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RECORD RACK

Bryan Adams Grows Up

April 05, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

"INTO THE FIRE." Bryan Adams. A&M. 2

With this edition of Record Rack, Calendar introduces its quick-reference, facial-expression rating symbols. Translation: 1 = "Great Balls 'o Fire" 2 = "Good Vibrations" 3 = "Maybe Baby" 4 = "Running on Empty"

Bryan Adams Mellencamp? No, everyone's favorite multi-platinum Canuck hasn't amended his name, but he has pulled a "Scarecrow" with his first new album in 2 1/2 years. He's already won over the masses, but found that popular appeal via the lowest common denominator isn't enough. He's after bigger game than just gold records; he wants r - e - s - p - e - c - t .

Maybe last year's Amnesty International benefit tour was what did it to him. When you're on a bill with U2, Sting and Peter Gabriel, it's got to be a little embarrassing, peer pressure-wise, when the most recent album you have to draw upon ("Reckless") was not only inconsequential by comparison but downright morally repugnant--unless you can honestly reckon the advocacy of adultery and girlfriend-bashing and proclaiming the inferiority of all musical styles other than one's own as social awareness. No, it wasn't quite "Biko."

"Into the Fire" is no great social statement, either, but it is an album Adams could take home to Bono. No pandering sexuality or otherwise circumspect selfishness on this one. Though a few love songs pop up here and there, inspirational is the operative mode in songs like "Only the Strong Survive" and "Rebel," and Adams even sings from the viewpoint of a righteous soldier in "Remembrance Day," and an American Indian (!) bemoaning the injustices of the white man in "Native Son."

The trouble is, when Adams gets into this mode, he starts sounding like the Canadian version of the Alarm. The somber waltz tempos he tends to lend these anthems reinforce their sometimes awkward seriousness.

The band assembled by Adams and co-producer Bob Clearmountain is crack, and the best tracks--mostly, the first four selections on Side 1--sound as if the players are together live in the studio, such is the tight, joyful abandon in the neat organ/guitar/drums interplay.

Adams and co-writer Jim Vallance continue to hammer out the hits, even if this one seems to have a couple less monsters in it than "Reckless." Adams also does a pretty fair Roger Daltrey impression, and the double-time "Another Day" is a first-rate rave-up.

He really should steer clear of this urge to go directly from brat to statesman, but Adams doesn't do half-bad for his first album as a grownup.

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