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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rock N Roll

(Lost Highway Records)
Released 11/4/03

"With ROCKNROLL, we were definitely out to make a confrontational record; people were either going to love it or hate it. We certainly succeeded on that front. I meet people almost every day who are obsessed with the sound of that album and an almost equal number who think it's the worst thing heís ever done." - James Barber
"[Rock N Roll]'s kind of an album about my record collection. It's not the next great statement, and it's so not a big deal. It has elements of the late Eighties in it - particularly Sonic Youth, which was very important for me, and a little bit of Gun Club. Terribly unprofound, I'd say. It has a lot of punchlines in it." - Ryan Adams (Guitar World Acoustic - Issue #67 2004)
"I thought it would be really nice to make a record that would be super-fun to play live. A record that would be funny, with a little bit of heart. Obviously, I'm not confessing my sins, or revolutionizing modern rock. Iím not expecting that from myself. I donít really think I have the responsibility to make any landmark statement, Iím just trying to be myself....." - Ryan Adams (Amanda Petrusich - Pitchfork Media)

The Reviews

"In one way, Rock N Roll reeks of rush job...... there are loose threads hanging everywhere: daffy metaphors, the sheer laziness of a line such as "It's all a bunch of shit" ("Wish You Were Here"). But Adams has never let good grammar get in the way of a better song, and here he is obsessively focused on things that truly matter: his favorite bands, killer hooks, the meaty, rude guitars he plays all over the place. Rock N Roll is exactly what he says it is. Dance with confidence." (4 out of 5 stars. Rolling Stone)

"Ramshackle homages to the 80's and 90's influences from U2 to Nirvana. The bullying guitars and belligerent vocals recall peak Replacements..... Adams stamps his unmistake-able rebel persona into every primal secondhand note, imbuing his retro infatuations with a fresh urgency..... ROCK isnt as cohesive or coherent as 2001's GOLD, but its glamsplashed celebration of three chord mayhem kicks much of the shrink-wrapped neo-garage scene to the curb." (3 out of 5 stars. Edna Gunderson - USA Today, 11/4/03)

"With a raw throat and an electric guitar, Adams recorded an album of passionate, straight-ahead rock; it isn't fancy, but it's tasty. Rock N Roll marries the guitar attack of T. Rex and the Stooges to tormented lyrics such as "Note to self: Don't die." (Rolling Stone: Top 50 of 2003)

1. This is It (Ryan Adams/Johnny T Yerington)
2, Shallow
3. 1974
4. Wish You Were Here (Ryan Adams/Brad Rice)
5. So Alive (Ryan Adams/Johnny T Yerington)
6. Luminol (Ryan Adams/Johnny T Yerington/ Tony Shanahan)
7. Burning Photographs (Ryan Adams/Johnny T Yerington)
8. She's Lost Total Control
9. Note to Self: Don't Die (Ryan Adams/ Parker Posey)
10. Rock N Roll
11. Anybody Wanna Take Me Home
12. Do Miss America
13. Boys (Ryan Adams/Johnny T Yerington)
14. The Drugs Not Working

Ryan Adams - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Johnny T - Drums
John Flaugher - Bass
Joe Pisano - Bass
Tony Shanahan - Bass
Johnny McNabb - Guitar
Paul Garisto - Drums
Joe McGinty - Piano
Jamie Candiloro - Hammond B3, Bass
Melissa Auf Der Maur - Background Vocals
Parker Posey - Background Vocals
Billie Joe Armstrong - Background Vocals
Produced by James Barber
Executive Producer - Parker Posey
Engineered and Mixed by Jamie Candiloro at Stratosphere Sound (NYC)
Additional Engineering by Eli Janney, Tom Schick, and Joe McGrath
Additional Recording at Globe Studios (NYC) and Cello Studios (Los Angeles, CA)
Assistant Engineer at Stratosphere - Rudyard Lee Cullers

The Background
Although, many people (including Ryan Adams himself) tend to write Rock N Roll off as a hodgepodge collection of recycled riffs and cliche lyrics, it remains one of the most significant albums in his discography. If anything, Rock N Roll helped to restore his faith in making music again. And it's more than likely, if it hadn't been for Rock N Roll, Ryan's musical path could have been entirely different than it is now, possibly even non existent!

Before the sessions for Rock N Roll, Ryan Adams had faced one of the darkest periods of his career. Following the Lost Highway's dismissal of Love is Hell, Ryan spent most of his time at home, contemplating his future in music. During this time, Ryan posted long winded online rants against his label and mentioned everything from quitting music, to starting his own label, and even reuniting Whiskeytown.

But eventually he moved on. Spending many a night at local dive bars in the East Village (most notably Niagara and Black and White), he struck up a friendship with drummer and co-owner of the two bars - Johnny T Yerington (better known as Johnny T). Ryan and Johnny discovered that they shared very similar interests in music. And soon, they began jamming together in a nearby rehearsal space, beneath the Hi-Fi Bar on Avenue A.

In the beginning, their jam sessions were more like wild and crazy parties. Friends like Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Jesse Malin, Parker Posey (Ryan's girlfriend at the time), Melissa Auf Der Maur (Smashing Pumpkins), and others would stop by, have some drinks, and join in on some tunes. But eventually, a new batch of blistering rock songs started pouring out of Ryan and Johnny. Now, playing guitar for pure enjoyment and without a contract or album in mind, Ryan Adams was playing the style of music he loved as a teenager. In interviews, he credited such bands as Sonic Youth, The Gun Club, and The Smiths as being the main inspirations behind Rock N Roll.

By the middle of the summer, Ryan Adams, and Johnny T hooked up with producer - Jim Barber, and were ready to record a full-on rock record. Rock N Roll was the result of a back to basics approach to making music. Instead of spending hours fine-tuning and attempting to make bold artistic statements, songs were quickly written and recorded. Laying down as many as 4-5 songs per day, the album was completed in only 2 weeks in late July/early August of 2003.

Paying for the recording on his own credit card, Ryan made every effort to keep Lost Highway from finding out about the new direction he was taking. It wasn't until towards the end of the sessions when the label sent someone to check on Ryan, that they found out he was recording. When they heard the record, they loved it and were convinced it was the album that would put him back on top.

My Review

Although by no means one of my favorite Ryan Adams albums, Rock N Roll still manages to sum up why I love the guy. His chameleon-like ability to change directions musically was brought full throttle on Rock N Roll. At the time, I was working for Universal Music, and got to hear a promo of "So Alive" weeks before it's release to radio. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Ryan didn't even sound like Ryan! But then again what does Ryan sound like? I was confused, but somehow the experience of sitting with my co-worker hearing this for the first time, in some strange way changed how I heard music. Here was a guy who could make really cool music effortlessly in so many different genres. Soon after seeing some promo pics of Ryan at this time, I grew my hair out and spiked it up (which eventually became a mohawk).

Ryan mentioned that while writing the songs on Rock N Roll, if he came across an idea that sounded familiar, he would just continue writing to see where the song took him. There's no denying that some of the songs sound eerily familiar to Oasis, Nirvana, and Morrissey. But that's also part of the appeal of the album.

I love Rock N Roll for what it is. It's simply a fun rock record to bounce around the room and play air guitar to. It's loaded with throw-away lines and recycled riffs; and many fans tend to bash this album because of that. But when you think about it, isn't all rock music from today just a continuation of what happened yesterday. From poor blacks singing the blues, to Elvis, to the Beatles, to the Pixies, etc, it's just one generation pulling ideas from another generation pulling from another generation. So don't judge this album too harshly! It's only Rock N Roll.

Not everything is Essential, but Definitely worth checking out!.... At least half of the songs are worth having.

Key Tracks: "This is It", Shallow", "1974", "Wish You Were Here", "So Alive","Burning Photographs", "Note to Self: Don't Die", "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home", "The Drugs Not Working"........... and for b-sides/bonus tracks - "Don't Even Know Her Name", "Red Lights","Hypnotixed", "Closer When She Goes", and "Funeral Marching".

Other Versions/ Bonus Cuts worth Checking Out

In 2003, import versions of Rock N Roll featured bonus tracks - "Hypnotixed" and "Funeral Marching", from the Rock N Roll Sessions.

In 2004, a DVD Audio version of Rock N Roll was released and featured the "So Alive" video.

In 2004, the single for "So Alive" came in various formats and featured bonus tracks: "Luxury", "I'm Coming Over", "Ah Life", and "Don't Even Know Her Name". These were taken from the Rock N Roll Sessions.

In 2004, a CD single featuring an acoustic version of "This is It" was released and featured bonus tracks: "Red Lights", and "Closer When She Goes" from the Rock N Roll sessions.

In 2004, a promo EP called - Halloween was released and featured 2 songs from the Rock N Roll sessions - "Closer When She Goes" and "Funeral Marching".

In 2004, an iTunes exclusive EP called Morrocan Role was released and featured "Ah Life", "I'm Coming Over", and "Don't Even Know Her Name".

Random Notes

In 2006, Ryan mentioned that there was a different version of Rock N Roll originally submitted to Lost Highway, which was called Diamondz. The album was rejected for release but is said to feature Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Brodie Armstrong (The Distillers). Ryan suggested that he might include it as part of the long-awaited box set.

In August of 2003, Ryan posted the original track listing for Rock N Roll. It went like this: This is It/ Shallow/ 1974/Note to Self Dont Die/ Burning Photographs/ Boys/ Political Song for People I Hate to Sing/ Wish you Were Here/ So Alive/ Anybody Wanna Take Me Home/ Hypnotixed/ Luminol/ Do Miss America/ The Drugs Not Working

Other Songs Recorded for Rock N Roll
Liar - originally recorded during the unreleased Cowboy Technical Service Sessions. The song was briefly made available for streaming from Ryan Adams' website but has yet to be officially released

Political Song for People I Hate to Sing? - was recorded but has yet to be released. The song also features Parker Posey on background vocals.

Other Random Info:

Some of the original titles suggested for the album were Diamondz, Rock N Roll Reverse, and Steal This.

The song - "Hypnotixed" dates back to the early-mid 90's and was originally written for his band - the Patty Duke Syndrome.

"Wish You Were Here" is an older song that Ryan Adams first began playing live in early 2002.

The songs - "Rock N Roll" and "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home" were originally recorded during the Love is Hell sessions.

Sweet Videos
"So Alive" Music Video

"So Alive" on David Letterman Show


  1. Parker Posey reportedly also sings on "Political Song For People I Hate to Sing"

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