Greetings, Glancers. Lets take another trip down memory lane as I listen, for the first time, to another album that somehow passed me by. I’ve you’re a regular reader of these posts, you’ll know that in my youth I was a pretty big Bryan Adams fan. The primary reason for my fandom was that I owned a double cassette featuring Cuts Like A Knife and Reckless, the 3rd and 4th albums by the Canadian superstar. As I’ve listened to those albums countless times, we won’t be covering them here, as the purpose of these posts is me catching up on the albums I never experienced.
By 1987, and after the success of the aforementioned two albums, Adams was riding high critically and commercially. What is notable since the last time we visited Mr Denim is that the songwriting has drastically increased in quality, along with the production values, and the vocals are a hell of a lot stronger and distinct now. This album sought to continue the run of hits, but looking at the track list I only recognise the titles of three songs. I’m not too sure why I never owned this album when I was younger, considering I owned the previous two, and 1991’s follow-up. Nevertheless, I’m eager to hear the seven tracks that I don’t know and see if they are hidden gems or forgettable pap. Lets do this!
‘Heat Of The Night’ – We start with the song I’m most familiar with, another mid-rock song with plenty of hooks that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on either of the previous two albums. For much of the song it doesn’t sound like there will be a chorus, then it jumps out at you without warning. It has a clear 80s rock vibe, but avoids sounding like 80s cheese – no silly references, no silly extra instruments, just stomping rhythms and strong melodies.
‘Into The Fire’ continues the theme of man coming into contact with flammable substances such as boobs, presumably. We start with some odd synth noises, making way for a crash of 80s drums and a nice scream by Adams. This one is sung in a pretty high register, straining the gruff vocals just the way I like it. There’s an 80s Springsteen vibe, the pace is middling, and while the melodies are fine the chorus lacks a strong hook. We do get an interesting middle section and solo though. A decent track that I’m sure I would have enjoyed more had I heard it when I was younger.
‘Victim Of Love’ sounds like our first ballad – big drums, slow pace, drifting vocals, a power ballad rather than a soft one. A nice melding of piano and guitar, well sung, but the chorus is a bit of a non-entity. The vocals get more shouty as the song progress, and the guitars get heavier too, but the song feels like it’s reached the end of its course by the three-minute mark, even though there’s over a minute remaining. The final minute is a loop of the chorus as the music gets more chaotic. An odd one.
‘Another Day’ increases the speed, the first fast paced entry on the album. More pianos, decent lyrics about the tougher side of city life, ok melodies. Nice solo in the middle, a bit of a honky-tonk feeling, followed by a brief break, then looping round for a final verse and chorus. Fin.
‘Native Son’ is the fourth title I remember, I must have passed it over when I first checked the track list. I never really appreciated this one when I was younger, but it’s one of the strongest tracks so far. Another Springsteen vibe, I love the building of the song, the increasing sense of momentum. I’ve no idea why I don’t remember this one as much as others as it’s pretty damn good. It has freedom in its construction, allowing the melodies to be loose and giving the opportunity for more variance in what Adams does with the vocals. The lyrics appear to be about the Native American plight, but I was too busy appreciating the music first time around, so I’d need to listen again. Good solo, the six minutes don’t feel stretched here thanks to the variance and construction already mentioned. I’d gladly consider this a hidden gem as I’ve somehow forgotten it existed.
‘Only The Strong Survive’ is one I have actually heard before, but I don’t remember it. Now, that is even more bizarre given that it was on the soundtrack of Renegades – one of my favourite movies as a kid. I can only assume that I knew this was a Bryan Adams song, but didn’t like it. It’s fast paced, from what I remember of the movie, it doesn’t really fit the movie, but it’s still high energy, good fun, with a singable enough chorus. In the annals of 80s soundtrack hits though, it doesn’t make an impact.
‘Rebel’ feels like another Springsteen track – lyrics about blue-collar workers, gruff vocals blasted out alongside stadium drums and guitars. This one feels familiar, but I can’t say conclusively that I’ve heard it. Some strong melodies dotted here and there, though the chorus isn’t as powerful as it thinks it is. The verses are much stronger and the chorus, while aiming to be anthemic, feels a little flat.
‘Remembrance Day’ is the third track (from my intro) that I remember, another longer song, and another one that I only listened to rarely. I wonder if it now feels better in my old age. Clearly a song about war, I remember this one as more of a ballad than it actually is. It’s more of a straightforward rocker with prominent bass and blasting drums. It’s actually a pretty simple song, and not particularly memorable – the chorus is fine, a decent one to shout out live, but overall it’s a bit too rambling for my liking. I appreciate the dedication, but it isn’t one of the stronger songs of its ilk.
‘Hearts On Fire’ is NOT the song you’re thinking of from Rocky IV – Rocky vs Russia, but it’s an equally serviceable rocker. This one again features big drums, organs, and a nice lead riff. Fortunately the chorus is good on this one, and the verses stand up too. A simple, light-hearted up-tempo song with memorable melodies, it’s one of the better songs on the album.
‘Home Again’ closes the album, and has the most 80s intro of any song on the album yet. It begins with power ballad stylings, all scorching vocals and atmospheric synth and piano – shortly after comes a stadium crushing chorus. This sounds like another hidden gem, and I don’t believe I have heard this one ever before. Good verses, great chorus, and similar to Straight From The Heart and Heaven, but not quite reaching those heights. A good album to what has turned out to be a good album.
So, Adams, manages to make it three strong releases in a row, I knew there was a reason I liked him so much. There aren’t really any duffers here, but there are a few near-duds, and less obvious classics than on the previous two albums. Everything else though ranges from decent to strong, and in Home Again and Native Son I have two tracks I can stick on repeat and absorb into the Nightman memory banks until dementia claims them. By then though, my consciousness can be uploaded to the uber-cloud and it won’t matter. Enjoy!