The Sydney Morning
Gold (Lost Highway/Universal)
"Yester me, yester you…"
Ryan Adams' Gold is an album that reeks of the early '70s- a time when it was still possible to have soul and rock together without sounding bogus, when country flavoured music wasn't on the fringes, when folk sat alongside blues and all were viable influences. This is the kind of record that you could slip onto a classic hits station. It could be the alternative soundtrack to Almost Famous.
Gold's influences are worn without embarrassment and if it can be criticised for self-consciously aiming to become a classic album, it must also be acknowledged the album has earned its spurs. There's New York, New York, the opening track, which bustles with the energy of a busy bodega on the Lower East Side, a slightly Hispanic accent on its acoustic rhythm. And Gonna Make You Love Me is the best Stones song not done by the Black Crowes.
At the other end of the tempo spectrum, La Cienega Just Smiled is a small gem, a reflective James Taylor/Jackson Browne-style semi-ballad with the relaxed air of Los Angeles on a warm afternoon. The album's Goodnight, Hollywood Boulevard reminds you of when Elton John wrote great ballads and Sylvia Plath is Joni Mitchell alone at the piano. In between, The Rescue Blues and its gospel choir could be Keith and Mick waiting for you on a tenement stoop, Answering Bell richly details a space between The Band and Van Morrison and Firecracker is just a great pop song.
Even tracks that fall short of stellar have great moments. The aching Harvest-era Neil Young of Wild Flowers is one, Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues, which is possibly too Beggars Banquet-period Stones, is another and then there’s Nobody Girl which, if it doesn’t have The Band’s Garth Hudson playing organ on it, it damn well should.
Sonically, Gold sits somewhere between contemporary sheen and the slightly sweaty ambience of an old analogue studio. Emotionally, it sits somewhere between pain and rescue, its heart in another breakup and the post-break up move from New York to Los Angeles (via Nashville).
As with Adams's first solo album, Heartbreaker, Gold swings from buoyancy (New York, New York) to that resigned flop back into the pillows (Goodbye, Hollywood Boulevard) with highs and lows in between. And, as with Heartbreaker, it will receive criticism for being a retro album. But if you don’t have a problem with 2001 sounding like 1971, this album will be a fixture on your CD player for some time.