CD: Ryan Adams - Prisoner | reviews, news & interviews
CD: Ryan Adams - Prisoner
CD: Ryan Adams - Prisoner
Divorced prolific singer-songwriter channels his inner Boss
Ryan Adams’s 16th solo album since he debuted in 2000 with Heartbreaker reveals many influences, including AC/DC and the Electric Light Orchestra - notably on the opening track and single, “Do You Still Love Me”, where keyboards are to the fore. But mostly Adams is channelling The Boss.
Bruce Springsteen seems everywhere evident – the vocal style, the keening harmonica breaks, the big echo and much besides: "Haunted House", with its pounding drum, acoustic guitar and a vocal line that coils around just a few notes; "Shiver and Shake", its vocal almost spoken over two or three gently strummed chords, the song arrested mid-flight rather than ending or fading; "Outbound Train", "Broken Anyway", "Tightrope", "We Disappear"… all sound like Springsteen pastiche.
Prisoner is a "divorce" album: in 2015 Adams announced a mutually agreed split from singer and actress Mandy Moore following a six-year marriage. Songs recall him "waiting like a dog at the door" yet still "it’s so hard not to call". "Every night is lonesome and longer than before… I feel empty, I feel tired". "Feel like I’m heading for a breakdown".
Adams has described the break-up as "humiliating… destructive on a level I can’t explain". Writing the songs that comprise Prisoner was a way of "keeping my chin up and remembering what I did and what I loved about who I was". He has said he wrote nearly 80 songs, not surprising for a man who claimed from the Songwriters Circle BBC stage with Neil Finn and Janis Ian that songs pour out of him at the rate of four or five a day.
It was producer Don Was ("hostage negotiator and righteous bro") who helped Adams get from 80 songs to 12, all chronicling his heartbreak. The press release talks breathlessly of the resulting album being "a direct transmission from Ryan’s psyche and soul". As is the cover art apparently. One for Private Eye.
Prisoner is a listenable album - but it is derivative.
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