Album review: Bryan Adams, Into the Fire (1987)


By Steve Newton

The most highly anticipated album ever by a Vancouver artist, Bryan Adams’ Into the Fire comes 2-1/2 years after the release of his seven million-selling Reckless LP. Recorded in the living room of the 27-year-old’s North Van home, Into the Fire contains 10 tunes, all of them cowritten by Adams and long-time collaborator Jim Vallance, who plays percussion on seven of the tracks, as well as piano and sequencer on two or three. Joining guitarist Keith Scott and bassist Dave Taylor in the band is new drummer Mickey Curry. Well-known local keyboardists Robbie King and Dave Pickell also lend a hand on several tunes.

The album kicks in with the first single, “Heat of the Night”, and if you’ve been anywhere near a radio in the past week or so, you’ve already heard it. It’s a chugging stomper that suits Adams’ rough-hewn vocals perfectly, and sports Scott’s bluesy noodlings throughout. The title track is next, opening with a bit of synth and some razory guitar before the drums, bass, and Adams’ vocals come crashing in. It’s a bouncy little number and sounds like a sure hit, along the lines of “Run To You”, Adams’ best song so far.

Fans of “Heaven” and “The Best is Yet to Come” should enjoy Into the Fire‘s third selection, the ballad “Victim of Love”. It’s one of those good-lovin’ gone bad tales. “One goodbye was all it took/Now you thumb through the pages of your little black book/But somehow all the numbers looked the same.” Nothing new here, but Adams’ pain-wracked vocals get the message across well.

“Another Day” picks up the pace again. Built around Curry’s steady thump, the tune features a cliched but appropriate Chuck Berry-style solo by Adams himself, who normally plays rhythm guitar.

The last cut on side one, “Native Son”, is the most moving one on the album. The lyrics were inspired by an 1800s Indian chief, and could be taken up as an anthem for native land rights activists. “Once there was a time my little one/Before the wagons, before the soldier’s guns/When this land was ours as far as the eagle flies/For all we had there’s left/We won’t forgive, we can’t forget/You know that your day will come/My native son.”

The song sounds like it could have been recorded by Dire Straits, and in fact Keith Scott’s lead guitar work is reminiscent of Mark Knopfler’s. It goes to show that Adams is willing to tackle deeper topics than just kids that want to rock. The song also signifies an effort by Adams to expand beyond the more simplistic, made-for-radio format of past hits. The music here has a bluesier feel, and seems to be written more for Adams and Vallance themselves than for radio programmers and teen pop-lovers.

Though side one ends on a strong note, side two of Into the Fire opens on a weak one. “The Strong Survive” is the album’s heaviest song–a raging, slide guitar-infested rocker–but it’s cluttered by an overdose of keyboards. If he’s going to go the Van Halen route, Adams should stick to the guitar/bass/drums method.

“Rebel” is next, a slower number previously recorded by Roger Daltrey, in which Adams takes the Bruce Springsteen/John Cougar Mellencamp approach to looking back on life. According to Adams’ A&M Records bio, the song “is about my growing up and really personal, although I don’t actually consider myself a rebel.”

“Remembrance Day” is, like “Native Son”, another song based on historical conflict. And like “Native Son”, it is also about six minutes long, so not prime radio material. Adams, who has openly criticized the idea of U.S. warships in Vancouver harbour and turned down an offer to do a song for the Top Gun soundtrack because of reservations about its military themes, says the song “is about a time of thanks….even if war is foolish, you have to respect the fact that our fathers defended our right to be free.” An admirable notion.

“Hearts on Fire”, with its power chords and straight-ahead rock lyrics, gets back to the style of Reckless. “Some got it good, some got it bad/But you’re the best I ever had.” It sounds like another chart-topper.

“Home Again” ends the record on a heartfelt note. Since becoming a bona fide superstar with the Reckless LP, Adams–just your regular guy from North Van–has had the world at his fingertips. But amidst all the hubbub, he’s still a young man, and still searching like a young man will do. “Home Again” echoes his feelings well.

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