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Friday, May 31, 2013

Cardinology

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(Lost Highway Records)
Released 10/28/08

"It's truly a band record, It's really a unified sound, more than we ever had. " - Neal Casal (Syracuse Post-Standard - Mark Bialczak - 9/24/08)

"There's a lot of dissapointment on this record. There's the pain of lost love and the brutality of unrequited love.... I tried to make sure there were at least one or two lines in every song that, should someone be listening who is having a bad time, there's something there telling them to keep the faith. I wanted to find that hope. I didnt fully find it, but i was trying." - Ryan Adams (Sunday Herald)

"We did a really great record that sounds totally like the Cardinals..... it's pretty much live on the floor..... like we were doing a gig" - Ryan Adams (Billboard)


The Reviews

"His big-hook country rock sound sits on record like a comfortable, composed and confident adult, happy within his skin for the very first time after many different ‘adolescent’ phases (some of which, for Adams, were infamously stronger than others)......... Cardinology is front-loaded with the same variety of big-hook, heavy hitters as Easy Tiger. However, it doesn’t contain the same fragmented feel of the latter (with the exception of the alt-rock-tinged number ‘Magick’), which went from honky-tonk country to bluegrass and back to rock again in as many songs. Cardinology seems far more sure of itself, but at the same time as if its treading past ground once more......" (Tom Milway, The Quietus 12/9/08)

"Like Tiger, Cardinology is long on midtempo country-rock shuffles that sound comfortable with their own familiarity; Adams isn't straining to reinvent the Great Art of American Songwriting (see Gold or Cold Roses), and that allows you to focus on what he and the cardinals are actually playing, as opposed to what they're thinking about playing......." (3.5 stars - Mikael Wood, Spin)

"It's the first time in his solo career that Adams has tread the same trail for two albums in a row.... In a certain sense, Cardinology does play as a showcase for everything that Ryan Adams & the Cardinals can do: it's rooted in Deadsy country-rock but frequently strays into '80s alt rock territory, whether it's the sighing, romantic "Cobwebs" or how "Magick" echoes like prime U2..........These are modest pleasures but these days Ryan Adams is all about careful measured craft instead of big statements, a trade-off that makes his albums more predictable but also more satisfying as Cardinology quietly proves." (4 out of 5 - All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

"Cardinology feels like another self-consciously consistent, concise effort from one of the few bands that gives jamming a good name. " (B Rating - AV Club)


"Cardinology, like Easy Tiger or Cold Roses or Love Is Hell or you get the idea, is melodically sound, remarkably insular and largely unaffecting. It's all soft edges, and its punches feel like pillow fights......." (4.7 out of 10 - Picthfork Media)


1. Born into a Light
2. Go Easy
3. Fix It
4. Magick
5. Cobwebs
6. Let Us Down Easy
7. Crossed Out Name
8. Natural Ghost
9. Sink Ships
10. Evergreen
11. Like Yesterday
12. Stop

Ryan Adams - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Drums, Synth
Brad Pemberton - Drums, Percussion
Jon Graboff - Pedal Steel, Vocals, Guitar
Neal Casal - Guitar, Piano, Vocals, Wurlitzer
Chris Feinstein - Bass, Vocals
Michael Panes - Violin

All Songs written by Ryan Adams
Produced and Engineered by Tom Schick
Recorded and Mixed at Electric Lady Studios (NYC)
Assistant Engineer - Noah Goldstein
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering


The Background

Cardinology is probably one of Ryan Adams' most under-appreciated albums, yet one of the most important of his career. It marked the end of a fruitful four and a half year engagement, with arguably his best band ever - The Cardinals; as well as the start of a new chapter in his career. The album would also be his last release on Lost Highway Records, a label that helped to jumpstart his solo career, beginning with the release of Gold in 2001. Following the tour that supported Cardinology, Ryan took a much deserved break from recording and playing gigs. 

In 2007, Ryan and the Cardinals had spent most of the year touring around the world, with their most consistent lineup yet, featuring Neal Casal on guitar, Chris "Spacewolf" Feinstein on bass, Jon Graboff on pedal steel, and Brad Pemberton on drums. It's no understatement that the band were a professional, well oiled touring machine, ready to rock at a moment's notice. When they weren't playing festival gigs, The Cardinals regularly performed mind blowing 3+ hour sets. This new found chemistry within the band led Ryan to dismiss any notion from press that they were simply his backing band; and instead stated that he was the singer/guitarist of a group in which everyone contributed equally. At shows, they were no longer billed as Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, but instead simply - The Cardinals.

Early in 2008 after a hectic year of touring, the band took some time off. During this period, Ryan opened himself up to fans like never before. After a breakup with actress Jessica Joffe, Ryan started an online blog, where he posted pictures, musings, and videos from his day to day life. The blog also offered fans a front row seat to Ryan's creative process, as he posted tons of new music he was working on for the next Cardinals album (usually acoustic demos). 

By the time the band reconvened at Electric Lady Studios in June and July, Ryan had recorded demos of over 70 songs! Of these, 22 were recorded; with all but one seeing an official release (see below for more info). The songs on Cardinology were done live with everyone playing at once, and very little overdubbing. Sadly, these sessions would be the last time this lineup recorded together.

By the end of the summer, The Cardinals were back on the road again, continuing to play lengthy sets, and even opening arena shows for brit-pop gods - Oasis. These tours started to take a heavy toll on Ryan, as he began to suffer from heightened bouts of meniere's disease; often leaving him dizzy, and with a constant high pitched ringing in his ears. Eventually these issues led him to quit the group, and take a step back from recording and playing shows (later reemerging in 2011 with the release of Ashes and Fire).


My Review

In 2011, during an interview for the British TV show - Live at Abbey Road, Ryan expressed some doubt about this album, saying: "We probably shouldn't have made that last record (Cardinology). There were so many songs and Pro Tools was becoming the staple in the studio, so we ended up using it." But despite what Ryan says, this is still a pretty good record and I'm glad they released it!

Overall it's very different from previous releases with the Cardinals; with songs sounding a bit more cautious, tightly structured, and without all the rough edges that helped make some of their previous work so much fun to listen to. However, Cardinology is still a solid representation of what the band sounded like in concert, at this junction in their career. Lyrically, Ryan took a different turn, and clearly sounds like a man at peace with himself. For the first time in his career, the subject matter deals heavily with staying hopeful in times of trouble. In the past, he had occasionally flirted with these topics but never as heavily as can be heard here.

Although Cardinology is one of my least favorite Ryan Adams releases, it has definitely grown on me over the years. The playing is excellent, and Tom Schick's production is top-notch. But for me, some of the songs themselves don't always sound finished. On tracks like "Sink Ships", "Let Us Down Easy", and "Evergreen"; Ryan seems to be struggling to fit as many syllables as he can possibly muster, into each verse. In the end, the vocal melodies suffer, and come off sounding a bit vanilla. Still, for every song I complain about, there are one or two stellar tracks. The album also yielded some of Ryan's greatest b-sides ("Memory Lane", "Asteroid")!

Not Essential but at least worth some downloads

Key Tracks: "Born into a Light", "Fix It", "Magick", "Cobwebs", "Let Us Down Easy", "Crossed Out Name", "Like Yesterday", "Stop", "Heavy Orange", "Asteroid", "Memory Lane"


Other Versions/ Bonus Cuts worth Checking Out

In 2008, "Fix It" was released as the lone single from the album.

In 2008, import versions of Cardinology from the UK featured the bonus track - "Memory Lane". While the iTunes version of the album (also released in 2008) featured a bonus track called "The Color of Pain".

In 2008, the LP version of Cardinology featured exclusive artwork by painter - Leah Hayes, as well as a comic book. They also included a bonus 7" record containing the songs - "Asteroid" and "Heavy Orange".

In 2011, a double 7" vinyl EP called Class Mythology was released for Record Store Day. The EP contained four songs recorded during the Cardinology sessions - "Go Ahead and Rain", "Invisible Red", "Your Name is on Fire" and "Future Sparrow".


Random Notes

In total, Ryan recorded over 70 song demos for Cardinology. Many of which were posted by Ryan through his online blog. Song titles (that we know of) that didn't make it on the album were: Disappearing Act/ Allumette/ Something Sweet/ I'm Sorry of Sorry (Video)/ Bad Dreams/ Put it in Reverse/ I'm Rags/ I See a Rainy Face (Video)/ Damage Me/ Roll Credits (Video)/ Betray/ I Made My Bed/ Kate/ Run for Your Life/ Blank Pages/ Broken Arrow (Video)/ Goodbye Sunshine (Video)/ Yes I Know the Color (Video)/ Kaleidescope Eyes (Video)/ I Was Loved (Video)/ Wrong as a Night is Long/ The Usual/ You're So Cool/ So Quiet it's Loud (Video)/ Sunflowers and Hotels/ Fucking Normal/ Please Hold On/ You Pick Me Up/ Unnamed/ Thursday Night (Video)/ Writing the Hits (Video)/ C.R.A.Z.Y. Love/ A Song in the News/ Jessica (Video)/ Nancy/ I Am a Sad Person/ I'm Insane (Video)/ Sad Days (Video)/ Bug (Video)/ Laser Lights/ More than Faith/ This is My Face (Video)/ Saturday Again (Video)

Ryan released a bunch of his demos from Cardinology. These songs were from a demo album called Hope and included:

Fix It - demo version recorded in the winter of 2008 with wife - Mandy Moore and given away as a free download with pre-order of Ryan Adam's book - Hello Sunshine.

Let us Down Easy - demo version that came as a free download when you signed up on his blog.

Sink Ships and Go Easy were given away as free downloads when fans bought Pax-Am Digital Single #1.

Magick - demo was streaming off Ryan Adams' soundcloud website,

Evergreen - available on 7" vinyl and was given away for free with copies of Ryan Adams' book - Hello Sunshine.

Mercy - unreleased song demo streamed from the Foggy blog.


Other Random Info:

Cardinology has sold over 250,000 copies worldwide

Cardinology was ranked #14 in Rolling Stone magazine's 50 Best Albums of 2008 list, while "Magick" was listed as #13 in the Best Songs category.


Random Song Info:

"Cobwebs" was the first song recorded for the album and was recorded in only one take.


"Fix It" and "Cobwebs" from the David Letterman Show





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