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Music Review: Bryan Adams – Reckless

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There was a time, before "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)," when Bryan Adams was regarded as a really rock 'n' roll guy. Even though he remains so, it can't be denied that this song confined him to that music world reserved for the likes of Air Supply and Foreigner (also a greatly misunderstood band).

His fifth studio album and breakout release Reckless is living proof of Adams' prowess as a skilled songwriter, singer, and guitarist, in a rock 'n' roll kind of way.

I was first introduced to this album in 1985 when I was visiting my older brother at his college dorm in Illinois; we were driving to get some White Castle burgers when he popped in this cassette and said to me: "This is what's really hot right now." I was quite doubtful because my brother is simply just not musically inclined, but as the first track, "One Night Love Affair," came on, I was hooked for life. I don't think he ever noticed it, but I nicked the cassette and have had several copies of the album on cassette and CD format ever since.

Reckless is an album that one can listen to if you want simple chord progressions and melodies that don't clutter up your brain. "Summer of '69," undoubtedly the most anthemic song off this album, is such a simple but enjoyable track that one wonders how come no one wrote it before Adams and writing partner Jim Vallance did.

"Somebody," "Kids Wanna Rock," and "She's Only Happy When She's Dancing," are also up-tempo songs that still sound fresh today.  "Kids" may have been partially influenced by Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll," but guitarist Keith Scott's frenzied soloing and the fast-charged pace almost makes it a punk song.  Witness this performance (c/o Youtube) at Live Aid when Adams was still a front act and you might get the point.

The ballad "Heaven," largely inspired no doubt by Journey's "Faithfully," (ironically, Journey drummer Steve Smith played on it) became the biggest single off the album. Though many might dismiss this song as cheesy pop, it still retains its uniqueness through Adams' distinctive voice and Scott's inventive soloing.

The cream of the crop however is "It's Only Love," a duet with legend Tina Turner. Besides having a great hook and a great vocal performance by Turner, this song paved the way for Adams' sideline career as a songwriter gun-for-hire (Joe Cocker's "When The Night Comes" is a superb example) and for the many times his songs have been covered by other artists (Bonnie Tyler, DJ Sammy, Trisha Yearwood, Lorrie Morgan, MxPx). Consider this, Adams was only 25 years old when Reckless was recorded.

Adams has gone on to become one of pop's most successful artists, largely misunderstood, but never has he released an album more potent than this. It still exists in my mind as a highly relevant album because of the juvenile innocence it implies, the superb garage band feel (polished however by co-producer Bob Clearmountain), the raw vocals by Adams, the highly underrated guitar playing by Keith Scott, and of course, the memories of 1985 with my brother. Now, can anyone say, "cheese?"

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