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LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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Limited double vinyl LP pressing of this 2001 album. Ryan Adams released Gold as the follow-up to Heartbreaker. It was well received; however, Adams voted against making videos or doing radio station meet-and-greet type tour for more recording and some live dates. A video was eventually made for the album's first single 'New York, New York'. The music video featured Adams performing in front of the city's skyline four days before the September 11th 2001 attacks. The video was played on MTV and VH1 after the attacks and became Adams's breakthrough to mainstream music consumers.
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Whether or not it's your first Ryan Adams album or not doesn't matter. Gold is Adams' second studio album and his most eclectic - rich with a classic feeling mix of genre influences including rock, country, and blues. His record company seems to have had some difficulties labeling the album - it was nominated for both rock and country awards at the Grammy's. The video for "New York, New York" played on country music TV channels but most of the album doesn't fit the glossy pop makeover of modern country music - it has more in common with the stuff from a few decades before. I once saw his music as part of a "Renegade Country" endcap at Best Buy, partnered with the likes of Wilco and Brandi Carlile.
When I say its his most eclectic album I say so knowing full well Adams full career span is prolifically diverse. Active for about 13 years now as a solo artist, he's released 13 full-fledged studio albums, four of which could be classified as double albums, with three releases coming in one year alone (2005's Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, and 29). Each has its own distinct style that stands alone from the others while still being Ryan Adams. One is completely shredder metal. But the rich vintage feel of Gold is probably his most feel-good album.
Although there are no weak points on Gold, Adams' finest stuff is the run from tracks 2-5, which covers everything from heartsick love songs ("Answering Bell", "La Cienega Just Smiled") to rip-roaring harmonica tunes ("Firecracker") to transcendent blues ("Rescue Blues"). Take "Firecracker" for instance. A quick-driving guitar riff, Hammond organs in the back, and a soaring bluesy harmonica whenever Ryan's not singing lyrics like this: "So when does the plane go down? / 'Cause I'm gonna ride it till it hits the ground / Then go out with a fight / 'Cause I just wanna be your baby tonight." It only gets better from there.
First these songs loosen you up. Then they excite you. Then they make you blissfully melancholy. And finally they leave you feeling kind of grateful. Some have said the best music, literature, film, art, etc., leaves you changed after you experience it. It invigorates you to the degree that you know its more than just entertainment. You're a different person after experience it. If you're not feeling that after the 9-minute blues journey story-song of "Nobody Girl" or the simple hard-rock driver that is "Enemy Fire" than maybe you just need to turn up the volume or put on some better headphones. I understand that maybe it won't have that effect on you. But maybe you'll get that lovin' feeling. Or maybe I'm just holding on too tightly to that teenage emotion.
For the aficionados and Gold-lovers out there look for the deluxe version with an extra disc of songs - Adams originally meant it to be a double album. Seeing as how he's on my Top 5 it really was an obligation for me to get it once I found out about it. There are a couple gems on there. And if you made it this far and wondering when I'm going to talk about "Summer of 69" then please hit the self destruct button on your computer now as the internet has failed you.
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"Gold"'s sound is primarily rock, emotionally strong, and upbeat -- Big haired glitter like the Stones, Lou Reed, Neil Young, The Who, Dylan, and even a little Grateful Dead space jam or two are sprinkled throughout. And let us not forget that Ryan got his start as a punk rocker! No Depression fans don't worry though, "Gold" does have something for you. An eclectic 16 songs with a 5 track bonus CD is no shocker from the super-song-writing-genius, who has allegedly written thousands of songs at the tender age of 26, and adapts a variety of musical styles effortlessly.
While it's not a stretch to call Ryan Adams' new sound "Americana", it is only slightly astray from the very broad category of alt-country. Denimed and Marlboro'ed renegade Adams has a patriotic thing going on with "Gold", and it is ironic timing that the jacket features handguns and big old American flags, among other icons.
Overall, I think "Gold" is great American music -- and evidence that Carolina country boy Adams' life and latest jaunts in big cities like Nashville, NYC and LA have changed him -- and his music -- forever.