David Ryan Adams, (Whiskeytown, The Cardinals) singer-songwriter, was known to throw a temper tantrum towards fans yelling out Bryan Adams or Summer of ’69 in his younger days. (Specifically on Oct. 16th, 2002 at the Ryman Theater in Nashville.) In recent years Ryan has been known to perform a cover of Summer of ’69 at his shows to appease ironic fans. The irony runs deeper than most know. Ryan Adams and Bryan Adams share the same birthday too; November 5th. Despite writing songs and releasing records at the speed of light, Ryan doesn’t share a simple, focused, 10 song body of work like Bryan’s “Reckless”. True.
Released in 1984 on A&M Records, Reckless features 10 songs. Hit after hit after hit (Run to You, Heaven, Somebody Summer of ’69) and a hit duet with Tina Turner (It’s Only Love). Produced by Bob Clearmountain with Bryan Adams, the songs and their mix stands up well despite the era’s knack for sheen and synth abuse- which there is a lack of here.
It’s the 80s and there’s no denying it on Reckless, but great songs always outlive production quality, era fads and ironic, indie snobbery. Bryan Adams & long-time collaborator/band member, Jim Vallance, managed to craft/create a complete set of songs that are focused and timeless with Reckless in 1984. It stands up pretty strong against irony and indie snobbery 3 decades later.
Argue me that Paul Westerberg & The Replacements camp didn’t take notice, too, in the mid-to-late 80s. Take a few listens to their major label releases, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me, and especially the oft-ignored (my personal favorite), Don’t Tell a Soul. Each record seaches for pop-rock consistency like Reckless. Don’t believe me? Take a few listens; it’s obvious Westerberg was pressured to write a batch of songs like Bryan Adams had done with Reckless— and maybe Bryan Adams was in tune with Westerberg and the American underground, college rock rising on Reckless. It sounds that way.
What makes the radio hits so great on this record are the few album fillers. Standard rockers with crunchy major chords. They’re all hits. One Night Love Affair opens the record, falling into She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancing. Adams’ band is top-notch in the studio from the get-go, while utilizing few few studio tricks outside of handclaps and shakers.
The weakest moments are–ironically–the monster radio single hits here; Run To You and Heaven. The latter has obviously become one of the largest, monster love ballads of all time. It’s also the only ballad on this record, and the worst song on Reckless. (I never feel ashamed to hear it on the radio or at a wedding reception amongst many people doomed for divorce anyway.) It works for the record because it’s the only breather these 10 songs have to relax on. After Heaven hits take a deep breath; 6 songs and all guitar rockers. That shit will f*ck your face up forever.
Somebody and Summer of ’69—C’MON–Kids Wanna Rock, It’s Only Love, Long Gone and 1 one of the great, unappreciated, album closers of all time, Ain’t Gonna Cry. A fast, raucous, righteous template of a song featuring blasting organs and guitars that The Replacements tried to rewrite and emulate for some sorta commercial success during their abbreviated major label years.
Listen to this LOUD and now (seriously, you young songwriters and wanna-be dare to be different rockers, take notes on the all-too-quick bridge and outro):
How many blockbuster pop records do you know of that end on a raucous note like this? Purple Rain? Close (in a sad bastard light your cigarette lighter way).
The pace on Reckless is a master stroke of timing and song sequencing proving once more that the 37 minute record should be a rule for songwriting success. Great pop compositions with hook intros, choruses, bridges, outros— the whole works. There’s nothing complicated about this record: Guitars and vocals dominate the mix– and oh, oh, oh, oh what a voice.
Blame the ballads and radio but don’t blame the great Canadian for anything else— Bryan Adams has the voice of a rock god. Though, no one has dared tried to label him as such; Reckless proves such.
Here’s hoping an older, wiser Ryan Adams is grateful that he shares the same birthday and namesake as the great songwriter, Bryan Adams, because Reckless is a majestic piece of 1980s pop-rock work.