Friday, January 18, 2008

Album project: The Adams Family

Bryan Adams, Cuts Like A Knife (1983): Bryan Adams was the poor man's Rod Stewart. Adams was struggling to make it as a singer when he met songwriter Jim Vallance in a Vancouver music store. Adams knew he had to improve the quality of his material if he was going to make it big; Vallance was looking for a singer, and he had connections. The partnership would result in some of the biggest hits of the 80's. Cuts Like a Knife gave them their first taste of success.

This album sets up the formula that Adams honed to perfection on later efforts such as Reckless and Waking Up The Neighbours. Always a decent vocalist capable of handling straight-ahead rock and sentimental ballads, on Cuts Like a Knife, Adams and Vallance raise the stakes with improved songwriting. Riff-driven rockers like "Take Me Back" and "This Time" hit the mark, while Adams broadened his appeal with slower cuts like "Straight From The Heart", his first Top 10 single. The LP set the stage for further success with Reckless, on which strong cuts like "Run To You" and "Summer of '69" proved that Adams was here to stay.

The highlight of Cuts Like A Knife by far was the title track, which also gave MTV one of its early video classics:

Jim Vallance on Cuts Like A Knife:

"Cuts Like A Knife" was Bryan Adams' break-through album. The title track continues to be one of his more enduring concert favourites, while the album's first single, "Straight From The Heart", co-written by Bryan and our friend Eric Kagna, is one of the better ballads from Bryan's 25-year recording career (it reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1983).

"This Time" and "The Best Was Yet To Come" were also well received, but really, Adams and I hadn't yet hit our stride as writers, and the rest of the songs are merely adequate (a year later on "Reckless" we wouldn't have given them a second glance).

Ryan Adams, Rock N Roll (2003): Ryan Adams has become one of the more important rock singer-songwriters of current times. He was probably born 30 years too late; the type of roots-based rock with country and folk overtones that is Adams' trademark would have been tailor-made for 70's FM radio. After cutting his teeth with the country-influenced Whiskeytown, Adams went solo in 2000 and today does his best to keep the classic rock flame alive.

Rock N Roll, as one might expect from the title, is Adams' hardest-rocking effort, showing little of his country leanings and at times almost sounding punkish. Earlier in the year, Adams had gone in to the studio to record the bleak Love Is Hell, but his record company was reluctant to release that effort. Thus Adams went back and recorded the more commercial Rock N Roll. His label would go on to release Love Is Hell the next year.

"Burning Photographs" is the best of the bunch here. Other highlights include "This Is It", "1974", and "Wish You Were Here". The disc works for me as straight-ahead rock 'n' roll, something that has become a bit of a lost art with the younger generation of artists. Many of Adams' fans, though, were disappointed by Rock N Roll, as it is a one-dimensional effort that neglects his versatility as a writer. Adams has released nine albums in seven years as a solo artist, amazingly prolific in this day and age. Easy Tiger, his most recent offering, may be his best yet from what I've heard of it so far.