Out on Friday, 17th February 2017, but available to stream (and on order in vinyl from Pax-Am) is the new album, ‘Prisoner’, from the prolific genius that is Ryan Adams. I love this guy so much, so the review to follow is unashamedly biased but that’s how it goes.
Not since ‘Lost in a Dream’ have I been this excited about a new release after what I would consider to a pretty uninspiring couple of years in album terms, save for Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ and a few others. So it is with joy that I read that the new album, ‘Prisoner’ is available pre-release, here at NPR. I don’t know why or how but I am chuffed to bits.
In the press, Rolling Stone (Australia) etc, Adams has talked about his breakup with actress Mandy Moore and the inevitable pain this generates and it seems this album is the reaction to this event. We do know Adams’ cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989‘ was his instinctive reaction to the initial trauma. Getting in the studio being his remedy, the album was at times beautiful (‘Wildest Dreams’, ‘How You Get the Girl’, ‘This Love’) but terrible (‘Style’). But this is his first original work since ‘1989’ and otherwise since his last self titled release in 2015.
Prisoner itself is a very nice listen for me, instantly familiar, in a good way. Well produced, though I’m listening to a compressed stream, the album is light and open and immediately relaxing, knowing I am in good company. Adams has talked about Bruce Springsteen a fair bit and this album certainly has early years Springsteen echoes, rambling Americana with the odd harmonica and ‘Clarence Clemons’ saxophone.
The album is quite raw and clearly reflects recent heartbreak, ‘Breakdown’, ‘Do you Still Love Me’ and my favourite and outstanding track ‘(So Hard) To Be Without You’. Indeed heartbreak is the word here, the album taking me back to ‘Heartbreaker’, often to ‘Gold’ and ‘Love is Hell’. The album is beautifully layered reminding me of the aforementioned ‘Lost in A Dream’ by The War on Drugs in parts; ‘Broken Anyway’ is a glorious track and piece of production.
I think one thing you do have to is take the album for the music and the sentiment it reflects and not worry too much about the lyrics, there are some corny lines here (I miss you so much I shiver and shake) but lets not get too hung up about that. This is an album from an artist finding himself back in a groove and nearing the height of his powers formerly reached with ‘Gold’ and ‘Heartbreaker’.
Prisoner Track Rating
Do You Still Love Me? ****
Haunted House ****
Shive & Shake ***** (5)
To Be Without You ****** (5)
Anything I Say to You Now ****** (5)
Outbound Train ****
Broken Anyway ***** (5)
We Disappear ****
Album – Prisoner
Artist – Ryan Adams
Download These At Least – To Be Without You, Shiver and Shake, Broken Anyway
Source – NPR, streamed album
Player – Nexus 6P, Bluetooth
Amplification/Output – T+A R1000 E Music Receiver & Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L Towers
Album Released – 17th February 2017
12 Tracks, 42’54”