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Hi. My name is Nick, and I’m obsessed with bootlegs.

Hi, Nick!

In my internal travels as a music fan, l was bitten by the bootleg bug early. My first
live tape of any note was a Pearl Jam concert from Berlin, Germany (11/3/96),
which took up two 60-minute cassettes in full, and generally became my two most-
played tapes all through high school. Recorded live off the radio on a Sunday
afternoon, that show has stuck with me through thick and thin. While I still have the
original cassettes, I’ve gone through two different CD versions, and it’s now a
regular cast member on my mp3 player.

This has moved on from just Pearl Jam, of course, and into most bands I’m really
in to. But one fella moved quickly into the bootleg stratosphere.

That guy’s name is Ryan Adams, and he’s a freaking monster.

In addition to recording eight proper solo albums since splitting from
Whiskeytown in 2000, Adams had recorded three of my favorite albums ever
(which were never released properly):
The Pinkhearts Demos, The Suicide
and 48 Hours.

Some of his best work wound up buried on these three records. For example,
“Mega-Superior Gold,” from
The Pinkhearts Demos, is one of the best rock
anthems of the past decade. “Born Yesterday,” from
48 Hours, is an awesomely
bitter review of a failed relationship. “Tell it to My Heart,” from
The Suicide
shows a relationship in its infancy, but possibly doomed, through
through love-struck, naïve eyes.

The common thread through all three records is the unflinchingly potent songs
that pack each one. Most artists slave for years to craft songs with as much heart-
wrenching emotion as these, and Adams has them overflowing and falling out of
his pockets. To say it’s awe-inspiring really
isn’t to do it justice.

Well, recently joining the ranks of those three records, for me at least, was another
unreleased album,
Exile on Franklin Street. From the same era as Pinkhearts
Suicide, Exile is another album packed to the brim (24 songs here) with
winners. It took about 15 minutes of listening to realize that it was not going to
leave my headspace for at least three weeks. As is the case with most of his best
work, these songs were subtle, distinct, emotional, powerful and always

The first listen to a song like “California” can evoke those deeply-buried memories
of a love lost as well as anything, while “All My Fault” and “Personal Hygiene Zero”
play as twisted, breakneck love letters to Black Flag. And his Rolling Stones
obsession is on full display here in “Why You Wanna Let Me Down,” which bares
more than a passing resemblance to the Stones’ “Soul Survivor.” Again, it’s not a
rip-off, it’s an homage, and a welcome one at that.

It’s the love of bootlegs that lead me to discover and subsequently download
these albums, but the unifying trait of all four, and any unreleased Ryan Adams
studio nugget for that matter, is that upon first listen, they stop feeling like
bootlegs. They don’t feel pirated or unfinished, and it doesn’t feel guilty to have
them. They are gems waiting to be uncovered and polished, or in this case,
played incessantly.

So, to Mr. Adams, thank you for
Exile on Franklin Street. Thank you, of course, for
all the official albums, and
here’s a future thanks to the three planned albums for 2007, but thank you for
allowing these recordings to surface. The politics and business of the recording
industry couldn’t support the flood of material that you produce, but most of what
you do still sees the light of day.

And for that, my ears, my soul and my heart thanks you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more listening to do.
Exile on Franklin Street

2. California (mix 1)
3. California (mix 2)
4. Tractor Beam
5. Come Pick Me Up
6. Goodbye Honey
7. All My Fault (mix 1)
8. Lash Out
9. All My Fault (mix 2)
10. Personal Hygiene Zero
11. Chinese Porno Scrappy
12. The Rescue Blues
13. Supermarket Air Raid
14. The Last Dance
15. I Know Where I Live
16. Why You Wanna Lemme Down
17. Listen To The Radio
18. Secret Powers
19. Blankets of Blooze
20. Waves Crashing
21. Choked Up
22. Don't Ask for the Water
23. Tell Me How You Want Me
24. Rosalie Come and Go
Discovering an exiled gem of an album
Ryan Adams: Brilliant, songwriting madman
with more talent than he can handle.
Oct. 3, 2006
E-mail Nick Tavares at
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