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There's a long tradition of classic unreleased albums in rock 'n' roll history - spanning from Elvis Presley's' Million Dollar Quartet in the '50s, to the Beach Boys' Smile in the '60s, to Prince's Black Album in the '80s. Pneumonia, Whiskeytown's final unreleased album, achieved that sort of legendary status in certain rock circles over the last several years; in fact, the band's fans were bidding as much as $100 (and even more) on ebay for CD copies of an earlier version of the album back when it looked like Pneumonia would never see the light of day. Music fans should rejoice to hear that they'll finally have an opportunity to hear the album - which got "lost" in the shuffle during the Universal/PolyGram merger two years ago - at a much more reasonable rate when the new Lost Highway Records label officially releases Pneumonia on May 22nd. The album was recorded three years ago in an old abandoned church in Woodstock, NY by the band's remaining core members - Ryan Adams, Mike Daley, and Caitlin Cary - in addition to special guests like Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, former Replacements/current Guns N' Roses bassist Tommy Stinson, and drummer/producer Ethan Johns. Appropriately, band leader Adams has compared the recording process of Pneumonia to "those Woodstock albums, like the Band made in the '60s." And, indeed, the subsequent history of the album would take on a very Basement Tapes type vibe. Pneumonia turned out to be the swan song effort for Whiskeytown, which had released two critically acclaimed albums - Faithless Street and Stranger's Almanac - for the Outpost/Geffen label during the late '90s. The albums placed the North Carolina-based band at the forefront of the "No Depression" alternative-country movement, although the band became almost as well known for Adams' Replacements-like antics (after all, the singer-songwriter formed Whiskeytown immediately following the demise of his Raleigh, NC punk band, the Patty Duke Syndrome) as they were for Adams' brilliant songs. "We were just a bar band that couldn't believe anybody liked us in the first place," Adams recalled late last year, "So it was really like this long joke. We would laugh that we were signed, or laugh when our record performed okay. We were just like 'Oh my God!' And I think when the pressure got added later on, they were like, 'This is for real now.' And I was like, 'God, I don't even know how to play a guitar!' You know? I better go learn! Suddenly, we were like, 'Oh, man.' I mean, we weren't qualified for the punch line. We were still busy telling the joke!" Pneumonia - which was recorded after several original Whiskeytown members had left the band - became a labor of love for the remaining crew and went through many changes and incarnations. The sequencing changed numerous times. The album was originally intended to be a double-CD set, much like Wilco's Being There (in fact, one of the original working titles for Pneumonia was Doing That). The album was originally mixed by Outpost's house producer and co-owner Scott Litt before Adams went back into the studio to mix the current, officially-released version with Ethan Johns (who also helmed Adams' much-lauded recent solo debut LP, Heartbreaker, and happens to be the son of legendary Rolling Stones producer, Glyn Johns). "With enough time passing, we felt it was just more effective as a 14-song record," says Adams. "I think the point of Pneumonia - even when we were recording it - was we wanted it to be something a little less epic and more of a snapshot of that time. Ethan left it pretty much as it was recorded and kept in the rough edges and the sound of that empty church. I loved the mixes that Scott [Litt] did, but I feel a lot more comfortable working with Ethan these days. Realistically, we could probably keep putting songs out from those session for a long time because we did a lot of tracking for that album." In fact, five of those tracks will surface on an EP called Deserters, which Adams claims will be released shortly after the album's debut. Despite or due to the demise of Whiskeytown, the unreleased album took on a myth of its own. New Times Los Angeles called an earlier incarnation of Pneumonia "a rock 'n' roll masterpiece," and the insane on-line bidding for bootlegs soon began. The international critical success of Adams's first solo album only seemed to bring more attention to the final Whiskeytown release. In a time when rock 'n' roll heroes seem to be scarce and manufactured, the 26-year-old artist is clearly the real deal - and both rock fans and critics have latched onto the prolific and eclectic musician as a result. Adams is currently working on his first solo LP for Lost Highway - which he claims will definitely be a double-CD set this time around. He's wrapping up his Heartbreaker tour, which placed him in the acoustic solo singer-songwriter mode - a far cry from a recent total rock 'n' roll (as in loud garage rock) set with his Nashville-based band, the Pink Hearts, which basically stole the show at Austin's South By Southwest Music Conference & Festival. In addition to Pneumonia and his planned double solo CD, Adams claims the Pink Hearts have also finished half of their own album and then there are all those still-unreleased tracks from the Pneumonia sessions. Incredibly, at such a young age, Adams already has a backlog of unreleased material that might make even Bruce Springsteen's cupboards look bare by comparison. "I got compared a lot to Gram Parsons for awhile," recalls Adams. "And then I got compared to Paul Westerberg for awhile. And it seems like lately Bob Dylan is the thing." He seems somewhat bemused by the whole deal. "What I figured out is I've got this schizophrenic musical appreciation and it just kinda shows up in different stages. I'm playing with colors, for sure, but I'm definitely switching canvases a lot and that's really important to me. Some people want to be rock stars, but I just want to make really cool-sounding records." Not bad at all for a guy who claims to have started his career as a punch line to his own joke.
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Average Rating : 4.3              Total Reviews: 15

Whiskeytown  04/18/2008            
bad ace.
Whiskeytown  08/07/2006            
Try alternating between Whiskeytown's "Empty Baseball Park" and Vector Lovers' "Tokyo Glitterati" on a long drive. Both are haunting and desolate. As the summer winds down pain seems more acute. The opportunities for a bittersweet glimpse of you somewhere will soon fade. It still feels so wrong.
Whiskeytown  05/12/2006            
Whiskeytown  02/01/2006            
this band rocks...
Whiskeytown  11/09/2005            
this band is so good. their blend of rock and classic country is awesome. ryan adams is such a good songwriter and has great vocals. i love this band.
Whiskeytown  11/09/2005            
music lover
great album. Going out with a bang!
Whiskeytown  05/19/2005            
Jeff Tweedy
Well, basically one of the best examples of alt-country music. Say what you will about Ryan Adams and his general attitude, but this band put out three of the best cd's during the 90's. Buy it, listen to it and then you will understand why Rolling Stone named this group the Nirvana of alt-country.
Whiskeytown  11/08/2004            
pam tillis
Whiskeytown  06/29/2004            
Whiskeytown  01/13/2004            
really cool stuff, very enjoyable
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