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4.6 out of 5 stars36
4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 10 February 2007
On more than one occasion, record labels and PR people have made the wrong choice. The Rolling Stones were signed to Decca entirely because the man who signed them didn't want to make the same mistake twice, having previously passed on the Beatles. Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album is famous both as their masterpiece, and as the album that Warners paid for twice, because Wilco made it, Reprise rejected it, and then Nonesuch bought it. It's now their biggest seller.

And so it is with Love Is Hell by wayward alt-country wonderboy Ryan Adams. When he first made it, Lost Highway rejected it as too depressing, instead putting it out as two ridiculous album-length EPs, while Adams responded by recording the sporadically great but mostly awful Rock 'n' Roll album. Then, the following year, his label relented, finally allowing Adams to release the album 'as he intended it.' His label are morons.

The release of this was somewhat of a low blow for Adams fans because they already have all but one of these songs on the EPs, and it's a blow for Adams himself because it proves how little his label apparently respects his opinion. That is irrelevant to the quality of the music however - and the music is the best collection he's produced to date.

The single parallel you can draw with his previous work is that the chiming, twangy guitar tone on show here is the same one that he employed on Rock 'n' Roll. Other than that, this otherworldy album is the most unique thing in his catalogue. Opener 'Political Scientist' is quite simply the finest song he's ever written, an utterly stunning, sweeping epic. Nothing here equals it, but it's pretty much uniformly great.

His famous cover of Oasis' 'Wonderwall' is lovely, all subtle acoustic guitars and atmosphere rather than the great, but blunt, original. 'Afraid Not Scared' is lovely, a fine vocal on Adams' part holding it together, ditto for 'Does Anybody Want To Take Me Home?'. 'This House Is Not For Sale' canters along on a well-strummed acoustic guitar.

This whole album is based on great songs which are as much about mood as they are about melody. This album is dark, depressing, claustrophobic, his label was right about that, and as always is slightly overlong; but it's also heartbreaking, beautiful, and the greatest album Adams has yet released.
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on 9 March 2005
Rumours said that there were a lot of trouble for Adams having this album out on record. Rumours said that the company didn't like the album because of it's darker touch.
Rumours said that finally the record came out.
Oh boy.
After being introduced in Ryan Adams music by his 'Gold' record, I was wondering if he could do a better job. With "Love is Hell" I think he did.
A rather furious 'Love is Hell'. An indeed excellent acoustic cover of Oasis' 'Wonderwall'. A rather sad but very strong Please do not let me go''. A Neil Young influenced strong 'City Rain, city streets'. A very strong collaboration with Marianne Faithfull on 'English girls Approximately'. Album closer 'Hotel Chelsea nights' with its howling guitar solo. 'Love is Hell' contains 16 very well written songs about lost love, broken love, addiction. all songs with strong and straight-telling-stories lyrics. Ryan Adams proves again his skill as an excellent songwriter. He keeps your attention to each song because of their structure, sound and words.
Personal favourites are in the beginning of the album: The rather dramatic 'Afraid not scared' starts of with an acoustic guita rriff that is to be heard through the whole song. After having sung his two main lyrics, Ryan comes in with the electric guitar. After the first verse the piano is softly on the background, after the second verse suddenly the electric guitar comes in, that finally will take over the whole song with beautiful and dramatic sounding riffs. But still on the background to be heard, the main acoustic guitar rif.
The song is followed by the even stronger 'This house is not for sale'. Want to know how it feels if everybody in whole wide world thinks and acts your relationship is over, while you think and hope it's not? Then listen to this one. The song is based on a strong acoustic guitar melody (again), this time backed by strong drums. The electric guitar: only to be heard at the end of some lines in a lyric, which gives the song a great touch. No guitar solo in the song, but the song' structure doesn't need a guitar solo. Pay attention to Adams' singing on this song, compared with the context of the lyrics, especially in the middle of the third lyric. Brilliant. Should or could have been a big hit with the right airplay.
Ryan Adams, a big compliment from me for this record.
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on 4 July 2006
...this is one of darlings Ryan's most accomplished albums, it was confusingly released as two eps as his record company refused to release it as a whole work, apparently lost highway found it too 'morose'.

On listening to it, I was wondering if his record label are deaf. This is Ryan Adams at the top of his game. If you're new to Adams I'd still advise you to get Heartbreaker or 29 first as they're slightly easier on the ear, however if your already a big Adams fan but don't own `love is hell', what are you thinking? Please go out and buy a copy. His best songs are on here: `I see monsters', `this house is not for sale', `Wonderwall' and this CD also has a different version of my favourite Adam's song, 'Anybody wanna take me home'. They're nearly all indispensable. This album is wonderful. Buy it and hear for yourself.
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on 4 April 2008
My first taste of Ryan Adams' music was through the Cold Roses double album and while I could appreciate many of the tracks there was nothing that made me want to explore further. I stumbled across Love is Hell in a charity shop and intrigued by the cover version of Wonderwall decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did. There isn't a weak track here and the music and lyrics are extremely powerful creating one of the most moving albums I have heard. It is a very dark album though certainly not depressing. Thanks to Love is Hell I have now acquired much of Adams' back catalogue. This album is for me the greatest piece of work which Adams' has so far achieved. Heartbreaker is also highly recommended.
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on 7 January 2010
For someone like me, who only recently got into listening to Ryan Adams I find it as amazing as ever, that his albums are still acknowlegded as treasures of the more beyond-commercial american popmarket. While his voice sounds more broken and distant on this record, his songwriting is still as immaculate as always. With his sweetly melancholic melodies and his personal and all the while inspired lyrics he is asking us to feel his pain and heartache -hinted in the bittersweet poetry of the albums title-track "Love is Hell". Even his simplified cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall" is unmercifully gripping and mesmerizing. And the hypnotic second half of "The Shadowlands" is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine -simply beautiful.
I had the great fortune of listening to the album for the first time whilst driving through the snow-covered countryside -during that journey I connected with music in a totally different way: Somehow I combined Ryan's interpretation of the R.E.M.-type Pop and his own style of songwriting with a sense of freedom.
I'd hate to call Mr Adams the Neil Young of the 21st Century -because I think he is more than that. Love might be hell, but this album truly is a slice of heaven.
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on 3 May 2005
Oh dear. 'a_music_flan from The Shadowlands' seems to have got into a bit of a kerfuffle! This is not the same man who wrote "So Far, So Good" or "Summer of 69" - that would be Bryan Adams. Or even Wonderwall - that would be Noel Gallagher (wonderfully covered by Ryan Adams on this album). In fact, I'm surprised (and slightly amused) that they managed to write such a large review on the wrong man! Perhaps that is why they are "a_music_flan" as opposed to "a_music_fan"? ;-)

Anyway, to the point. This is a deliciously melancholic take on life from Ryan Adams. A well-crafted, consistent album - but still I wonder if it would benefit from being slightly cut down from the 16 tracks; I find my attention begins to wander at points (hence the 4 stars instead of 5). Nevertheless, I would certainly recommend this album to anyone appreciative of strong, genuine lyrics and heartfelt songs. Certainly a must for any RYAN Adams fans. And who knows, maybe even some of the Bryan Adams fans will appreciate him ;-)
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on 4 May 2004
Love is Hell is Ryan Adams fifth solo album, combining the two EP's released at the end of last year. This album was originally rejected by Ryan's record label for being "too dark" and so the release was scrapped and Rock n Roll was instead put out.
Having already bought the two EP's I was unsure about the merits of buying the full album, but the inclusion of an alternative "Anybody Wanna Take Me Home" from the Rock n Roll album persuaded me. Being a Ryan Adams fanatic I feel consumed to own every single track recorded!
Whilst this album may perhaps be a little darker than previous releases, it does contain some beautiful music and it's hard to justify the record companies decision to release Rock n Roll as opposed to this. It's easily Ryan's best work since the Gold album, and though it's not quite a return to the "Heartbreaker" that a lot of critics desire, this album is the next best thing.
Standout track for me is "English Girls Approximately", with Marianne Faithful playing the Emmylou Harris "Sweet Carolina" role. The acoustic guitar is a joy, the images created beautiful and anybody who knows Ryan's history of girlfriend's may be able to work out who the English girl is from the line "Come on Elizabeth, Come on Bethany"...
"This House is Not For Sale" is a haunting track, whereas the wonderful piano-led "Shadowlands" will live in the memory having seeing him perform it live in Liverpool, where Ryan infamously fell off stage and broke his wrist.
The title track "Love is Hell" seemingly describes a drunken experience but at the same time provides the most uplifting sound on the CD.
The inclusion of the cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall" is a treat. Much slower than the original, Ryan has completely re-invented this song. The album is worth buying to hear this alone.
To me, there is not a poor track on this album and it ranks alongside Ryan's very best work. However, the ommission of the bonus tracks from the EP releases are a disappointment, as "Halloween" was perhaps the very best track on part one - this WAS Ryan during the "Heartbreaker" period.
So, forget what Ryan's record label say and BUY this album. It might possibly be the best musical purchase you make all year.
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on 28 December 2008
So many people cite the cover of 'wonderwall' as the highlight of this album - but personally i find it pretty boring....

Adams seems to go from style to style on each album and some critics say this is his take on the lovelorn efforts of messers Morrisey and J Buckley.

possibly this could be so - its full of jangly guitars, soaring vocals, and emotional choruses.

there are enough stand out tracks on this to make it a worthwhile purchase.

"Anybody wanna take me home", "Avalanche", "World war 24" and the title track - are where adams pulls together gentle tunes emotional vocals and the typical lovelost troubador lyrics to their best effect.

love really must be hell if you beleive what he has to say - but it never soudned so good.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 July 2013
The guys at Lost Highway records almost missed a trick when they deemed Ryan Adam's 2004 release 'Love Is Hell' as not commercially viable. If they had their way, one of Ryan's greatest albums would never have seen the light of day.

Here we have an intelligent record showcasing the extremely talented singer/songwriter. The music is dark, raw and edgy, Ryan sings like he means every word, and the result is a heart wrenching, moody collection of quality songs. Some tracks may sound at first like self pity and despair, but if you listen carefully you can feel the optimistic undercurrent which flows through the album and makes it not at all depressing, but very moving and uplifting.

His haunting acoustical rendition of the Oasis classic 'Wonderwall' (which effortlessly made the top 30 in the UK singles chart) is almost reason enough to buy the album. Ryan gives the song a whole new sound, but it's a good one and is beautifully constructed. 'Anybody Wanna Take Me Home' could have easily been another single, the track is a re-recording of the same song that was included on his 2003 album 'Rock n Roll', but I think that I prefer this version. 'World War 24' takes you on an amazing musical ride with intelligent, beautiful lyrics and Ryan's smoother vocals are used to good effect, 'Political Scientist' is another standout, with Ryan sounding a lot like Jeff Buckley.

I can always unhesitatingly recommend a Ryan Adams album, but please be sure to own 'Love Is Hell' in your music collection, it really is something special. The people at Lost Highway clearly weren't hearing what most people could hear when Ryan made this solid, critically acclaimed album, which still remains a fan favourite.
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on 19 January 2012
Compelled to write a review of this album as I believe it's truly special.

I was late discovering Ryan Adams...I was aware of him around the time of Heartbreaker and Gold but never really got bowled over by those albums (I was young and foolish then !)...

Recently saw Ryan on Songwriter's Circle with Neil Finn and Janis Ian. Well, I could write a whole review on that show and the controversy that arose...the simmering tension between Ryan and Neil Finn gave the show some much needed edge. Of course, Ryan's performances were stunning. Truly spine-tingling stuff...he played Carolina Rain (from 29), Oh my Sweet Carolina and Come Pick Me Up from Heartbreaker, and Invisible Riverside from Ashes & Fire...all stunning...

and so to cut a long story short, I delved into his back catalogue, as there was much to explore since Gold. Reminded myself of Heartbreaker and Gold again (Heartbreaker stunning, Gold catchy but overly commercial), and then proceeded to Demolition (great demos, a glimpse of what might have been if his 3 unreleased albums had seen the light of day). Next was rock n roll (tongue in cheek up yours to the record company who refused to accept Love is Hell (fools), but rock n roll is hardly essential...and then on to Love is Hell...

Love is Hell is quite simply a work of genius...a talented songwriter and performer at the peak of his powers...this album is truly an overlooked classic and alternates between haunting, introspective beauty ref. Tim Buckley (Political Scientist, Afraid Not Scared, Wonderwall, The Shadowlands etc.) and melancholic pop songs reminiscent of 80s British Indie (The Smiths is a strong reference point) songs include This House is not for sale, Love is Hell, Anybody wanna take me home...The common theme (it could be considered a concept album) is a requiem to lost love and the pain that relationships bring, both during and after they end...This House is not for sale is a great example...the house being a metaphor for a dying relationship that Ryan desperately tries to save...truly haunting stuff...

So I'll cut to the chase, you need this album in your life...if you fail to be moved to tears, then check yourself for a pulse...

...In a word, essential...
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