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Friday, February 15, 2013

Easy Tiger


(Lost Highway Records)
Released 6/26/07

"I didn't listen to anything but hip-hop while making [Easy Tiger]. That freed me from any obvious influences." - Ryan Adams (Rolling Stone 4/19/07)

The Reviews


"I won’t say Adams is the best North American singer-songwriter since Neil Young…but I won’t say he isn’t, either. What I know is there has never been a Ryan Adams record quite as strong and together as Easy Tiger; it’s got enough blue-eyed, blue-steel soul (with the faintest country tinge) to make me think of both Marvin Gaye and the Righteous Brothers. Probably ridiculous, but true. And the songs themselves are beautiful—the lyrics tightly focused and brief, the feeling one of melancholy calm that will probably be a revelation to fans that remember the old, sometimes angry Ryan Adams..."
--Stephen King

"Easy Tiger is Adams at his most consistent and measured, as slick and slow as an old Bread record.....Since he's built his reputation on wild inconsistency, allowing himself inspired whims like Cold Roses, this is a strangely atypical Adams record, just because it's his first typical one. For the only time since Gold, he wants you to notice how hard he worked pulling it all together. ..." (3 and 1/2 stars - Rolling Stone)

"The 13 new songs show an attention to detail his albums have lacked in recent years......Easy Tiger finally capitalizes on the promise that made Adams such a cause celebre when he released his first two solo albums, 2000's Heartbreaker and 2001's Gold...... Easy Tiger is also the most cohesive and intricately arranged album he's ever created..... Way to go, Tiger" (The San Fran Chronicle)

"..Easy Tiger could easily be seen as the album that many of his fans have wanted to hear since Heartbreaker, a record that is tight and grounded in country-rock.... Adams benefits from the brevityHere, his songs don't stick around longer than necessary, so they linger longer in memory.......the most Ryan Adamsy Ryan Adams record since his first. For some fans, it's exactly what they've been waiting for, for others it'll be entirely too tidy, but don't worry - if Adams has proven to be anything it's reliably messy, and he's sure to get ragged again somewhere down the road. (Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide)


"The real triumph of Easy Tiger is less rooted in the sound, more in the attitude. With the unfussy production of Jamie Candiloro (engineer of Rock And Roll), the newly sober, cleaned-up Adams appears more at ease in his own skin, soothing himself into these thirteen songs rather than straining hard. With the Cardinals back on board (drummer Brad Pemberton, bassist Chris Feinstein, steel player Jon Graboff and guitarist Neal Casal), Easy Tiger feels like a more assured follow-up to the countrified Cold Roses. All in all, a break seems to have done Ryan Adams the power of good. Shrewdly edited, filled with good judgement, this is simply great work, from a rejuvenated musician.." (Uncut)


"His ninth studio album, Easy Tiger, brings Adams full circle, back to the rough-hewn pathos of Heartbreaker. Whereas that 2000 solo debut was fraught with youthful indifference, Easy Tiger feels earned, a clear-eyed stab at dusky country-rock. Having spent the past few years under a cloud of substance abuse, Adams revealed that he'd given up drugs and drink last year; his newfound sobriety restores a luminous quality to his wounded tenor that was notably absent on recent albums..... By embracing the alt-country tropes that make Heartbreaker such a classic, he has reclaimed the mantle of a modern-day Gram Parsons, a barroom poet whose beery lamentations sound best laid over fat dollops of pedal steel. 
For all of its renewed vigor, Easy Tiger is also inescapably reflective.it's clear both from this record and his willingness to revisit his past that Adams is a man increasingly at peace with himself and his art..... As such, it's no surprise that Easy Tiger is his most engaging record since Heartbreaker -- even less shocking that it's one of 2007's best. (**** 4 of 5 stars - Preston Jones, Fort Worth Star)

"..a nice companion piece to his compelling debut, Heartbreaker. The only real problem is that Adams' songs sound so familiar and so in debt to his influences that even the best ones have a hard time standing out. ...........That doesn't make Easy Tiger any less enjoyable to listen to, just a little bit less memorable when it's over. " (David Peisner - Chicago Tribune)


"As it turns out, the singer-songwriter's ninth studio album since Whiskeytown is more consistent-- if more predictable and less spectacular-- than pretty much any other record in his exhaustive catalog. If 2001's Gold was a bid for the "multi-platinum ring,".. the music on Easy Tiger suggests Adams is vying for a spot on the Starbucks CD rack..... Easy Tiger, however, is practically a compilation of his past seven years, minus Rock N Roll's new wave bent....." (6.2 out of 10 - Marc Hogan - Pitchfork Media)



"Easy Tiger (Lost Highway) is the album casual Ryan Adams fans have been waiting for, the one that is focused and cohesive and a treat to listen to from start to finish the way his debut album Heartbreaker is...... The stunner is the raw, Jeff Buckley-esque emotion on "The Sun Also Sets," a sign that the ever-prolific Adams still knows how to knock out a surprise." (Newsday, Grade B+)


1. Goodnight Rose
2. Two (Ryan Adams/ Brad Pemberton)
3. Everybody Knows
4. Halloweenhead (Ryan Adams)
5. Oh My God Whatever Etc. (Ryan Adams/ Brad Pemberton)
6. Tears of Gold

7. The Sun Also Sets (Ryan Adams/ Brad Pemberton)
8. Off Broadway (Ryan Adams/ Brad Pemberton)
9. Pearls on a String
10. Rip Off (Ryan Adams/ Brad Pemberton)
11. Two Hearts
12. These Girls (Ryan Adams/ Brad Pemberton)
13. I Taught Myself How to Grow Old (Ryan Adams)


Ryan Adams, Brad Pemberton, Jon Graboff, Neal Casal, Chris Feinstein
Other Performers: Jamie Candiloro, Eric Gorfain, Daphne Chen, Leah Katz, Richard Dodd, Richard Worn, Sheryl Crow, Catherine Popper

All Songs written by Ryan Adams, Brad Pemberton, Neal Casal and Jon Graboff except where noted.
Produced by Jamie Candiloro
Recorded and Mixed by Jamie Candiloro at Electric Lady Studios (New York, NY)
Second Engineers: Charlie Stavish and Dror Mohar
Second Engineer - Bill Mims
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering (Portland, ME)



The Background

Easy Tiger is considered a comeback album for Ryan Adams. 
After his longest stretch without putting out a new record (18 months!), it was finally released and hailed by critics across the board. Alongside Ashes & Fire, it remains his highest charting album, reaching #7 on the US Billboard charts. 

Although billed as a solo album, Easy Tiger featured his then touring band - The Cardinals this time with 2 new members (guitarist - Neal Casal and bassist - Chris Feinstein). Original guitarist - JP Bowerstock left not long after the release of Jacksonville City Nights; while bassist - Catherine Popper left during the sessions for Easy Tiger. Prior to the making of this album, the band recorded a 2 LP "rock" record simply titled III/IV which remained unreleased and in the vaults until 2010.

The making of Easy Tiger started differently from others. This time around, nearing the end of his contract with Lost Highway, Ryan would approached the president of the label - Luke Lewis and ask him personally what kind of album he wanted him to make. The answer from Luke Lewis was that he wanted a stripped down solo album that he could listen to anywhere and sounded like the Ryan Adams from 2000 when he was first signed.

“I wanted to see what happens organically to a record when it was left to the people that I surround myself with who are obviously very capable. I would just focus on the tunes—not even the production, except to make my voice lower in the mix on certain things. When I’d do any more than that, Jamie would say, ‘Trust me, I think this is how this should sound,’ and I thought, ‘Well, I did say you should produce this,’ and I let him lead it.”  - Ryan Adams (Harp Magazine - David Sprague)

Ryan Adams met with the Cardinals, discussed the conversation and went to work. Scavenging through all of his old songbooks,  Ryan left the decisions for what songs to record and include on Easy Tiger to the band. Songs as far as back as 1999 were unearthed for the album including "These Girls" which had originally been titled "Hey There Mrs. Lovely". Plenty more songs were written anew. In the end, well over 60 songs were recorded.

"The only real concept of this record was complete and utter collaboration. It was me asking for assistance, and finding out what really was affecting the people around me........, they all really liked, more or less, about the same 10 to 13 tunes. And three or four of them, I was like, "You're joking!" - Ryan Adams (AV Club Interview 6/28/07 - Noel Murray)

It's important to note that Ryan Adams was completely sober at this point. He had battled drug addiction, drinking, and smoking; and Easy Tiger was his first album in this new state of mind. His vocals soar like never before, and the songs are great. Lost Highway were excited and gave a full promotional push for Easy Tiger; making it one of his highest selling albums ever.

“The last two years probably weren’t as intense as they should have been,” Adams says. “That’s because making all this stuff was just really fun. I think everyone around me was up to the task of working hard, and because of that we managed to capture a lot of great songs that otherwise would have been lost...... A lot of these tunes I wasn’t totally confident about at first,” Adams says. “But the way I managed to live in them was to get input from those guys on which ones to do. They always picked the hardest ones, the ones with the heaviest emotional information, and that ultimately gave me a different perspective on the entire album.” - Ryan Adams 


The Review

Easy Tiger is a strange album to me. It's probably his most eclectic album by far, ranging from adult-contemporary folky pop tunes; to old country, roots, and bluegrass music; to ridiculous 80's inspired hard rock. These songs are short and sweet and in my opinion represent perfect pop songwriting. All in all, Easy Tiger doesn't feel like an album at all, but more like a compilation like Demolition Part 2. You really get the feeling that they hastily recorded tons of songs and right down to the wire, had to hastily make decisions about what to include for a single record. As a whole, it lacks continuity right down to the sequencing of tracks, and even the amount of silence between songs; coming off sounding rushed like 'here are our songs. goodbye."Also from a production stand point, the sound of the snare drum on a majority of these songs drives me crazy at times and come off sounding flat or out of tune.

Now back to why I said this is a strange album for me.... Despite all my complaints, Easy Tiger is probably the best place to start for someone just getting into Ryan Adams for the first time. The songs really are wonderful and each one could probably fit perfectly on a different album in his discography. But like I said thhey just don't seem to flow for me. (what can i say? I'm an album guy. i like records.)

One another side note.... during the 18 months of patiently waiting for a new album to drop, Ryan and the Cardinals played some of their most mind-blowing concerts ever! Many of these shows served as a testing ground for trying out new material that would end up on Easy Tiger as well as plenty of other songs that remain unreleased. Because of the extended wait for a new album and the plethora of bootleg recordings from these shows becoming available for download online, I fell in love with the live recordings of many of these songs before hearing Easy Tiger, hence possibly influencing my feelings about the production. To get a good idea of what some of these live versions sound like, it's worth seeking out a bootleg called Curtain of Light which features jammier live in-studio versions of all the songs on Easy Tiger (I actually prefer it!).
It also serves as a good companion to the album. I'll post it on the site one of these days.

Essential

Key Tracks
- All of them are great and worth hearing.



Other Versions/ Bonus Cuts worth Checking Out

In 2007, "Two" and "Everybody Knows" were released as singles from the album.

In 2007, early versions of Easy Tiger bought at indie record stores and Virgin Megastore, came with a free bonus DVD featuring live performances of "Tears of Gold", "Pearls on a String", and "Oh My God Whatever Etc.".

In 2007, import versions of the album came with some or all of the following bonus tracks: "Nobody Listens to Silence" and "Alice"

In 2007, CD versions of Easy Tiger purchased at Best Buy came with the bonus track - "Alice".

In 2007, the iTunes download of Easy Tiger came with a bonus live video of the band performing "Two" in the studio, and the bonus track - "What Sin Replaces Love" (Recorded live on the Henry Rollins show).

In 2007, versions of Easy Tiger purchased at Starbucks came with the bonus track - "Nobody Listens to Silence".

In late 2007, a new import version of Easy Tiger came packaged together with the EP - Follow the Lights.

In 2012, various solo versions of songs from this album were released on the live compilation - Live After Deaf.

In 2012, a live version of "Everybody Knows" was included on the compilation - KGSR Broadcasts Volume 20.


Random Notes

Easy Tiger sold 61,000 copies in it's first week of release. This was the best single week of sales of any Ryan Adams yet.

As of September 2008, Easy Tiger has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.

"Halloween" ended the year at #45 on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 100 songs of 2007 list.

The final track listing for Easy Tiger was decided collaboratively by the Cardinals through a voting system. One of the songs that Ryan fought to get off the album was "Pearls on a String".

"Halloweenhead" was originally planned to be the first song on the album.

The original title for Easy Tiger was Star Wars. The song - "Star Wars" which was also recorded around this time was later released on the album III/IV.

During the making of Easy Tiger, Ryan stated that he only listed to hip-hop and the metal band - Voivod. Some of the hip-hop he listened to the most was Jay-Z (who he thanks in the 29 liner notes), Eric B and Rakim, EPMD, and Big Daddy Kane.


Other Random Info:

The title for Easy Tiger came from a conversation that Ryan Adams had with"a girl he had been spending time with". 

“She wanted to go out to dinner at eight; I wanted to go right away. She said, ‘Easy, Tiger.’ And that hit me. It stuck with me to the point where I called up Neal [that would be Neal Casal, guitarist of The Cardinals] and left a message on his answering machine with those two words. ‘Don’t forget this,’ I said, ‘cause I want to use it.’ ” - Ryan Adams


Random Song Info:

"Two" and "Everybody Knows" were originally recorded for the unreleased album - Darkbreaker from 2005.

"Off Broadway" was originally recorded for the unreleased album - The Suicide Handbook and for Gold.

"These Girls" was originally titled "Hey There Mrs. Lovely" and was recorded for the unreleased album - Destroyer in 2000.


Sweet Videos!


"Two" from The David Letterman Show 


"I Taught Myself How to Grow Old" from The David Letterman Show
"Goodnight Rose" live in studio


2 comments:

  1. You mention unreleased songs that were played live prior to this, would you be able to let me know what these were and where I can find them?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Definitely, your best bet is to check out any of the shows from the Fall of 2006. All the set lists are pretty different and it's hard to go wrong with any of them. The show that seems to be the favorite is 10/17/06. It is a bit on the mellow side though..... As far as songs that come to mind immediately worth checking out are: "Trouble on Wheels", "Party Clown", "Judy Garland", and "Arkham Asylum". They also occasionally played "Typecast" which would later come out on III/IV.... Lots of pretty interesting instrumental jam segueways were played throughout the tour as well with titles like "Egyptology" and "Laser Breakdown".... Anyways, check out archive.org .... one of these days i also plan to put some shows up as well.

    ReplyDelete