Some people can’t separate the artist from the art. I understand and respect that point of view. I just don’t happen to share it — mostly because I’ve been around long enough to learn and accept the unfortunate truth that there are a lot of great artists who happen to be seriously shitty people (or at least people who do some seriously shitty things). In my experience, this is especially true once people get rich and/or famous, because those two states of being are basically a perfect-storm recipe for personal disaster. But I digress.
Bottom line: Without condoning anything they’ve done in their private lives, I can still appreciate the beauty of a Picasso painting, enjoy a Roman Polanski movie, laugh at a Louis CK routine and listen to the music of Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and even Marilyn Manson. Same goes for Ryan Adams. If the above applies to you too, by all means check out Adams’ long-delayed 18th studio album Big Colors, originally one of three LPs he planned to release in 2019, until all the assorted skeletons came tumbling out of his closet. Adams has described the album as the imaginary soundtrack to an ’80s movie, and you can hear what he means on nostalgic cuts like the chiming roots-rocker Manchester, the rockabilly thumper Power, the crunchy power-pop nugget Middle Of The Line and the soaring arena-rocker I Surrender. The sonic theme doesn’t extend quite far enough to qualify this as some sort of concept album. But it also doesn’t prevent Big Colors from being the latest solidly satisfying entry in Adams’ long, dependable and consistently impressive catalog. When it’s all said and done, Big Colors is just another damn fine Ryan Adams album, no more and no less. Of course, if you’ve lost your taste for the man and his work, by all means give this a pass and go listen to your current favourite artist. I won’t try to change your mind or defend Adams. Why would I? I don’t know him (though I did interview him once back in 2011; you can read our conversation HERE). But when it comes to drawing the line between art and artists, there are a few things I think we could and should all remember: Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future. And absolutely everybody — including your current favourite artist — has a closet.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Big Colors is the soundtrack to a movie from 1984 that exists only in my soul. It’s a cliché inside a watercolor painting of neon blue smoke rising up off summer streets in the night. It’s the most New York California album I could cut loose from my musical soul, and for me as both a guitar player and songwriter, this is the zenith point dream time. While I won’t be able to match this album for it’s depth and broad color forms in the future, this is the sound of my soul and a door to a place I’ll be returning to again. The treasures in our past are the shamanic visions of the future when the destination is dream zone 3000. This is that. I’m only dreaming in Big Colors now.”