Released just two weeks after the September 11th attacks, Gold became Ryan Adams’ best selling album due at least in part to the very first track on the album, New York, New York, an ode to lost love that just happens to feature the chorus “I’ll still love you though, New York”. Obviously, this resulted is heavy radio airplay at the time. Although I love the song, I don’t associate this album with September 11th because of it. I do associate Gold with the the early 2000’s in general because quite a few of the songs seem written to appeal directly to slightly confused young men in their 20’s who love classic rock, with enough leftover to accommodate slightly confused young women in their 20’s who love classic rock. And it’s this factor, plus the “accessible” production that supplanted the more gritty tones of Ryan Adams’ previous work, that made Gold such a hit.
Ryan Adams wears his influences on his sleeve here, none more so than the Rolling Stones, particularly on Tina’s Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues and The Rescue Blues, which both sound like they could have come at the end of Exile on Main Street. Other clear parallels, as pointed out by Mark Deming in his All Music review, include Neil Young, Van Morrison and Elton John, but where Deming thinks that this confluence of tributes makes Gold emotionally hollow at its core, I think Adams’ inspiration rings true. Nothing on this album sounds forced or out of place, and the overall effect is that of listening to a compilation of classic rock hits from the early seventies, which, if you really like that kind of music, is not a bad thing.
On a personal level (since that is what this site is supposed to be about after all), a couple of the minor songs on this album hold a lot of meaning for me. I moved to Los Angeles at the end of August, 2001, traveling cross country with a friend on an “end of the college years” road trip, only to arrive in the city with no job, no place of my own to stay (thanks to some friends to whom I’ll always be indebted, I had an empty apartment in Hollywood to crash in) and no real desire to remain. I lasted less than a month – I was sleeping on that Hollywood floor when I got the call about the towers being hit -before I packed up in the middle of the night and drove back to New Jersey. On that drive home, I stopped in Vail for lunch one day and ended up getting hired as a lift operator for the winter, which meant that I was only actually in New Jersey for a little more than a month (long enough to see the still smoking ruins in lower Manhattan while driving my boss around town) before having to drive back west to Colorado on a new trip that would change my life forever. During that month, I managed to pick up a copy of Gold and so I was accompanied on that solo drive back to Colorado by La Cienega Just Smiled and Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd. I don’t think I have to get past the song titles for you to understand why those songs might have been important to me at that time.
So, listening to Gold now, I’m immediately taken back to that drive and those times, where nothing, personally or nationally, seemed certain and life was still a very open road. I’m glad to have moved on from the fall of 2001 and I’m glad that I have Gold as a souvenir.