Album Reviews

Ryan Adams – Prisoner – Album Review

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Ryan Adams – Prisoner – Album Review by Killian Laher

Ryan Adams has been releasing solo albums for the last 16 years at a rate of about one per year. Over the years, while coming from a sort of ‘rootsy’ background, he has cast off the alt-country scene he was once bracketed with. This is his first album since his not unpleasant Taylor Swift covers album 1989, and he continues his recent habit of opening albums with one of the worst songs on it! Here he opens with Do You Still Love Me?, an 80s middle-of-the-road hair rocker, reminiscent of, of all bands, Survivor. Thankfully from here the album improves drastically. The title track opens with a Johnny Marr-like guitar figure and expertly creates a moody atmosphere. Doomsday and Haunted House are fairly typical of the album – they will appeal to anybody who enjoyed his self-titled album from 2014 – mid tempo tracks full of exquisite guitar touches and misery without cutting too deep. Shiver and Shake goes one better, perfectly distilling the essence of Bruce Springsteen’s mid 80s classic ballads. It’s a cross between I’m On Fire and Tunnel of Love, all swirling keyboards, twanging guitars and a fine, understated vocal from Adams. Outbound Train similarly wears its Springsteen DNA prominently on its blue collar.

For those long term Ryan Adams fans who enjoy his more stripped down, rootsy material, To Be Without You will be a treat. One of those seemingly effortless acoustic ballads Adams comes up with every so often, it could sit comfortably on albums like Easy Tiger or Ashes and Fire. From here the album settles back into a mid eighties driving groove, tracks like Anything I Say To You Know and Broken Anyway walk the line between cheese and quality, just about saved by Adams’ fine guitar playing. But few of these songs make anything like the lasting impact that certain songs from previous albums like Heartbreaker, Love Is Hell etc made. Adams has always had plenty of songs which are melodic but not hugely resonant. This applies to some of the material on Prisoner.

Ryan Adams certainly has talent but he seems either unwilling or unable to find a sound that suits him. For most artists, this would be a strong album, but when measured against Adams’ sizeable back catalogue, you know he’s capable of so much more.

Track List:

1. Do You Still Love Me?
2. Prisoner
3. Doomsday
4. Haunted House
5. Shiver and Shake
6. To Be Without You
7. Anything I Say To You Now
8. Breakdown
9. Outbound Train
10. Broken Anyway
11. Tightrope
12. We Disappear

To Be Without You

 

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Categories: Album Reviews, Header, Music

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