The Cardinals--Ryan Adams (vocals, guitar, keys), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Chris Feinstein (bass, vocals), Jon Graboff (pedal steel, vocals) and Brad Pemberton (drums)--have confirmed an October 28 release for Cardinol... more »ogy, the band's latest collection of all-new studio material for the Lost Highway label.« less
The Cardinals--Ryan Adams (vocals, guitar, keys), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Chris Feinstein (bass, vocals), Jon Graboff (pedal steel, vocals) and Brad Pemberton (drums)--have confirmed an October 28 release for Cardinology, the band's latest collection of all-new studio material for the Lost Highway label.
""RYAN ADAMS IS THE SONGWRITING GENIOUS (sic) OF OUR MILLENIUM" proclaims one ecstatic reviewer on this page, while others on the opposite side of the spectrum urge the reader to go buy Cold Roses instead. Obviously this disc is divisive among the various camps of Ryan Adams fans, and that's surprising to me given how straightforward and pleasing this music sounds. But then, I am a relative newcomer to the world of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals so perhaps there's more to this than I'd think.
A bit of background. I have all the Whiskeytown material (or at least I think I do, I bought the 3 CDs available at the time) plus a copy of Heartbreaker, but after that I got off the train. Ryan's output became confusing and difficult to follow (stylistic jumps, overlong albums and a plethora of new material of dubious quality) and the music media often cast him as a whiny, narcissistic baby which is always a turnoff (quite frankly I usually don't care about such things but some of the stories did have an impact on whether I wanted to give my money to this guy). But recent positive reviews of Easy Tiger and reports that Adam has cleaned up his act and decided to focus on his music with more seriousness of purpose got me interested. This album is where I got back on the train and I'm happy I did so.
Adams is apparently one of those guys who has absorbed a lot of influences over the years. I'm not sure how old he is but I think he's probably at least about a half-decade younger than myself, which means he grew up in the era of alternative rock. However it's also clear that he's spent some time with classic rock as well - possibly the Grateful Dead and/or the Eagles - as well as the classic country stuff that formed the backbone of the Whiskeytown sound. Thus the album sounds both modern (the production is rich, not unlike a U2 record) and classic, which to me is appealing. Songs like "Cobwebs" reflect more of the 80s alt-rock influence, while "Go Easy" falls into more of the classic rock camp. The closing track "Stop" is beautiful and shows that Adams has learned something from whatever rehab he's been in. Somehow it all gels, the various threads coming together to create a song cycle that is appealing and sounds of a piece.
Now to finish where I started, this may be the closest thing we have to the "classic rock of the new milleneum," but I wouldn't call this a work of genius. It's just a good, solid album that I know I'll still enjoy years down the road, and that's enough to make me happy. It's also enough to make me want to check out Cold Roses and see what I've been missing. Score one for Adams - good job, mate."
Ryan plays safe and loses his magic
Mickey Moose | Brooklyn, NY United States | 10/28/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love Ryan. I have pretty much enjoyed the heck out of every previous release. If I had to choose a least favorite I would say Gold.
As far as Cardinology is concerned, I think all the critics who ragged on Ryan's rate of production finally got what they want. This is Ryan's safest, most predictable album. The first time I listened to it, I hated it. The melodies are not as catchy, and the writing seemed derivative of earlier stuff. There was not a single song that took me out of my head and just made me marvel at this man's talent.
On further listening, the lyrics are deeper and more introspective than I thought. He's in his post-drug, post-bad relationship phase where he is examining the drugs and the relationships. The overall vibe is a little Grateful Dead mixed with Ryan's more confessional side. All audible trace of his North Carolina roots are pretty much gone. It's weird to here him sing about walking uptown in Manhattan looking for Central Park. I know he has lived in New York for many years now, but it doesn't really fit into his music very well. He sounds like a tourist.. but I digress.
The real story here is the magic (no pun intended) is gone from the music. This is all craftsmanship.The songs are good, but overwrought and predictable. There is no strange, inexplicable beauty like "Halloweenhead" that makes you shake your head, laugh, and get down. There is no epic beauty like "Dear John" from JCN. And unfortunately, there's no song on par with anything from Heartbreaker.
In general, the vibe is very downtrodden and reflective. This vibe is pretty uniform from song to song as well. This definitely creates a distinct mood, but it's a mood I don't think many folks will want to be in for too long (especially when the melodies are kind of a drag).
Honestly, I hope he comes out with a solo album soon. Where is the crazy, unpredictable Ryan who wrote some of the best country and rock music ever put on wax? Was that all a pose before he found his more serious, post-drug, analytical writing style? Who knows. I wish him the best."
Andrew Vice | Plano, TX | 10/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cardinology is my introduction to the world of Ryan Adams, and I have to say, I'm rather pleased with it. It's obvious that Adams is a man who reveres the classics, as sounds of classic country, Elton John, and especially Neil Young are very prevalent in the music, working into a seamless blend which results in something greater than the sum of its parts. The music runs through the typical gamut of moods for a modern indie rock musician, hitting all the high points of ballads, slow rockers, barn burners, and country folk mashups. Adams has a distinctively Neil Young-ish voice, which I suppose can either be a great asset or a terrible burden depending upon the listener. Personally, I dig his voice, which lends itself easily to the variety of styles seen on this record.
The individual songs are solid, but just like with the albums various styles, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While no individual song really stuck out to me as an instantly appealing, needs-to-be-on-infinite-repeat kind of track, there were none I really disliked. I think fans of Adams will no doubt enjoy this record, and as I've seen, it may not be a bad place for newcomers to start.
Ryan continues to do whatever he wants, and (I think) we are
Storylover | Philadelphia, PA USA | 10/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When approaching a new Ryan Adams CD, I've always found that one should be a little wary, a little drunk, or perhaps both. He has a capricious sort of genius that is a little like lightning in a bottle. When he is hot, man he can light up the sky. When he is not, well, he is still often better than most other folks around. But the trick is, you never know who you are going to get...will it be the bad boy throwing out rock and roll at full tilt? Will it be the sensitive boy who just had his heart broken? The newly mature adult alternative darling? Well, for cardinology, I think they are all here to some extent.
Cardinology is a very solid, very well done collection of songs that are easy to like. He builds on the strengths of Easy Tiger, relying on his excellent backing band, the Cardinals. The songwriting is generally good, although it isn't his sharpest (see his towering masterpiece, Cold Roses, or his utterly amazing alt country opus, Heartbreaker, for that). The music is generally mid tempo, strong on guitars. Ryan's voice sounds fantastic--he sticks to his very strong middle register, but isn't scared to allow himself to wail when he slips into despair. He growls and pleads, shimmying up and down the scales when the moment requires, but grounds everything in the best portion of his middle range baritone. There is a dearth of the slide guitar that I had enjoyed on many of his earlier works, but I can certainly overlook this.
Lyrics alternate between assured posturing and raw pain. "I wish I could tell you just how I'm hurt," he says on Crossed Out Name, one of the stand out tracks on the album. Later, on Natural Ghost, he says "I was waiting around for somebody to die/...I think of somewhere I'd like to be and hold that in my mind/ but there's always tonight..." These two quotes encompass many of the themes of the album--the pain at the past, regret, and yet some expectation that some longing may be fulfilled.
This is an album that starts out easy to like with a number of simply structured basic rock songs. The middle of the album becomes stronger and stronger, until by Evergreen you realize that his songwriting continues to mature and get better--and with repeated listens gets better. I think that it will settle out signficantly better than Easy Tiger, much better than Demolition, as he seems more comfortable in his own skin, less like he has something to prove, but not quite as good as Cold Roses (that one will be hard to top regardless). It is one that should easily satisfy most of his fans, and is a good gateway for new fans as well.
Ultimately, then, this is an easy recommendation for those who already like Ryan. For those who are taking a chance, do so with confidence. This is a very very solid effort. For those who have never enjoyed him, I'm not sure this will change your minds, but go back and give "Heartbreaker" another chance."
HERE WE GO STEELERS!!! | Philadelphia, PA USA | 12/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This review is for the record/lp limited edition version of Ryan Adams Cardinology. Nice packaging on this one, but boring album. I guess my expectations were quite high for this album given all the hype surrounding its release...boy, was I ever disappointed. Not unlike some of Ryan Adams' other releases, this album is just plain Ryan Adams. What I mean is that it takes some effort on the part of the listener to make it through the whole album because there aren't any real standouts (in my opinion), minimal emotion, plaintive melodies that are ultra-typical of this artist. Please don't misunderstand me, it isn't that this is a bad album, but rather that it isn't anything new, different, engaging, etc. So, I'd say hold off on this one and wait for an actual turning point in what this artist is releasing, because this isn't it."