Pop culture is full of mysterious examples of deferred acclaim. Chuck Berry had his only No. 1 hit with the execrable “My Ding-a-Ling” decades after his best work was behind him. Designing Women becomes a Nielsen smash more than a year after the show has peaked. Music stores brim these days with albums by blues greats long since dead.
Bryan Adams should understand this phenomenon. The Canadian singer-songwriter has been toiling steadily in the rock mines for nearly a decade, but then this year he released one of his weakest songs, the flaccid ballad “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” from the Robin Hood sound track. So of course, that bit of treacle promptly became not only Adams’s biggest hit, but one of the best-selling singles of all time.
With this record Adams returns to fighting form…but only briefly. It starts out like a frat house on fire with “Is Your Momma Gonna Miss You?” a muscular exemplar of cowbell boogie that sounds like vintage Humble Pie, and “Hey Honey, I’m Packin’ You In,” a saucy little strut that Rod Stewart would probably pay a pretty penny to call his own. This opening salvo is as vigorous and handsome as anything Adams has done since Reckless.
After that, the record goes south on the noon express. It presents a forced march of such unremarkable, formulaic efforts as “Not Guilty” with its string-of-cliche lyrics (“She’s everything/She’s a school boy’s dream/She’s rock ‘n roll”) and “Vanishing,” the now-obligatory ecological sermon. Adams has few equals when it comes to writing infectious guitar riffs, as witness “If You Wanna Leave Me (Can I Come Too)” and “House Arrest,” but this time around, the hooks aren’t attached to a line or sinker.
You also get a barrage of ballads, including “Do I Have to Say the Words,” the best of the lot, “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” and as a special bonus, the second coming of “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” Overall this is a stale exercise in rote rock. In other words, it should sell like mad. (A&M)