our friends ) that it was too early for another double LP after Cold Roses so we took two songs off of it and put it away for a future day.”
III/IV comes in a number of formats– CD, download and vinyl. You can see what should be the first pressing vinyl and if it is what Ryan initially said about the vinyl those are 180g red and blue transparent LP’s. On a post to the Ryan Adams Archive boards on 6/12 Ryan said that he worked with Andy West on the art. Andy did the Cold Roses artwork. You can see a download card next to the big III/IV poster. Ryan said in the same post that there would be some extras with the “expanded version” and that they might be available with the download card.
Per the Pax Am site, the pre-order information will be coming soon. I’ll update this article as I get more information. Visit the Pax Am Records site and sign up with your e-mail address to be kept up to date, and they are conveniently providing an RSS feed, too!
Here is the tracklist for III/IV with links to content online where it exists.
My Favorite Song
Death And Rats
Kill The Lights
CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER THE VINYL VERSION OF III/IV. It will ship on 12/14.
UPDATE: Amazon already has the III/IV 2 CD set on their site and it lists the release date as December 14th and lists the label as TVT/The Orchard. Ryan had mentioned that he was working on a distribution deal for this and other releases. Click on the first Amazon link below to listen to :30 second samples of the tracks. The second link is for the vinyl edition!
This, of course, is the promised Metal album from Ryan Adams under the moniker Orion I reported on in March. Orion was recorded in 2006 with the final production completed earlier this year with Jamie Candiloro. It’s being described as a “fully realized Sci-Fi Metal Concept Album.” The track “Electro Snake” has been streaming since March which apparently was supposed to ease us into the idea of a full-on Metal record from Ryan. Looking over the track list I see that a song called “Fire and Ice” is on there. The assumption is that this is the same “Fire and Ice” that Ryan streamed from his website back in 2006 as part of the “fake” Warren Peace album – War and Peace. With lyrics like “Somewhere above the stars/In God’s cities/Reflecting the soul waves/Oh, the angels have mercy” it would seem to fit the SciFi concept, and aside from the mid-tempo piano part the chorus uses some pretty heavy guitars.
Orion will be the first full-length release from Ryan’s vanity record label Pax-Am. Last year he released three digital singles as well as his first venture into custom pressing vinyl with the pink 7″ of “Oblivion” b/w “People Need Sunlight.” Orion is the first of some promised releases from the mythical vaults of the very prolific Ryan Adams. The very limited (no reports on how many were pressed, yet) release is a very well-executed package from a fidelity and collectability standpoint. The artwork was done by “Away” aka Michel Langevin who, in addition to being the drummer for Canadian Thrash Metal band Voivod, is also a graphic artist. The artwork is screened onto a silver mirrored gatefold sleeve. The LP itself is pressed into clear 180g vinyl which is also a nice touch. Included with the LP is a card for a digital download of the album in the form of 320 Kbps mp3′s as well as a 24″ x 24″ double-sided folded poster (you can see it behind the LP in the picture above).
At the time of this writing, there are still copies available to order on the site. There was also a long-sleeve teeshirt available with some of the album art on it and a fake 2006 tour on the back– these are sold out. The album is $24 and for me at least, shipping was $8 which makes it $32 which is a bit on the steep side– but it is a very quality release and well worth it, I think. If Ryan keeps to his plans, there will be a digital-download-only version available eventually for those folks who don’t want the vinyl.
Click Here to Order the Orion vinyl + digital package.
We’re going to begin pressing ORION — my most legit METAL record — on vinyl next week. http://ryanada.ms
At his website over the weekend, he debuted a song called “Electrosnake” from his upcoming album Orion. This song is still available for free download (as a WAV file!). There was also a survey that was shut down yesterday asking whether respondants would buy this album. On his Facebook page later that day, he posted that 69,567 people wanted a copy of Orion! “That is too many,” he said, “but it is cool getting to figure out what the manufacture numbers are before you go to press.”
Last year Ryan re-launched his PaxAm label, which in the past had been used for some rare single releases. He released three digital download singles for a very reasonable $1.49, which included digital art. Two of the releases came in FLAC format and all three had a bonus track. He also stepped into the physical waters with a very limited edition pink 7″ which was available at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC as part of an exhibition of his paintings and very briefly available on his website.
At the time he said that he was planning on releasing more of his archive of recordings and PaxAm was his way to do it. Now that Ryan is no longer tied to Lost Highway records and has disbanded The Cardinals he has time to focus on the new phase of his career and part of this is getting the records that Lost Highway didn’t release out there– and apparently there is an audience hungry for new material!
Which brings us to the new release going to press this week on PaxAm which will be Orion. According to a post by Ryan to the Ryan Adams Archive Boards on Saturday, Orionwas started by Ryan and producer Jamie Candiloro after Easy Tiger and had been in the works for over two years. Ryan says that Orion, “really wasn’t supposed to be anything other than a brutally badass thrash/metal record… Two years is a long time to work on a badass album of riffs and this is the one for me.”
Of course, this lit the boards up with contraversy– Ryan never made his love of metal a secret, and from time-to-time would post about metal bands on his various Internet accounts and would even share some of his metal noodling on his collection of vintage BC Rich guitars, still his ardent fans of his more accessible country- and folk-influenced music were torn about whether this was a good thing. Ryan was taking this furor with a certain aplomb joking about it in the thread about the album. The track “Electrosnake” is apparently the most accessible of the tracks with a discernable melody and slower tempo. “Electro Snake may have been the wrong FREE track now that I think of it,” said Ryan in a post, ”but I wanted to try and find something more contemporary because I predicted no matter what track some folks were gonna be all WTF…. the rest of the record is pretty fast and pretty basic thrash. There are some poppier elements via VoiVod/Crumbsuckers but mainly it’s just sci-fi metal stuff. A few tracks, like two tracks in the middle of the record, get pretty heavy and slow and Vol 4 Sabbath-inspired kind of, but you know… I kind of handled all the guitars and bass on this so there is that. I left the drumming to the pro’s.”
So, what else do we know? I think that it will likely be released as a gatefold. He mentions that while there will be a release for people who don’t collect vinyl, the vinyl release will have some impressive art “inside.” I would take “inside” to mean gatefold. So, that is something to look forward to.
I’ve been really anxious for this post-Lost Highway period to start for Ryan. He’s been itching to get some releases out of his back catalog and he’s apparently working on new material with Candiloro this week as well. Without the restrictions of a record label, there is no telling what we will get from Ryan.
Click Here for Ryan Adams’s website where you can download or stream “Electrosnake” from the upcoming Orion album. This will be where the album will be offered for sale. ORION . ELECTROSNAKE by ryanadams