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Ryan Adams - Love Is Hell

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Artist: Ryan Adams
Title: Love is Hell (pt.1)
Year of Release: 2003
Record Label: EP recorded in New Orleans
Genre: Country Rock
Review of recording:

You can't just review half of this full album, which is now available in one piece. Recorded as the official follow-up to 2001's brilliant Gold, then jettisoned by his record company, Lost Highway, Adams considers this his truest artistic statement, and that seems like a fair self-assessment. It's a beautifully written album, and Adams sings like he means every word.

The title track is rollicking fun, followed by a cover of "Wonderwall" that stakes a claim for Adams as its new owner, even in the eyes of its writer, Noel Gallagher of Oasis. There's a splendid and wistful sadness in "This House is Not For Sale," a song that's actually about ghosts in their old house-sounds weird, but it really works. Adams can carry off an up-tempo tune as well, bringing Part 1 nearly to a close with "World War 24." The final song, "Avalanche," fades out beautifully, wrapping up the first EP so that it would stand well on its own as an eight-song album.

Instead, the second EP continues the mood of the first, though it is clearly a different side of the same record. (The full album has been issued on vinyl, which is what qualified it to be considered as a single entity.) With "Please Do Not Let Me Go" we discover the real impetus for such a sad work-the death of a close friend. This vein of tribute-thought continues on "City Rain, City Streets," tumbles into "I See Monsters," and completes a three-four-five punch on "English Girls Approximately." The latter lifts the mood musically just in time, jangling with the flair Adams displayed on Gold, but even here the lyrics are sad, as the girl Adams loves says she doesn't love him.

Overall, Love is Hell is a remarkable album. It changes setting halfway through-EP 1 seems to "take place" mostly in a rural setting, while EP 2 is more urban-but it holds together as one record. Its depth of emotion and the variety of tempo and instrumentation choices Adams makes to surround his weighty material make it worth having as a whole. It would be tough to divide it, in any case: the best material on each EP is sandwiched in its center, giving the overall album a good balance. Turns out you can be prolific and make coherent albums. May other artists take note.
 

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