Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: World Music, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
Adams' Consistent with "11"
T. Yap | Sydney, NSW, Australia | 03/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Prime Cuts: I Thought I'd Seen It All, Tonight We Have the Stars, We Found What We Were Looking For
"11," Bryan Adams' 11th eleven album containing 11 tracks, may not break any creative bounds but it's still consummate Adams. Perhaps lethargy is the rearing its head for this 48-year-old vegan rocker, this new release finds Adams charting the same territory of rock anthems and love ballads, a tuff he has had been loitering for the last 25 years. Even though these are newly composed paeans, the lack of originality is apparent in its worn-and-out overused song titles "Walk on By," "We Found What We Were Looking For"(think U2), "Mysterious Ways" (U2 again), "Broken Wings" and "Oxygen." Further, clichés abound, "she comes to me like rain falls down my window," "the world is full of mysteries/full of magic and of wonder," and "we found our wings and now we fly above the wind." Nevertheless, with all that said, why in the world would Adams re-invent himself after all this success he has garnered? His stadium rock has the youth come out in droves, his rugged gravel voice has the girls hanging on every syllable, and his cinematic love ballads have their mothers hooked. And for those who are looking for all of that, these are the materials that make up "11."
While many middle-aged rockers are reticent to sing about starry-eyed romance, Adams is not shy to indulge in the ecstasy of romantic love. Case in point is "Tonight We Have the Stars," a slow simmering ode to everything a romance novel is made of: California red, staring at the stars and an amorous declaration of forever love. Beginning with an incessant bass line before exploding into a romantic celebration of new love found, "We Found What We Looking for." Adams' sand-hued vocals with its seasoned sensibilities is what grounds this ballad from being to sugary. However, if a sweet tooth is what you are looking for, the stately rockish ballad "She's Got a Way" details Adams admiration for his paramour with some unembellished cantor. Lead single "I Thought I'd Seen Everything," a co-write with Robert "Mutt" Lange aka Mr. Shana Twain, is squarely a typical Adams' single. Jangly guitars, heart pounding drums and a gorgeous melody are what make Adams so enthralling.
As far as the rockers are concerned, "Oxygen" may not have the most innovative lyrics, but it's just 4 minute of guitar-driven fun. Moving away from the theme of romance is the intriguing story-song "Flower Grown Wild." A story about a hooker strolling the streets of Hollywood for patronage, Adams tells her biography with sensitivity and a sense of sadness, especially in the repetition of the phrase "she's somebody's baby." With a nod to his country roots, "Walk on By" is a plaintive ballad about how a dad feels seeing his own daughter leave home. The wailing of the steel guitar and the mournful sounds of strings, make this a tearful moment for Adams. On the other hand, the messy over-the-top rocker "The Way of the World" deals with politics that is quite easily forgettable.
Harsher critics may have lots to pick here with Adams' new CD. And they are spot-on here: there's nothing here that really re-invents the wheel. Many of these themes have been surfacing on Adams back catalog for years. Conversely, for constancy, Adams can be counted on. For admirers of Adams' soft rocking balladry and his indulgence in romance, there's aplenty here. And maybe he's so good at what he does that it doesn't bore despite repeated listens.
Soft, lukewarm, and mostly disappointing Adult Contemporary
ZP | USA | 04/25/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I'm an Adams die-hard fan who knows his previous work inside out. However, I can be critical of the artists I love when they fail to live up to their talent, unlike others who sycophantically lap up whatever they churn out. Some of the reviews below praise 11 as a wonderfully consistent album; they seem to be from devout followers, and thus misleading to most people.
Stylewise, 11 is a very mild and toothless affair that mostly veers into adult contemporary territory. The days of `Reckless', `Waking Up The Neighbours', and even `18 Til I Die' are long gone; if you're looking for anything in that vein, massive disappointment awaits here. However, this album doesn't even measure up to the occasional excitement to be found in Bryan's latter-day work...so classic older albums aside, you won't even find the excitement of, say, "Right Back Where I Started From" off of Room Service or "Before the Night is Over" off of On A Day Like Today.
In short, 11 is the worst album in Bryan Adams's career. Does that mean it sucks? Not entirely, it has some saving graces in a handful of enjoyable tracks. Maybe this would be fine for another artist, but it doesn't measure up to the Adams standard and while it may be worth a listen for fans, it's pretty ho-hum overall. Even these enjoyable numbers aren't brilliant gems: they're cool but somewhat generic, don't really rock, and fail to cover any fresh ground. They have no rawness or edge, and none of the energy from Adams's vibrant live shows. 11 shows us an artist who really isn't hungry anymore; this much is clear in the album's sleepy vibe. It isn't simply a matter of soft AC stylings vs. edgier rock - the world class songs are just not there. I'm not one of those meatheads who equates hard rocking with credibility; I keep an open mind and can appreciate his softer side (see my review below for track 11 and even 6), but the craftsmanship and brilliant hooks are mostly absent here. This is especially disappointing in light of the return of class writer Jim Vallance.
The disc feels thin. I used to defend Bryan against comments that singled him out as a corny, sappy ballad singer by pointing out lesser known songs, from "Touch the Hand" to "Only the Strong Survive". Now I can't defend him anymore; he really does indicate that he's content to be a crooning balladeer, and I would be surprised if this ever changes. While 11 is Bryan's worst album to date in terms of songs, sonically it's his best. The sonic elements are clear and well-defined: guitars are crisp and elegant, the bass solid, the drums organic and powerful (I wish 'Neighbours' would have had these instead of Mutt Lange's drum machine).
On to the music itself...a 6 is barely passable (i.e., Adams fans only and kinda lackluster even then) and anything from 5 on below shouldn't even be listened to:
1. Tonight We Have The Stars: 7.5/10. Decent mid-tempo pop rock track, co-written with old collaborator Jim Vallance. No surprises or brilliance (and no balls!), but definitely pleasant to listen to.
2. I Thought I'd Seen Everything 8/10. The leadoff single: a catchy, pretty pop-rock confection. Maybe it's a bit predictable and is held back by a lazy & generic lyric ("when Im in your arms, I know I found the one/ it's just the way you are, makes me feel so much"). However, it features a great hook and melodic U2-style guitar in the chorus - the obvious choice for first single. This is an extremely commercial song, but we won't hold that against him because, after all, it's Bryan Adams we're talking about!
3. I Ain't Losin The Fight 7/10. Okay track with some rootsiness (harmonica, slide guitar and other countryish hints) and less pop sheen than the two previous numbers . Like the first song, it's nothing surprising or exciting, just some competent pleasantness to play in the background.
4. Oxygen: 7/10. Acoustic-based uptempo number driven by a steady drumbeat throughout..unfortunately, it sounds better on paper. The style is ok and it's among the better tracks on the album, it's just very blah and bland in the end. The chorus sounds like it's out of a toothpaste commercial.
5. We Found What We Were Looking For 3/10. God, what a plodding snoozefest. Possibly the worst track in the album...slooow, trite, and bargain bin quality. Mutt had a hand in this one, can't believe he's lost it so badly. This makes the clichéd and predictable "Flying" off Room Service look like a smash hit.
6. Broken Wings 6/10. This is total adult contemporary, and is extremely mellow and laid back. If you can get past that, it's well executed and has some feeling to it; the backing vocals that kick in with the 2nd chorus are a nice touch. Ultimately, though, it's a throwaway track that would have been fine as a B-side or soundtrack ballad. It's ok for the style, but closer to what Rod Stewart is doing these days...I'll take it for what it is, but this isn't what I truly want when I buy a Bryan Adams album.
7. Something to Believe In: 4/10. Boring as all hell....and yes, more adult contemporary to play in your local supermarket or elevator. It's like the poor, toothless little brother of "Broken Wings".
8. Mysterious Ways 4/10. By this point, the album reaches a standstill with yet another sleeping pill. Lyrically, this sees Bryan in introspective mode, pondering life's mysteries as in "This Side of Paradise". It's just lackluster and has no memorable melodies, hooks, or anything else. I dare you to listen and not press the skip button before it's over (if you don't doze off first).
9. She's Got a Way 8/10. The best ballad on the album. While it's definitely a bit safe and may fall a little short of Bryan's classic ballads of old (no, I'm not talking about the overplayed, overhyped "Everything I Do"), it's definitely solid with its soaring chorus and melodic guitar. Very enjoyable as it builds to a midtempo AOR feel...you can see hints of BA's fine songwriting chops shine through. Unfortunately, by the time you reach this song, you've been bludgeoned to death with the album's awfully sleepy pacing and are in no mood to listen to another mellow track. It's surrounded by mush, but the song would stand out more in a better, more evenly-paced album.
10. Flower Grown Wild 5/10 - Mediocre. Not terrible, just totally `meh' middle of the road fluff (quality-wise, think "Nowhere Fast" off Room Service). The lyrics and music shows a little more originality than the rest of the album, and the chorus is alright I guess. Fine to listen to a few times, but there's nothing to see here if you're not hardcore. Again, this isn't what I want in a BA album, especially after a 4 year absence.
11. Walk on By 8/10 - Slow track written with Vallance that has a minimal arrangement, it's only an acoustic guitar and strings. It's actually very beautiful in its simplicity and creates a stark, vaguely poignant atmosphere. As with "She's Got a Way", you're in no mood to hear it after so much adult contemporary fluff, but it would fare better in a different album.
Conclusion: The disc does have some redeeming features, but is a mediocrity overall. Skip it altogether if you're a casual fan, or download tracks 1, 2, 9, and 11 off Itunes if you're looking for your Adams fix. Bryan has lost his sense of adventure, has no fire in his belly or desire to bring anything fresh to the table. At least the sound of the album is top notch. As with Room Service, Adams recorded this on the road...he really needs to spend some time in a proper studio with his amazing band (and maybe some new collaborators) so he can focus and put all his effort into recapturing some excitement and edge before he continues to slide towards becoming an artist for the oldies crowd. To me, this album has Bryan in crisis; hopefully he'll snap out of it. It's a waste of talent and gifted musicians....no one is more disappointed than I am.