It's interesting that Whiskeytown's album Strangers Almanac comes up today so close on the heels of Ryan Adams' public apology last week.
Adams was called out in early 2019 by ex-wife Mandy Moore during the height of the #MeToo movement for his alleged mental abuse during their marriage. Several other women stepped forward to echo Moore's claims, and Adams' soon-to-be-released album Big Colors was quickly shelved.
Adams initially denied the stories vehemently, but then went mostly silent over the past year. Last week, he finally came forward with a public apology emailed to The Guardian, and he claims to have gotten sober while finally understanding the damage his actions have caused.
It sounded sincere. Moore, however, reacted skeptically, and who can blame her? Adams does manager to slip in the fact that he's written enough music to fill half a dozen albums. (That's another rub against Adams - that he releases way too much music even famously releasing three albums in a single year a few years back.) His history of empty, half-assed apologies, which he acknowledges, does make you question his motives. Only Adams knows if this is sincere or simply another attempt to revive a career that's, at best, on life support at the moment.
Adams is, after all, a master manipulator with a narcissistic streak, and this may be his attempt to pull the wool over everybody's eyes. Ultimately, however, Adams is no longer in control, and the public will decide if he is ever able to mount a successful comeback. In the meantime, Strangers Almanac remains one of two masterpieces that Adams has recorded to date including Heartbreaker which we featured on the first day of our countdown a few months ago. Almanac was recorded with his band Whiskeytown before he went solo and released Heartbreaker. Both albums included some fine collaborations - Emmylou Harris lent her vocals to Heartbreaker - and Alejandro Escovedo dropped by to take a vocal turn on Almanac's "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart."
Escovedo is an interesting figure, a veteran of the punk scene who then became an early pioneer in alt-country. His 1992 solo debut Gravity was critically acclaimed when it arrived on the scene, and it's a good choice for your bonus pick of the day.
- Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb
CHUCK'S ALBUM OF THE DAY
The Beastie Boys
Licensed To Ill (1986)
Why I Love It
Just as rap and rock and roll were forming a union with Run-DMC and Aerosmith getting together on "Walk This Way," along came three Jewish white guys from New York City with something completely out of left field. Although the massive first single from the record, "Fight For Your Right" included power chords on heavy metal guitars, the album became an instant rap classic with some of the catchiest rhymes ever spit at the time. Produced and partly written by the legendary Rick Rubin, the record not only spawned monster hits that made the Beastie Boys a household name, it helped the genre become even bigger while it was still in its infancy and still mostly about having a good time.Licensed to Ill hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and had seven singles. More than anything, the record was flat-out sophomoric fun that could not have fit in better in the late 80s. As a senior in high school, this album was music to my ears, and I still love it today in 2020.
"Girls," "Fight For Your Right" and "Brass Monkey"
Kendall on Chuck's Album of the Day
This album hit the market in late 1986, a banner year for country music and the new traditionalist revolution that was taking place. So, in all honesty, I didn't pay much attention to The Beastie Boys as Steve Earle, Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam had my full attention at the time. But looking back, it's obvious that this was an album that's at the core of much of what is still happening in hip hop and rock music today. It wasn't the first melding of rap and rock, but from an album standpoint, it is certainly one of the most important. Hip hop and rock and pop artists have been looking for ways to connect and collaborate ever since, and even country music has joined the party. For better or worse, this album gave every act that followed the creative license to try cross over to the hip hop market and vice versa.
KENDALL'S ALBUM OF THE DAY
Strangers Almanac (1997)
Why I Love It
If last year was the moment the world quit paying attention to what Ryan Adams had to say, this is the moment where it started listening in the first place.
Strangers Almanac heralded the arrival of a young songwriting prodigy, and Adams was more than eager to step into the spotlight eventually hogging it from his bandmates entirely. But for a brief moment documented here, Whiskeytown was a great American band paving the way for the alt-country brat to become the star he craved to be.
While I love much of his solo work, Adams has never been a better songwriter than he was here over the course of an entire album with the possible exception of Hearbreaker three years later. This is a record that people will still listen to a hundred years from now.
"Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight,"Houses On The Hill" and "Avenues"
Chuck on Kendall's Album of the Day
This is another album I had no doubt that Kendall would include on his list. Otherwise, I might have found a way to squeeze it into my final 100. Whiskeytown released three fantastic studio albums. This one is a beautiful Americana record from start to finish that flexes the songwriting prowess of Ryan Adams. The music paints such vivid scenes that I feel like I can see them in my head when I close my eyes. It's that authenticity that always brings me back to a record like this one. I love all three of the band's albums, but this one is a true masterpiece.