Last Sunday, Ryan Adams wrote an article for the New York Times on how being heckled by a drunk who wanted to hear Bryan Adams “Summer of ’69” during one of Ryan’s shows changed his life. The drunk kept shouting out the request, and with no security responding, Adams walked out into the crowd, handed the heckler 40 bucks, telling him to go home and take an aspirin. The incident made Adams a laughingstock nationwide when a Nashville journalist twisted the facts to insinuate that Ryan had the fan thrown out for requesting the song. But Adams said the incident and the ridicule that followed made him a better person. He also declared his admiration for that song and for Adams, with whom he shares a birthday.
So maybe its not so ironic that Ryan Adam’s latest single, “Do You Still Love Me,” from his latest release, Prisoner, sounds a lot like the other Adams’ work. It starts with a churchy organ, but quickly changes venues, slamming you in the gut with some heavy duty ’80s vintage rock that sounds (in tone, not content) like the other Adams’ ’84 arena anthem. Their voices are similar as well, that breathless, hoarse, racked with pain moan that sells records by the bucketload and makes countless teenage wannabees scream themselves raw trying to emulate. But Bryan’s song is about looking back fondly on bygone days, with Ryan’s a heartbroken plea to a departed lover, presumably ex-wife Mandy Moore, after their six year marriage ended in divorce last year.
Adams’ work here on other cuts is a shout-out to other well-known rockers as well. “We Disappear” sounds like it could be part of a Springsteen set, if The Boss pitched his voice a coupla octaves higher. “Haunted House” sounds as much like BROOOOCE backed by a stripped down version of the E Streeters as the real article himself. On “Shiver and Shake,” Adams once again channels Springsteen, but comes off a bit needier, with lovesick lyrics like “I’ve been waiting here like a dog at the door/You used to throw me scraps, you don’t do it anymore/I miss your loving touch, I miss your embrace/But if I wait here any longer I’m gonna fade away.” Even sleep doesn’t take away his pain. Adams says when he closes his eyes, “I see you with some guy/Laughing like you never even knew I was alive.”
Tom Petty would be comfortable adding “Doomsday” to his set list, especially with the line “My love, we can do better than this/My love, how can you complicate a kiss?”
“Outbound Train” would fit Springsteen as well as the Traveling Wilburys. Would have been great to hear the guitar solo on this one chased around by Harrison, Petty, Lynne and Orbison.
Ryan Adams is most definitely his own man, but it’s just as satisfying to hear him echo the voices of others, especially when done this well.