11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Cardinology (Audio CD)
Cardinology follows much in the same vein as last year's Easy Tiger, though this time the Cardinals are credited as playing on the album. I think it's more cohesive than last year's effort, keeping mostly to one style rather than the mixed bag that was Easy Tiger. Once again these are concise songs, devoid of the extended jams that are the staple at a Cardinals gig. This means that the record is not necessarily an accurate reflection of what the songs will sound like live, but the band bring something that Adams lacked at times with his solo albums, namely focus. Most of these songs are a radio-friendly 3 minutes long, with the longest being album-closer 'Stop' at a little over 5 minutes.
The Cardinals complement Adams well, adding nicely to his alt. country sound with the multiple harmonies and the pedal steel. There are some songs where he seems to be straining a little, particularly the warbled ending to 'Cobwebs', but the vocal performance is good on the whole (I especially like 'Born Into A Light'). Occasionally the lyrics stumble around a little too, as is the case on 'Sinking Ships', however, they are mostly well-written and thought out. 'Fix It' is a pretty single that is inoffensive and likely to appeal to those who enjoyed Easy Tiger, while 'Magick' is the Cardinology equivalent of 'Halloweenhead', complete with ridiculous lyrics and a call and return chorus. On 'Evergreen' it is easy to see the Grateful Dead influence (particularly in the lines 'Maybe you'll find some roots to lay down') in the Reckoning-style acoustic arrangement, but it is a pretty ballad that sounds similar in parts to 'Wildflowers' from Gold. 'Stop' is a stand-out track, harking back to the 'old' Ryan with its sparse piano chords and subtle strings, and 'Memory Lane' is a beautiful, wistful piece of Americana complete with banjo and acoustic guitar.
Overall, the album is a step up from Easy Tiger. It is one that will get under your skin and grow in appeal with repeated listens, but while it is a good album it is Adams in his comfort zone. While it is more consistent than Cold Roses or Love is Hell, there are no truly brilliant tracks that come from him willing to take risks. For this reason I'm only giving it 4 stars; it's good, but there are better Ryan Adams albums.