Ryan Adams: Prisoner

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Posted March 7, 2017 by in Rock
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

4.5/ 5

Details

Genre:
 
Producer:
 
Label: ,
 
 
 
 
Genre: Rock, alt-country
 
Producer: Ryan Adams
 
Label: PAX AM, Blue Note
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc, streaming, vinyl
 
Time: 42:52
 
Release Date: 17 February 2017
 
Spin This: "Anything I Say to You Now," "To Be Without You," "Doomsday," "Prisoner"
 

Pros:

Golden '80's midtempo country-teased rock dominate the disc; all originals presents some of Adams's best craft to date
 

Cons:

All the songs, especially the bigger tracks, play to the limitations of modern Top 40/rock radio format. Hardly expand and breathe like they should
 

Ryan Adams’ first album of original material since 2014 rises to the top

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Ryan Adams’ first album of original material since 2014 rises to the top

ryanadams-01A resonating beauty orchestrated with Appalachia harmonica, mellow rock gold and Springsteen songsmith skill exudes from the playlist of Prisoner, Ryan Adams‘ sixteenth studio album and first all-original set after dropping the glorious ’80’s rock-whipped covers’ set of Taylor Swift’s 1989 and since his self-titled 2014 album. It’s also Adams’s first disc to appear on Blue Note, where he worked a distribution deal with his PAX-AM indie label.

Like most folk-rock leaning performers, Adams isn’t exactly the type of dreamy vocalist one will write home about. But he knows his audience. He writes to his strengths and has developed a type of songbook — mostly all midtempo — that compliments his aesthetic. The soothing title track on here is the perfect example of Adams’s beautiful escapism and highway rock. “If loving you is wrong, I am a criminal,” he sings inside the track with a Tom Petty flair. The harmonica-teased “Doomsday” continues in that trajectory.

As the album paces onward, it doesn’t lose its pace or gravitational pull to the ear. The Allman soul of “To Be Without You” is sweetly rendered, even as Adams pours our an end of the road type of heartbreak (“Nothing really matters anymore”). Possibly the most gravitational of the latter tracks, “Anything I Say to You Now” is gorgeously played, with Adams’s lead guitar strums demonstrating the powers of sexy rock. Thanks to Jason Boesel’s punctuated drumming and a careful echo effect on Adams’ vocals and on the instruments — a perfect extension of the song’s charming melodies and capturing the glow of Adams’ 1989, this track easily rises to the front as one of the album’s golden moments. It honestly feels like an arena rock gem deserving to be discovered. A slowly-paced fade as the band instrumentally plays off into the sunset also adds to the song’s immunity. 

Arguably the only biggest regret with Prisoner is the brevity of the songs’ length. They don’t breathe long enough, fading and bowing to the magic wand of commercial rock radio. Many of the great tracks deserve to be expanded with more instrumental jamming in between or with more of Adams’ fanning the flame with more vocal time. But despite this greedy quip, Prisoner is still a worthy set, possibly one of his best so far. It’s safe to say that it reigns as one of the best titles released at the top of 2017. Hopefully it will influence other rockers to take note.

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About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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