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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 20 December 2005
This is a very subtle and understated album. I admired Ryan's work ethic when he decided to put out 3 albums (one a double!) in one year. It got me thinking to some of my favourite groups of the 60's and 70's who thought more about the music and the creative muse than they did about the bizness. I wasn't a big fan of Cold Roses at first but repeated listens got me hooked. That paved the way for this album which really seems to take Ryan's output to a whole new level. It's a joy listening to ALL of these tracks, but especially I love the immediacy of Strawberry Wine and the boogie of 29. In truth there isn't a dud track on this album and it's very reassuring to hear something you know you will return to again and again like an old friend.
I can but wonder where Adams will delve next but I sense that this marks the closing of a chapter and he will veer off into uncharted waters....long may he sail!
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on 12 February 2016
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on 12 May 2010
This is a relatively short album for Ryan Adams, featuring only 9 songs, though that's not really a surprise given that it was his third release of 2005! It's a sort of concept album about the end of his twenties and after the misfire of the chug-along title track we settle into acoustic territory with the Neil Young sounding Strawberry Wine. The song features some interesting lyrical musings: "can you still have any famous last words if you're somebody nobody knows... she spent too much time on the other side and she forgot to let the daylight in" over a plain, simply strummed acoustic guitar.

Nightbirds is darker, a miserable yet soaring piano-led tune, with the downbeat observation in the chorus "we were supposed to rise above but with we sink into the ocean". The playing on this song is quite lovely, particularly when a gentle electric guitar enters the mix, though towards the end the song descends into masses of echo and reverb, presumably for dramatic effect. Blue Sky Blues is in a similar vein, as Adams laments "cos I'm gonna lose what's left of my mind" over piano, horns and a beautiful string part.

Carolina Rain provides welcome relief after the drama of the previous 2 tracks, where Adams is no longer sitting up in his bedroom looking out at the rain, but sitting in a diner. He's back in country mode here, with a relaxed melody and a great achey vocal aided by steel guitar and subtle honky tonk piano (yes there is such a thing!) and humorous lyrics ("I should have told him that you were the one for me, but I lied... too weird I met your sister and I married her in July, but if only to be closer to you Caroline").

After another piano ballad (Starlite Diner) we get the faux western sounding The Sadness which has a great over the top Spanish guitar and soaring vocals from Adams. The final two tracks, the wonderfully titled piano song Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part and the acoustic guitar led Voices return to the mood of the previous material, that is brooding and reflective, though Voices is not helped by a somewhat strangled vocal.

It's a strange little album, not overtly country like his other 2 albums that year (Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights), and a lot shorter. It's more concise and all the better for it.
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on 12 December 2005
after what i thought was the best album of the year (cold roses) and an album that had i thought was 'interesting' (jcn) i looked forward to '29s' release.
29 reminds me of love is hell, as the better songs take a few detailed listens to get you hooked, but once you realise what they are, you realise they are brilliant, such as 'strawberry wine' and 'carolina rain'. 'The sadness' one of the other stronger tracks, echoes of jcn, whilst moody 'night birds' and 'blue sky blues' are also strong tracks.
I will have to listen to it further to appreciate it even more, and i advise others to do the same.
One regret, is that there no 'magnolia mountain' esque tracks present, but 3 albums in 1 year, Ryan Adams has manned up.
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on 29 July 2013
29 arrived at time when Ryan Adams was so prolific that it could easily have fallen under the radar of even an avid fan. Which is a shame because in many ways it is his most focused and rewarding album. Lyrically he has never been better than on the stunning 'Carolina Rain', an intriguing tale of love unrequited. Likewise on the throw down 'Strawberry Wine' which asks "Can you still have any famous last words, if you're somebody nobody knows?". 29 is full of such beautiful one-liners.
Rocking opener '29' lifted the lid on Adam's drug addiction, and much of this album sees the former Whiskeytown man looking death in the face whilst accepting that, at 29 years old, he needs to grow up. In an ideal world this album might have included some of the better songs from his other two albums of 2005 which I'm personally not such a fan of, but such self-editing would have to wait until the perfectly rounded Easy Tiger (2007). Musically, 29 is stripped down, rawer than most of Adam's efforts in every sense of the word.
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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2007
2005 was a whacky year even by Ryan Adams standards, as he released three albums, one of which was a double, in the space of around eight months. Luckily for all concerned, they got better as they went on, and he certainly saved the best for last.

29 is a kind of sequel to Love Is Hell, but rather than having the sprawling depression of that album's production it's more reminiscent of Heartbreaker's stripped sound, only amped up even more. Most of the songs were recorded by Adams alone with a guitar or piano and then overdubbed to a very minor extent. Instrumentation is spare and production is all but absent, all wise decisions for an album like this.

Whether you believe that Adams is as tortured as this or not - as far as I'm concerned, the majority of these songs are character sketches anyway - the music is simply beautiful. Using often bizarre but beautiful chord changes, he has made some of his most wonderful music on this album. The title track and 'The Sadness' are both excellent tracks but really don't feel like they fit on the album at all, the latter in particular a gonzo-Spanish-rock epic that sounds out of place anywhere in his catalogue but especially here.

The rest of the album was the best material he released in 2005, without exception. 'Blue Sky Blues' and 'Elizabeth You Were Born To Play That Part' are both breathtaking, so spare instrumentally and yet so affecting. 'Nightbirds' is the closest this album gets to a single worthy song, its delay-ridden closing chorus (albeit an idea recycled from 2003's 'Hotel Chelsea Nights') making the song soar.

'Carolina Rain' is one of his best story songs ever, with some of his most amusing but heartbreaking lyrics; the line that stands out most on the entire album is 'I met your sister and I married her in July/if only to get closer to you, Carolina'. However, finest of all is 'Strawberry Wine,' a song so stripped back it's practically absent, even more fragile than 2000's 'Oh My Sweet Carolina.' For eight minutes of acoustic guitar and mandolin, Adams whispers in your ear in the most pleasing way, so subtle, so emotional.

Whether you buy the emotion or not, 29 is a hell of a record. Adams has so many great albums that it's difficult to discern its place in a list of his best, but it's certainly the best he released in 2005.
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VINE VOICEon 6 May 2007
This album was written and recorded before any of the other 2005 releases, at the time when Ryan was nearing his 30th birthday (hence '29', it's an album about growth) while he was recovering from his broken wrist. He's said that it's a concept album, basically about one guy who commits suicide and is looking back on the actions in his life. I'm not sure how well the album fits his theory, but there are plenty of tales within these songs.

It's an intimate album, best listened to with headphones in a quiet place. His voice is close and there's an ambience, a certain atmosphere to many of the songs as we hear these world-weary lyrics played out to music. The rock & roll '29' is a bit of a red herring in terms of sound, as we have the introspective 'Strawberry Wine' come after. It is succeeded by several more quiet, piano-led songs, telling wistful tales of love, heart-break and life. 'Blue Sky Blues' and 'Nightbirds' are songs to lovers, about carrying on, 'Elizabeth...' is apparently written for a friend of Ryan's whose baby daughter died before birth. The only other song that doesn't fit this trend is 'The Sadness', which is a bit of a bizarre inclusion; Ryan sounds more like Freddie Mercury than the heart-broken troubador we're used to hearing.

My personal favourites on the album are '29', 'Blue Sky Blues' and 'Carolina Rain'. All of these songs tell a story though, and it's worth listening just to hear the narratives as they play through.

The Ethan Johns/ Ryan Adams pairing once again produces an excellent album, with a suitable sheen for the material on here. I feel that the album needs to be listened to properly, to be taken in and appreciated. It's a grower, but the one track I can't seem to get into is 'Strawberry Wine'. It's not Ryan's best material to date, but it's still a good album. Give it time.
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on 7 January 2006
After the two uneven Cardinals' albums from earlier in 2005, Ryan Adams has returned to top form with quite possibly his best album yet, continuing in the same musical vein he mined on the vastly-underated "Love is Hell" EPs.
Adams has never lacked creativity or inspiration as shown by his prodigious output. But he has lacked an ability to curb some of his worst excesses musically and even his best albums such as Gold would have benefitted from someone advising on the editing.
This time the album with 9 songs, each supposedly relating to each year of his twenties (hence the title), comes in at just about 48 minutes and despite some personal reservations about the title opener, the rest are largely magnificent with no real filler, just great songs.
Adams has returned to producer Ethan Johns (who did Heartbreaker and Gold) who deserves a lot of credit with class production and sensitive musical accompaniments for the songs, which other than 29 and the latin-inflected The Sadness, are beautiful reflective, wistful affairs that see Adams on great lyrical and melodic form.
The highlights for me are the four songs that comprise the album's heart from Nightbirds through to Starlite Diner. No need to describe them in detail other to say they're pure class and rank amongst Adams' finest works. They deserve the sort of attention and listening that unfortunately many have given over to the likes of the anodyne James Blunt and his ilk. There is no comparison. Adams on this form is the classiest songwriter of his period. Buy it and savour.
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on 16 May 2007
In 2005 Ryan Adams released 3 albums; Cold Roses, Jackson City Nights and ending with 29, his best. So called because the songs were written when he was that age, the album can be described as way of closure to one era of his life and the dawn of a new one.

Clocking in at only 9 songs this is a tight little album that contains no filler. Starting of with a jaunty blues number you would be surprised into thinking that the rest will follow in similar upbeat guitar twiddling fashion. From song 2 onwards the star of the show is Adams voice; never in any of his previous releases as he sung with so much conviction, power and beauty as he does here.

On the standout track "Strawberry Wine" he sounds strikingly similar to David Gates (Bread) while on "The Sadness" and "Voices" he effortlessly demonstrates restrain and power in a single verse.

As he continues to lose his traditional Country roots with each album Adams is slowly turning into his generations Springstein and if this is the case then this is his Born to Run.
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on 6 March 2015
This album needs time and concentration. This was the first album that made of me a fan of Ryan Adams. I now have that great feeling, where you know a musician exists that can make music that is perfect for you, that you can always rely on, who gets better and better.
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