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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Stockholm Sessions

1. You Will Always Be the Same
2. For Beth (Friends)
3. Dear Anne
4. Poor Jimmy
5. Madeline I
6. Madeline II
7. Oh Charles (Prison Letter)
8. Come Monday
9. Not in Love
10. Friendly Fire
11. Baby, I'm a Fool for You

Ryan Adams - vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
Michael Blair - drums, djembe heartbeat, omnichord (??)
Svante Henryson - cello
Mikael Nord Anderson - dobro, guitar

Produced by Michael Blair
Engineered by Martin Hansen
Recorded on October 27th, 2001 at Nord Studio AB in Stockholm, Sweden

The Background

In between a heavy schedule of touring, television and radio appearances, and interviews in the Fall of 2001; Ryan Adams somehow found the time to write and record another album's worth of new material. This was a very prolific period of music making for Ryan. During some rare downtime in London, he joined singer-songwriter Beth Orton in the studio where she was recording tracks for her upcoming album - Daybreaker.  Ryan recorded various vocals and guitar parts for the album, as well as wrote one of its' most memorable tunes called "This One's Gonna Bruise". Together, they also recorded a stunning rendition of the Rolling Stones classic - "Brown Sugar".

As the European leg of the Gold tour was winding down that October, Ryan decided to stay in Europe a little longer, and played a few last minute solo shows in Paris, Stockholm, and Oslo. During a day off in Stockholm, Ryan Adams booked a studio with producer - Michael Blair; and recorded ten songs in a quick three hour session. According to some live concert banter from Ryan at a show on October 29th, everything was recorded live in one take.

The Stockholm Sessions (or as they are sometimes referred - The Swedish Sessions) remain officially unreleased, however a couple of the songs were later re-recorded for other albums ("For Beth", "Madeline"), and one ("You Will Always be the Same") was released on Demolition in 2002. Other than these tracks, there are a handful of songs leftover, that every fan needs to hear! Luckily these demo recordings are fairly easy to find through online music blogs and download sites. 

There is a chance that the rest of these recordings will eventually see the light of day, although Ryan has made no mention of The Stockholm Sessions since 2003. After Demolition was released in the fall of 2002, there were multiple interviews, where Ryan said these recordings would be released on a box set, along with several other unreleased albums; but these plans fell through. The good news is that not too long ago, Adams left his old label - Lost Highway Records, and in the process regained ownership of all of his unreleased work. Several of these planned "lost" albums have been remixed, and remastered for possible release..... but unfortunately no sign of The Stockholm Sessions..... yet anyway.  

My Review

In an interview with Uncut magazine, Ryan said he was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake while writing these songs. After one listen to The Stockholm Sessions, it becomes apparent of the direction he was heading in. Moving further away from his twangy material and punk side projects, instead Ryan and his backing band embrace a more traditional quiet folk style, with inklings of posh jazz, and blues. There really aren't any other Ryan Adams releases (that we know of) like this one, and because of that, it's a must listen!

Led by what is arguably one of the best backing bands Ryan has ever worked with (which featured an ex-touring guitarist for Roxette in Mikael Nord Anderson) - ; and Michael Blair's Ethan Johns-like production style; together they provide the perfect understated backing for these intimate folk numbers, piano ballads, and blues romps. Where Ryan really shines on these demos are the quiet acoustic songs (usually accompanied by cello and light drumming). "Dear Anne" (which was inspired by The Diary of Anne Frank) and "Friendly Fire" rank as two of my all time favorite Ryan Adams songs. 
"For Beth" (aka: "Friends") sounds even stronger than the re-recorded Cold Roses version, and includes what sounds like an omnichord.

Where this release falters a bit is when Ryan seems to go out of his comfort zone - leading the band through 6 minute jazzy piano workouts about Huckleberry Finn ("Madeline"), and trashy blues songs ("Poor Jimmy"). Still it's interesting to hear him play through these numbers, and even more amazing of the speed with which these songs were recorded. 

Overall, The Stockholm Sessions is a bit of a mixed bag, full of criminally overlooked material ("Dear Anne", "Friendly Fire") as well as some of his most forgettable numbers ("Come Monday"). All in all though, the 6 or 7 best songs would make an awesome EP (especially on vinyl).


Key Tracks: "You Will Always Be the Same", "For Beth", "Dear Anne", "Madeline I", "Oh Charles", "Friendly Fire", "Baby, I'm a Fool For You"

Song Info:

"You Will Always Be the Same" was later released on Demolition.

"For Beth" was re-recorded and released on Cold Roses (under the title - "Friends").

"Madeline" was later retitled - "Clementine" and re-recorded for the unreleased album Darkbreaker (aka: The Elizabethtown Sessions).

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