Those paying attention will argue that 29 was Ryan's last 'solo' record - and they have a point. 29 was recorded before JCN and Cold Roses, and without The Cardinals. But because it was released last out of the three 2005 masterpieces - and because the extra/bonus material from those sessions has yet to surface - I will review it later. For now, Ryan's solo career is over and it's time to slow down and take a look back at the multitudes of tracks released in the last 4 years.
To quote one of the greatest music-driven movies of all time, "the making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem." I've been working on this mixtape basically since I started this blog. This One's For The Rose is the quintessential 'Greatest Hits' formed from all of the 'unreleased' tracks Ryan recorded from 2000-2003. This excludes any track that was (or has since been) released in any sort of official form - as a bonus track, on a compilation, re-recorded for a later album, etc. The sessions that produced this material vary in quality, style, and genre, but then again, you could say about all of Ryan's stuff. These collections haven't been mastered and/or cut well, so I took this liberty of 'cleaning' them up a bit - cropping the tracks to eliminate leads-ins, restarts, and empty tape. These 19 tracks are split into two sides, each of which can be considered an album on its own - beginning with a strong, upbeat track, dancing around throughout the middle without a single weak song, and with one of Ryan's signature piano ballads to cap it off.
You'll notice that two 'sessions' are very strongly represented on this mixtape: The 48 Hours and Swedish Sessions. These are by far the best unreleased albums Ryan has recorded. They are both concise, complete, and nearly flawless, whereas his other recording sessions contained strange throw-away tracks. But in-between those overzealous recordings, Ryan managed to mix in great songs. The Suicide Handbook was 32 tracks of mostly plaintive acoustic numbers that would help populate Gold and Demolition. His earliest - from 2000 - The Destroyer Sessions produced a couple tracks that would show up on Heartbreaker and lends a couple more tracks to this mixtape. The mix is rounded out with one track from each from Ryan's Love Is Hell NY, NY Session, Cowboy Technical Services Session, and the First Pinkheart Session.
This is a Greatest Hits, so there's not a clunker in the bunch, but special attention should be payed to a few tracks. Quoting John Cusack once more, "you gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules." I began with 'When The Music Don't Come' - a 'killer' track from the Love Is Hell sessions that almost became the title of this little compilation. It would've worked well as appeasement during Ryan's sabbatical before he recently decided to begin releasing music again. I took it up a notch with 'Walls' - the country-est tune in the bunch. To cool it off, I offered 'Dear Anne,' which is probably the most touching song here. Written as a letter to Anne Frank, it asks how Anne's fate came to be, and thanks the biographer for her words, whether or not they were his to read. Leading you back into heavier music is 'Born Yesterday' with its plodding tempo and passion-laden vocals. 'Madeline' lathers some sultry piano and blues guitar on the mix with a Huck Finn-esque river song. To end side one, I used the last track from the First Pinkheart Sessions. Just Ryan and his piano, the song doubles as a sort of midway interlude, fittingly mentioning that "its been so long for just half-over."
Side B reads much the same, highlighted by 48 Hours and Swedish Session songs. 'Friendly Fire' delicately tells of how relationships often come with the casualties of war. With the harmonica-driven attitude reminiscent of Heartbreaker's opener, 'Poor Jimmy' picks thing up in the middle. One of my all-time favorite songs, 'Poison & The Pain' gives off an eerie feel with Ryan providing his own sparse backing vocals and hand claps. The second side again ends simply, this time with a softly-picked guitar accented with the low end of a piano. 'String & The Wire' is a desolate song that Ryan once said of in a live show: "it’s really long and really totally boring, so if you need to get a drink or something, this is the best song to go." Not boring at all, it's simply soothing. And that's my idea of the perfect album-ender.
Stay tuned for more Ryan Adams mixtapes. I have plans for a B-Sides & Bonus Tracks compilation, a Live compilation, and maybe even an Unreleased Cardinals mix. In good time, my friends.
Check out all of my Ryan Adams Spotlight up to this point.