For awhile there, Ryan Adams was releasing new albums at a dizzying pace. Meanwhile, critics, heads spinning and ears full up, stockpiled “when will it ever stop” reviews. Yet after settling down with pop star Mandy Moore in the humble Hollywood hillside, new material is rather scant. In 2010, we got Orion, a self-released metal album, followed by III/IV, two discs worth of outtakes recorded during the Cardinology sessions (a meager 34 songs). Look, we’re not unappreciative of the output but as concerned fans for the all-important legacy, we thought we’d do a service and comb through the songwriter’s hefty catalog, wading out the filler. The result? Five Ryan Adams albums that would’ve made killer EPs.
1. The Demolition EP (2002)
”Nuclear,” “You Will Always Be the Same,” “Dear Chicago,” “Tennessee Sucks,” “Chin Up, Cheer Up”
These might’ve been outtakes to begin with but they show a range of tenderness (“YWABTS,” “Dear Chicago) to frolicking rock (“Nuclear”), and even a sense of humor.
2. The Rock N Roll EP (2004)
“Anybody Want to Take Me Home,” “Wish You Were Here,” “This Is It”
No one liked Rock N Roll, the album. But these three songs were the gems; fine odes to the Replacements that sounded … genuine.
3. The Cold Roses EP (2005)
“Magnolia Mountain,” “Let It Ride,” “Easy Plateau,” “Cold Roses,” “Beautiful Sorta,” “When Will You Come Back Home”
After spending time with Phil Lesh as a part of Lesh’s “Phil Lesh and Friends” tour, Adams came clean with his Dead love. ’Bout time.
4. The Easy Tiger EP (2007)
“Goodnight Rose,” “Tears of Gold,” “Pearls on a String,” “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old”
Easy Tiger is a forgettable album but these four nuggets stand out, if for the mandolin-driven “Pearls on a String.” Here you have it, folks: hope and sadness, intertwined with a twang.
5. The Cardinology/29/Follow the Lights EP (2008)
“Born Into a Light,” “Crossed Out Name,” “Strawberry Wine,” “Blue Hotel”
No self-respecting fan should choose to listen to any of the above albums, say, over Heartbreaker or Gold, but these four songs from these three albums would do nicely together. Digital only release, of course. No need to get the processing plants involved.